Poem for the Hidden Passage
A fingertip slip, a click, a slow flip:
revelation. Back there, the launderers,
the smugglers, the thieves with eyes
loupe-glassed over rubies and coins,
the room firelit or engine-black, the hum
of urgent evil. The stories would have us
cold-cock a henchman or sound
the secret bird-cry to alert the blustering chief.
But don’t we hate, a little, the virginal
girl detective, the brothers
and their moral chums? Don’t we long
to launder with the launderers?
Antarctica has long been mapped;
there are no new topographies
to claim. Aren’t we tired
of our blueprinted split-levels,
our 5 p.m. indigo Januaries?
If, while dusting a bookshelf
some dreary afternoon, I clicked
a switch and found vice buzzing
behind the Balzac, I’d step in
and stoke the fire. I’d work my way up
until I was the one thumbtacking
the crudely drawn map, the one
barking orders, the one steepling
my steady fingers. And when one day
the wall turned to reveal a large-eyed
do-good girl, I’d stare her down,
my fire behind me, until she backed up
and out, leaving me again
with my coin mountains, my cronies,
my little secret kingdom,
my little kingdom of secrets.
199 The Paris-American
Catherine Pierce is the author of The Girls of Peculiar (Saturnalia 2012) and Famous Last Words (Saturnalia 2008). Her third book, The Tornado Is the World, is forthcoming from Saturnalia in 2016. Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, Best New Poets, Slate, Boston Review, Ploughshares, FIELD, and elsewhere. She co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.
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