Laura-Gray Street


In Paris she can-canned
without panties.

she swam naked in the Atlantic
and smoked a pipe.
                                For a pet
she kept a diamond she named
Big Boy; it wagged her finger
when it was happy.
she was happy, she fed us
shots of vodka and opera, packs
of Blackjack from her golf closet.
We pocketed the wages
of her pleasure.
we marched the sands: heads up,
shoulders back, skin tight, tight
in St. Tropez bikinis—nylon
hot as a tongue–
                            because the girl
she was walked barefoot over coals
when they’d dared her, her soles
too seared to ever feel again
what was beneath her.
                                     The day
we caught her napping with a book
of matches, she let us adore her heels
with the glowing tips, a burnt
offering—incense of sulfur, ash,
and flesh—that’s kept us young
as moths ever since.



“Matriarch” was originally published in Meridian (Summer 2002).