Look at the face on ya, it must have been choice.
I never used to have these fevers,
not until I slept with Lady Liberty, back in France,
with her tablet propped like a painting against the plaster wall.
Oh, I was yearning to breathe free,
and to be in the arms
of a very tall woman;
She had copper-colored hair then,
and had never seen America.
I took my clothes off, lay back on the hotel bed and said,
"Here it is, babe."
Now look, I may not be in a position to give advice here,
but you should smile more.
Even once would be nice, because
you're making me nervous wondering what I said.
I used to drink, yanno,
no ladylike sips either.
I could tip a bottle back and lose whole nights down the rabbit hole.
Goddess only knows what I mighta done, those times,
and I'm glad I can't remember it all.
Mercy comes in all varieties.
One bird-bright morning, I decided I didn't want to die,
and so I swore off, but Jay came and did the heavy lifting.
I been Catholic ever since.
I slept with a woman once who kissed the crucifix
that I used to wear on a pretty chain around my throat.
Every word I spoke was holy,
and my love was holy,
and I received her like Heaven does the saints.
Lookit me now, hoo boy.
Restrained for my own protection,
coming out with Goddess-knows-what in my delirium.
I knew a woman once who could fix cars,
she had dark hair and blessed fingers.
If only I could lie on her lift right now, and let her tinker with me;
I just know I'd feel better.
But, noOoooo, here I am with you instead.
I think I know what I must have said,
just by the starch in your bedside manner.
It wouldn't be the first time;
it wouldn't even be the first time sober.
Cranked up with fever, I bet I said,
"Love me, babe, like I love you.
I can make ya happy,
Before the day is out,
and despite what y'all say to the customers,
I bet I'll be a funny story in the staff room.
I just wanna know,
is this a Catholic hospital?
I'd feel forgiven if it is.
A girl can't be a priest, but she can be a saint,
so, in certain things, I have aimed high.
Long after that French encounter,
after the fevers began,
I took up poetry
and got kicked out of seventeen countries.
Me and Emma Lazarus ended up here,
as tempest-tossed as they come.
After a while, my third-hand Renault broke down,
before I even got out of New York,
but I met the chick mechanic because of it.
Even a blind squirrel finds a diamond sometimes,
and when, wearing nothing but my silver cross,
I looked out of the window of her walk-up,
I saw Lady Liberty and I'll admit, it gave me a sweet satisfaction
to see her out there in the harbor holding her torch
and turning green.
Photograph by Margaret Bednar, from her post of January 21st, 2012. I have written this poem for, and linked to, her Play It Again Toads #5, at Real Toads.