The Poet's Eye:
On the cell phone to a friend, she says she was half-
naked, standing there crying in her bra and panties. He
banged on the door for eight minutes. Eight! She called
the police, then stared stark at the green phone screen,
the digital numbers that don't move, don't move.
Then he put his shoulder through the door and broke it
down. Silence. The jitney stops, people get on, off.
She makes another call, the landlord. Dead-ass serious,
some guy busting in, looking for a brothel: Trying to fuck me because of what you ran there back in the day. This is no joke, get real! Do something about the door.
Hanging by its hinges like a dislocated arm. Can't
stop anything from getting in. Summer night gun
metal grey, a storm coming, electric pulse stun,
and as we move up the street, flashes in the grass,
lightning bugs, little sparks floating up, fire-flakes.
Minnie Bruce Pratt's poem is from her recently completed manuscript, Inside the Money Machine with Nothing to Lose, about life under capitalism in the U.S. Pratt's most recent book is The Dirt She Ate: New and Selected Poems (Pitt). She can be reached at www.mbpratt.org
Where Miracle Mile bends into highway,
surely this is where one rounds the corner.
This is where sunrise flicks mica snowflakes off Frontier Motel
just as you walk away.
You wanna know
what we do
after a night of whoring?
We go home.
We eat eggs with salsa wrapped in warm tortillas,
shred corners of twenties between long fingers,
pass a joint Romeo traded for our night's wages.
We push matted hair from each other's eyes,
wipe lipstick off silken sleeves,
pour juice into tall blue glasses.
I let my sequined skirt slip to the floor
for the last time
until the next time,
settle into that fat leather chair by the door.
Peaches keeps her tens in a shoebox dubbed the Treasure Chest.
Gonna mail it someday to her little girl in Texas,
Outside, doors slam and engines rev
in the morning heat.
This is the hour
when hands grow smaller
and closing eyes guarantee
we'll only wake again
when the sun is long on the hood
of Romeo's custom Continental.
This room needs a tiny pot
of flawless yellow flowers in the corner,
Her name flows slowly down the boulevard
A red cinnabar river, muddy and warm
Sparkling like sugar crystals under miles of fluorescent moons
Dumpster oranges weave their luscious rot
Smokey plumes of sweet opiates snake round her boots
She almost trips
Fear vibes in her throat like an anxious penis
Hugs red plastic purse tight against her breasts
they ache like ice cream
Something floats by, a coin perhaps,
Or a condom in a coin wrapper
She is nineteen years old
She makes FIVE G'S A WEEK
She'll sell anything - a curled smile,
A wisp of this or that,
Here, see this thin bone from her wrist?
It waves like ribbons in neon's light
Shoes. She's been a whore since last June
and she spends her money on shoes
Silver shoes to ruin you with glittery lies
Shoes so black, you drown in the deep spiral of their shine
She's got shoes made for walking in circles
Back through the mud of her childhood
Shoes with heels so thin and high
You'd spend your last dollar
Just to fondle their leathery hearts
(Sometimes, the eyeless ones ask her to watch.
The bald one from the carnival. The doctor from Ohio.
The two in silk shirts. The breathless. The blue.
They love her shoes.)
She. Knows. Secrets.
Beneath Mark Avenue, a glorious tunnel awaits,
Water pure as oxygen
Tulips blossom fat and ripe as nerves
Someday, she'll slide down that tunnel
On a great purple fish
Leave her flesh to burst open
Like rotten peaches into the river above
She shall remember herself as a sort of syrup –
Dripped down with the juice of blood oranges
And once tasted sweet on the lips
Erin Whitfield is a sex worker rights activist residing in Tucson, Arizona