Maja Lukic

The House of Snakes and Avocado Skin

After Lynn Emanuel

How like a piece of leather or purse strap was that snake
on its path to the sea when my father lowered the stone
guillotine, and I, having watched Return To Eden too young,
without fear of the serpent, remembered gold coiled slithers
along my mother’s earlobes, tiny Cleopatra studs she wore.
The snake, stripped of impulse, membrane apart from meaning.
How like that snake were these empty avocado skins, dry
black shells beached on Second Avenue, as if the green
meat had freed itself and slipped off. How like it are these
subways and pipes echoing with rats and voices, or green
walnut infusions drowning in rakija at my aunt’s house in Serbia.
Nectar gleams gold even as it threads a flame down your throat.
How numb and nude and mute to anything is my skin today,
nothing to this alternating current of shadow, sunlight,
a squiggle of descent over the island and my head, the head
of snakes and old electricity, the head itself a house to store
my little tapestries, versions of the dead, the skin left behind.


Starved Solitaire

            I

A night in the presence
            of blank ceremony
⎯a birthday fête or death⎯
            there was cake,

low song & syntax,
            spilled whiskey
& too much smoke,
            its ascendant sweetness.

Blinking dense bodies
filled the room⎯
these impassable people.

            ~

My finest selves under filter
            migrated to others
            at the table
            & drifted back to me.

Distance is difficult
            to breach
& I make it
            more difficult.

            I forgot to send flowers
            & when I did
            the arrangement looked
            cheap.

            ~

Did not wish
to be seen
poised with a drink
& no food,

the starved in my slender
rendered visible⎯

            tender left flank
            concave
            under a thin
            skin of light.

            ~

Feeding on vaguely
avant-garde jazz that night,
I was gin glassy,
            sugar in my eyes,

            but the stomach
            skinned itself,
            a singed inner lining
            flaking into acid.

The last meal
faded from
a tongue bud’s
memory.

            ~

Smoke rose to the ceiling,
verging on ether,
it was blue art,
a fresco of thin coils.

            Someone shifted,
            someone almost
            said something to me.

Late evening,
I heard a story about
a dead man flying
            on the back of a butterfly.

            II

Today’s blue dawn
grew electromagnetic
from the pavement.
            I watched it from bed.

Light & architecture
built a hollow city.
The city is gaunt
but peopled.

Since the starving returned,
I have been living
alone, considering
the body, my body.

            Hunger is to be worn⎯
            a replete face,
            a dead tulip stapled
            to my flat breast.

Maja Lukic’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Prelude, Salamander, Exposition Review, The South Carolina Review, Posit, Canary, and other journals. Find her online at majalukic.com and on Twitter: @majalukic113. She lives in New York City.




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