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Anne Babson

Ghazal to Itching Things


Ghazal to Itching Things

On Sunday rainy afternoons with cable channel switching,
The remote control finger flips it up and flips it down, itching.

The boy with his birthday magnifying glass squats, and watches
The writhing mass of ants commute on the muddy mound, itching.

The old lady in the incense- stinking back room listens, takes your
Worry money from you and tosses, as requested, down the I Ching.

The teacher chalk-scrapes on the blackboard the entire week’s long
Assignments, and the students scratch their arms at the sound, itching.

“See?  What a big ‘un!” The man grunts, ripping the dangerous hook
From the slimy mouth of the breathless, still-flapping flounder, itching.

“Honey, don’t do that!  Not in my best angora!”  The mother gasps,
Catching her daughter in flagrant délit in the ladies’ lounge, itching.

The pageant contestants shivered through the swimsuit portion. 
Those remaining after that scoring zip up the ball gown, itching.

The widows follow the harvesters, who take the healthy sheaves. 
At their turn, they bend low, stretch, glean and scrounge, itching.

“Je suis bien dans ma peau,”  Insists Madame Babson again over kirs,
But her brand-new French tips scrape the square napkin around, itching.

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When I turned a certain age, I started buying shoes
By famous Italians for hundreds of dollars, butter-
Nut calf skin sling backs, with heels as smooth as gun
Barrels.  I parade around in these sweet leather sugar
Sacks, and I let them clack on the marble tiles, mask
My bunions and hammer toes, act as my secret agents,

Or at least a size-eight pair of polished double agents
Subterfuging my real cravings, which must not be for shoes,
However Italian.  The high heels must be farces, death-mask
Grins over painful truths -- no doubt my urban life in butter-
Dripping designer drinks is vacuous, my sophisticated sugar
Smiles must all stretch over oval mirrors draped daily in gun-

Metal gray curtains to sit a Shiva for all the victims of the gun-
slinging I slung in board rooms to get the penthouse: Agent
Orange in the form of corporate double-cross dealing, Sugar
Ray Leonard uppercuts in the form of insider trading.  Shoes
Must mean shit -- I don’t go hungry.  I earn enough to butter
My arteries to death.  Yet I wear a 6; hunger must be my mask

For potential morbid obesity.  My sidewalk saunter must mask
My limping inside.  Did you know I own a ladylike handgun,
That I have loaded it and pointed it to my face after those butter
Rums with you and bull sessions at networking events?  Your agent’s
Card is taped to the mirror where I envisioned myself making shoe
Leather out of my own skin.  Something held me back from sugaring

Then drinking from that murky mug.  What was it?  Not any sugary
Recollections of you singing, not my PDA/cell phone ringing with mask-
Wearing friends announcing gossip.  No!  Could it be that my shoes,
Those sling backs slung from Barney’s, actually stopped me?  The gun
Slipped out of my hand when I saw those heels sling-free, those agents
Of status quo on the throw rug, and I imagined their nuttiest butter

Empty of me.  I contemplated the list of who might inherit their buttery
Beauty, and I thought that no one I knew deserved them, not my sugar-
Weather girlfriends, not their drag queen boyfriends, not your agent,
And certainly not you.  I uncocked the pistol and put on a clay mask
In the bathtub filled with rose petals.  Perhaps I should not own a gun.
I will sell it on E-Bay and with the proceeds buy myself more shoes.

Outside the city, they don’t understand the importance of shoes, do they?. 
They gun for sugar and butter, don’t they?  They don’t call agents, wear masks.

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IAnne Babson’s most recent poetry collection is Polite Occasions (Unsolicited Press, 2018). Her first poetry collection The White Trash Pantheon (Vox Press, 2015) and her current chapbook, Dolly Shot (Dancing Girl Press, 2018) are currently available in independent bookstores and on Amazon. Her work has recently appeared in Iowa Review, Cider Press Review, Southampton Review, Bridges, Barrow Street, Connecticut Review, The Pikeville Review, Rio Grande Review, English Journal, New Song, The Penwood Review, Sow’s Ear, The Madison Review, Atlanta Review, Grasslands Review, WSQ, Global City Review, Comstock Review, California Quarterly, Wisconsin Review, The Red Rock Review, and many other publications. She lives and works in New Orleans.

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