Ten minutes before dinner with the sexy Communist someone turned me over in the ditch
— “Ballerina Criminology”, Connie Deanovich
Their numbered arms shadow me everywhere
:my license plate, my thermostat,
my bank book balance and radio dial.
Register tapes and Diners’ Club cards.
The Bible’s chapter and verse.
FOR A GOOD TIME CALL’s arithmetic
or a dollar bill’s small poker hand.
Sure other people have tattoos
:the sailors who’ve curled on my couch,
their mothers and lovers still clutching;
and some of my dancers
have breast bouquets or garden thighs.
But they’re names and hearts and roses–
they’re love-bites and valentine scars–
that’ll say who they were when their bodies are found,
not brand them as dead while they breathe…
(My mother lives inside my watch,
behind the numeral’d circle on my wrist
:her tsking tongue, and constant crochet–
slap slap slap go the hands)
When I stick in my finger
and dial the phone–
what if, someday (a magic spell)
I call up the digits
on a half-charred arm
that squeezes through the cord and claws my face?
Number’s symbol is a cage,
one prisoner’s boredom’s tictactoe.
I posed before a lined and numbered wall,
my head like shot-glassed whiskey.
(Do you think my face will end up on a stamp,
a bruise of black numbers punched onto my nose,
thumb-printed like a side of beef?)
The day I shot that Nazi weasel punk,
I held out my arm
as if to give him,
friendly-like, my business card,
my numbered wrist, the
only thing I own.
That got him to open his mouth for me.
It pays to be polite.