Old Fools

You fool, I said, to not look me in the eye.
I used to wait for the serenade. Now I’m waiting
for some lover who takes pictures of himself
alone in his room
to notice, beck and call, to thicken
my milk. Some nights I go bustle my balling gown
from a gray gull closet, then wait to be asked to dance. But he’s too busy
taking pictures of himself to see me in the room,
disco ball bleating silver specks––I’m the smudge in the corner
by the keg clutching a restless flock of Grey-Lag geese,
the quick flighty types who hiss. Kiss me
and up we go. Then a six-foot drop
to the ground where we peck and doodle. Imagine the double dance I can do
with my geese, my orange beak and me. Wait a second.
I am not a goddamned bird. Nor am I
a fisherman’s wife. Though I am some dumb hook,
bait numb and funny looking. Funny-looking-lady. You fool,
I said, to the one in close proximity, the one still taking pictures of himself in bed,
but in my head I said you foolish fish wanting the big life
of pictures, not the simple one with three good children
and some punctual old fool. I hear they eat dinner every night at 6
in the simple life. But me and my camera-man, we live
the watercolor lie. Sooner or later it all blurs. I am ten years
too late, I think, under the observation of geese.
The camera observing us alone in our wanting rooms.
Or by the river talking to the fish not listening. Listen,
I say, you old fools, where is the hook and release,
the remote feeling of a body so slippery
it leaves someone’s hands in a fish-like huff.
I hear a woman gets old in her gills. All that breathing through water.
There I go again, off and wanting currents.
I see a picture of me with that man in his room,
minus the geese. We are clouded,
like Turner’s Boats at Sea in a white, goose-feathery bed,
a poster on the wall behind our heads: acid sun, black sea,
peripheral beach. Kiss me, you fool, I slur,
like a movie star roach. Wait––I want no insect in this scene.
I’ve used up all my seas and their horizons too. I have to go
with the geese. I am catching fire inside the camera’s burning bulb.
Or I am thinking how every thing that is a thing
is out there
and there it stands waiting under your eye until someday
you notice it.

Francine Conley is a writer and performing artist. She has a chapbook of poems, How Dumb the Stars (Parallel Press, 2001), and other published pieces can be found in: New England Review American Literary Review, Tinderbox, Green Mountains Review, Juked, Paris-Atlantic, and Shadowgraph Magazine, among others. She earned an MFA from Warren Wilson. For more on her writing and performance art: https://francineconley.com