Oyster Boy Review 11  
  April 1999
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» Levee 67



Debra Kaufman

Marry me, he said.  Take care of me, she heard
and turned and turned in the narrow bed.
Something needy in his down-slanted eyebrows
and the way he kisses-inhaling her breath.
She brushes her hair to see sparks
in the dark, feel the air lift and crackle.

There's a quick shadow.
Raven? she wishes, knowing it isn't,
knowing it's the shadow of the man she called father.
He comes whenever she's this close to another,
stays just long enough for his disappointed
breath to steam the window.

Since age 11, when he left and they moved
from one trailer park to another,
she's mastered the art of being alone.
She's a fairly famous conceptual artist
and whatever success she's had she's deserved.
Nothing like love can weaken her for long.

In her Tea Party a Victorian
parlor is ransacked by raccoons.
They're all over the furniture,
almost smiling behind their masks.
Their leathery hands blacken
the lace doilies and they dip
iced cakes in teacups
so translucent the artificial
afternoon light pours through.

Coffee Klatch is a split-level
dining room where bats
the size of house cats hang
upside down in the picture window.
A living statue of a woman
makes coffee, pours it into four cups,
and waits.  No guests arrive.
Eventually she dumps out the coffee;
eventually she makes more.

In Trailer, her newest, the entire floor
of a silver Air Stream is covered with eggshells
and yellow marshmallow chicks.
The barefoot mother smokes a cigarette at the sink,
a yellow feather boa trailing off her shoulder.
Her children watch The Egg and I
on a black-and-white tv.
The movie plays, rewinds, plays again.

The artist looks at the man beside her
no longer expecting anything.
You've invaded my bed, she says aloud,
and the words flash like a splash of finches.
She sees it then, Cage, her next installation:

She'll put a strobe light behind vertical blinds
so shadows of bars will pulse on the walls.
She'll paint the room cerulean blue.
The man will be small and asleep under the covers,
but the woman will be waking,
she'll stretch her arms wide,
the sleeves of her gown loose and open.
She'll be cast in plaster but in that light
it will look like she thinks she can fly.