The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2022

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JUL-AUG 2022 Issue



I thought so and so still loved me.

Or wanted to have sex with me.

Or was it my husband.

Had been looking for anything “mild to wild.”

Had settled for.

Was actually quite vanilla when the clothes came off.

When he got off, that is.

Just wanted to get home to his wife and kiddos.

Glad I was done with making babies.

Been there done that.

Truth be told. I

I used to be careful.

Even selective.

Some said finicky, others fickle.

Of what I was willing to take into my body.

Over whoever I’d let fuck me.

And precisely which holes and in what order.

Now every day pretty much a slut fest.

A come hither what may.

Mask or no mask.

Vax or no vax.

Even my mother has gotten in line!

The ghost of my mother, that is.

Before the metastatic cancer devoured the lining of her stomach.

Her uterus.

Such appetite, we say!

Each week Dad tells me what he’s having for breakfast.

Right then and there.

A fried egg.

Avocado on toast.

Doesn’t matter if it’s ten a.m. or ten p.m.

Always seem to end up in my father’s head.

His bed.

The world imagined is the ultimate good.

Unending pillow talk.

Things we’ve never spoken about.

Morning wood, for example.

His, mine.

Such appetite!

So voracious and suddenly!

The grave cave now has us in its monstrous jaws!

The fruit does not fall far from the tree.

Ready or not.

Ready to eat.


We eat lower
on the food chain—

shrimp, scallops—

the future of this planet
on our minds

as we are that much

in love. He loves
his daughter, wants

food left in the ocean

long after we are
gone. Everyone

seems to be looking

for an exit strategy.
A poet once told me

feeling a tiger sink

its jaws into her
throat was the way

she wanted to go,

a woman hooked up
to a machine—

the metastatic

cancer twisting her
spinal bones beyond

recognition, her secret

lover too far away
to shut her eyes

when the last moments

came (just as he
had predicted), his

wife having called her

a five-cent whore
when answering

machines instead of

voice mails were
de rigueur

as the French are

fond of saying.
Her married lover

called me

six weeks later
when news of her

death had made

the rounds, he
who never got to

see her stripped

hospital bed.
She was too weak

for her last meal,

died without leaving
a notarized will,

intestate is what

the probate lawyers
said, smell of blood

in the air as everyone

circled. Is it a crime
to order a filet

of halibut or shark

in times like these
wherever the mythic


is to blame?
We want our love

modest, bite-sized

as little girls
slurp down oysters

at the roadside

bar, unaware
how their futures

depend on ours—


Open wide. I’ve been
the sorry flavor

of the month. The fifteen-

minute back-room
gang bang. I can say

it sometimes hurt

to be made
to play the asshole

in someone else’s idea

of a good time.
Call me Jasmine.

Call me Pearl River

coagulating in your throat!
It took me forever

to get here, decked out

in my silk brocade!
Won’t you look at me

now? Am I not

the same woman
traded in for the next

model? Call me Whore

of the Earth! I’m begging
you to finger me

one last time.

Put a bullet in the back
of my skull—

I can take it.

Hurry. There's a long
line of rapt men

just outside the door

clamoring to cop
a feel, all dying

to get off—


At the base of the mountain
where I live, when a man starts

screaming, banging pots and pans,

I climb up on the roof and wait
for a bear to cross the road—

sometimes a mother and her cubs—

but this time it’s only geese
leaving poop on my neighbor’s lawn—

must be good for something

though what I couldn’t say.
What a ruckus privilege can be

on lands that were never ours

to begin with—speed-limit signs
blasted by a shotgun

leaving divots the size of golfballs

where the paint had been—
dented metal underneath an affront

to boredom. Hurry up

and graduate! No need not to
get out of town and leave

the landscape to its lonesome.

My neighbor’s mailbox
crowned with the silhouette

of a moose was taken out

by a snowplow—its door left
hanging on a hinge. He must be

popular by all the mail I see

spilling out of it, weeds
creeping up the rusted post.

I suppose it's politically correct

to mention how this land
was un-ceded by the Lenape

centuries ago, my ancestors

squatting on another continent
until the trains came through

piled high with first-growth wood

and beaver pelts. A few forts
remain on the pond with an island

where a black man had been

lynched. You can look it up
on microfiche in our town hall

but no one does, trusting

local rumors as we barbecue
brown-speckled trout

the Catskills are famous for

and you don't need a license
to eat it. Ever grow tired

of living? We've had it pretty

good, proud to be stewards
where taxes remain low,

the pandemic notwithstanding.

We can even speak a few words
in a native tongue learned

off the internet, sing

some songs to bless the raptors
who return each year

even when a pet or two

go missing. Sometimes birders
can be seen climbing over

barbed wire, their binoculars

a dead giveaway. Don't believe
everything you hear—kids

who scaled a cliff to reach

an eagle's nest they swore
was glittering in the sun

from miles off—its branches

interwoven with collars—
more dog and cat IDs

than medals hung on a general.


Timothy Liu

Timothy Liu is enjoying his early retirement triggered by a pandemic-induced fiscal meltdown shit show at his former ivory tower where he had been imprisoned for twenty-four years. Now in the wake of a raging pardon, he?ll soon be swabbing the decks of SS SUNY New Paltz and SS Vassar College when those swart ships get ready to set sail.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2022

All Issues