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Chelsea Whitton

Bat Wings

You fed me snow and wrote
me roses, towed me west
to beg with you behind
the Circle K. I said I’d play
along. I’d play Hey Mister
with my kissing voice to get
us rot-gut whiskey, get us nice
and slow, and did you know
some people call those little
bottles “bat wings”? Think
it’s in the way they look
like flapping when you fling
them skyward. You kept talking.
Lovely. You said Lovely, let’s
be Texans for a season. I said
Texas is the reason. We got
cold. You got nostalgic. Wrote
me rope for a lasso and some
cattle to capture. Wrote me
red boots with confetti-
colored spurs. I said I looked
like neon. You said Lovely,
that’s Nevada, and you tucked
a columbine behind my ear.
And then it snowed again
and we were nearly frozen
in our cowboy suits. I knew
I couldn’t weather you
forever. You were always
writing me into bad spots.
I got respectable and wrote
myself into a business. My boots
became stilettos and I clicked
away from you and hailed a cab.
You wrote me letters saying
Texans do it better and It’s true what they say about things
getting bigger in Texas. I gave
myself a secretary. She wrote
you back saying Chelsea is busy
and Why don’t you give her a
cigarette. Lovely, you wrote.
You said Lovely, I’m broke.
Please just lend me twenty
dollars and I’ll pay you back
tomorrow. I closed my eyes.
I closed my lips, tipped back
into the red canoe I’d written
for myself and grabbed the oar.
You wrote a shore and made it
pretty to entice me. Gave it tall
grass, cattails, dragonflies. And you
wrote weather warm. You made
a big sky. You made a campfire.
Wrote the smells of all my favorite
foods combined into the air. But it
was useless. We were freezing,
and the Circle K was closing. I said
Lovely, I don’t love you anymore.


At dusk, you carve the table legs into
clawed feet. I keep track of the sawdust,
jarring it for future uses yet unknown.
I’d like to carve a creature of my own, some day.

Meanwhile, I’ve covered up for you.
I have done up the tough white buttons
at my wrists and throat. I hope you notice,
and I hope you let me have a sip of that.

Your neighbor called to talk about
the field behind your house. He says
your land is just unhappy. It wants to be
called fallow, not infertile, from now on.

I want you to forget, some day, that I am
not your woman. I want to wear your overalls
and ride the swinging gate. Sometimes I come
into your room and you don’t make me leave.

Tonight the stars are clean.
You sharpen wooden claws and whistle.

I make dark tea and file my nails. I stand by
the screen door and wait for the creature
to come, running fast through the empty
field you still pretend you do not own.


Chelsea Whitton holds an MFA in poetry from The New School. Her poems have appeared in Cimarron ReviewBateauSixth FinchIlk, and others. She lives and works in New York, where she curates the Cornelia Street Graduate Poetry Series.

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