The Stranger’s Guide to Brothels of Philadelphia, 1849

when people speak of virtue stranger
they speak without the blood of this city
veiled spaces on lombard juniper race and vine.
look for iron gates skeletal and white a door left ajar for bleary eyes.
appreciate how the lady of the house dresses rooms in velvet curtains
well furnished with the palest girls. they never curse
and can at any time entertain you with poetry or music.

you’d never know they were
dairy town girls tasting the city. some are maternal
warm laps soft hands others are born coquettes
all pearls and lips: little delicacies
ready to win you with the flute or piano
but when you are not visiting they amuse
one another even more
you wouldn’t believe it stranger
the things of which these women are capable
shifting whispers from the velvet
the perfect cup of a thigh against jaw

a dozen beautiful contradictions city girls with their dairy favors
(all perfectly irresistible except for one
who won’t smile because she lost her teeth
which in this line of business serves her fine)

yes this house has been known for years
and against your better judgment stranger
in the palest places of the dairy town girls
you’ll willingly become the fool.

blue cento

my blue body
red as war
under him.

A Girl Turns To Stone

Once, she turned to stone mid-stroke and suddenly sank to the bottom of the lake, where whitefish darted between her arms like children running an obstacle course.

When I Am Queen

This is the song
in the song they thought they knew,
had picked it up on their stroll of mere centuries
until she, not a history, still writing,
wrote it on the floor. And it is too late.