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Sonnet  (57)


Dumpster transcendence is where God
lives, and I quarrel with all the fathers
in the human family whether they are
good parents or not. Swinging his costco
medulla oblongata around, swinging it so
hard. That fizzled t-shirt you have peeled
from the wreckage of my emotional body,
wearing me as a helmet. This is called flirting.
The radiant duckling singing to an all-white
parent crowd in the first grade, and what I
wondered for years if I wasn’t the blk butt
of a racist joke the teachers clucked about.
However the music teacher “loved” me and
made a music tape of himself singing songs


of what I was supposed to sing to practice
with at home, when I would become the
great beautiful swan in the play. My first
Lesson in Blackness:  it’s easier for white
people to love you when you’re a child or
act childishly, but only in a way that rouses
savior complexes, the opportunity to tear
their eyes away from a dirty sinner like me
and create a photo opportunity of sky eyes
asking the Lord or William Blake about the
best ways to help this poor child. Shyness
and good manners (fear) make excellent
bouquets  when flowers are made out of
yr own hair for folks to pluck as buttonholes









Sonnet  (41)


Soft beaujolais snowbirds alight on fellow ship hall
to nurse their sins upon the drive-in theater where
Hattie & Lupita are managing the flickering of my
woe.  Stretching out on the hood of my cherry red
Corvair, the family in the car next to me itches in
secret from eating obedient rebellions. The novelty
of gnawing on those oversized turkey legs in public
never seems to wear off. When I hate myself I look
like my racist white mother in the rearview mirror.
She wants me to read The Color of Water & believe
in the joy of Hattie’s enslavement. What the hell is
joy. What is this fried shit I’m eating from the snack
bar.  A souvenir from this scene: an ideal brunette
on perky rollerskates pumping up the muzak gaslight,


decorative plate ordered from Fingerhut, the iconic 50’s
inspired Coca-Cola kitchen set. Tables in red & chrome,
platelets that you suck from a snowcone flounced on a
a chaise lounge with smelling salts diapered over your
eyes.  I can’t breathe and when we do we’re poisoned
my body laid out in the open air theater, birthday cake
in marble flavor. On the streets and in the silver screen
pictures. A protest sign safely hidden in Hattie’s famous
frown, the mayflies coming out by the thousands, lured
by the light they think is the moon. The family happily
crunches their wings, especially the fathers as the lining
up begins to go home.  Greasy gangrene hamburger
wrapper of a country, you are incapable of sustaining a 
relationship with anyone trying to move on their own









Sonnet (34)


“The little lapdogs are biting,” Brian says.
A ladies separates department speaks one
national language, and I am curious who
learned it first. They are the chews of a
bigger, stranger family. Words & flukes
rut blissfully with each other. They mime
infinity scarves & workers cry inside only.
It feels like a logical way to describe what
is happening to us, as professional actors
wearing soft shoes at the formal wake,
films about the different techniques of
swallowing. It takes a village to raise a
child in nude colored handy cuffs.  Or
in buff, if you prefer the  new diversity


viewing tower s, the simple guide to
having a baby. Tomorrow’s milestones
begin today in nightmare romance lingo
school buildings old enough to stand as
fallout shelters with the latest updates
in disciplinarian surveillance equipment
with a policy memory like that I wonder
how many doctors have cut out ovarian
cysts shaped into flesh paper airplanes.
I have eaten your sadness and now I am
a mean person.  But no matter how much
glass you step on the looted & the burned is
a balm of blame. It’ easy to love someone
incomprehensible. You never have to apologize.









Sonnet (51)


Everyone forgets about you
my arm is being cubed in an
jumbo size airplane kitchen
zaps blk teenager in the chest
five times  feminist literature
didn’t start w/ Virginia woolf
LOL circle of life to be against
expression butterflies under
hot lamps pops blk naked man
in the chest 2 times tramadol
for immigrants and john cage
gives the photogenic slain their
narratives  food contagion my
other arm my other leg is salad








Nikki Wallschlaeger

Nikki Wallschlaeger’s work has been featured in The Nation, Brick, American Poetry Review, Witness, Kenyon Review, POETRY, and others. She is the author of the full-length collections Houses (Horseless Press 2015) and Crawlspace (Bloof 2017) as well as the graphic book I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel (2019) from Bloof Books. She is also the author of an artist book called “Operation USA” through the Baltimore based book arts group Container, a project acquired by Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee. Her third collection, Waterbaby, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2021.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2015

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