Tender Trapper cover

Tender Trapper

Rebecca Hazelton

Copyright © 2012 Rebecca Hazelton. All rights reserved.

Tender Trapper

There were things
we were hungry for. We had to survive.
Storks and turkeys with blue wattle,
   two-by-fours, spoonbills,
   peonies, we needed these
   hoisted up high
so that bears wouldn’t savage
the supplies, and rend the parrots mute.
We had a ship
   with four sails
   but it was far too small
   for the two of us.
There was no sea. There was no escape.
There were branches. We were in a tree.
   The tree grew every fruit
       and someone had been pruning
it into a shape
but we were inside the shape
  and so couldn’t know.
We inhabited.
There were things in the background that struck us
  as humorous.
   The idea of traveling
   to where the blue haze began
and the ill-defined leaves looked like wallpaper—
we might still be in our house in Florida.
You tied to you ropes around your middle
   and from those ropes
all the bounty swung, fruit and seeds enough to live on.
There was something beatific
in your face, the canopy parting
   to let the bright sky nimbus
and anoint you.
There was something cruel
in the way you made me ask
   for another peach, another plum,
and tallied the absence in our inventory.

Self Portrait as Thing in the Forest

Behind this dress,
two women
in the mess of one body hardly covered
   by the stiff beauty of lustrous rustle.
Behind these freckled breasts,
two hearts that rush the blood,
divergent desires—
twin to the unseemly split between predator
and prey,
the white pet-store rat
bred for the boa
and the boa that would remake
the Florida landscape in his ever expanding image—
if the one woman is the call
to the other’s answer
the answer is to keep calling and calling
into the swamp and humid.
If the container can’t lull
its contents into some sense of contentment,
the glass breaks, and out rush the teeth.
In a fixed loop, tie this sash of silk shot, plain weave,
and with a half hitch secure
against a hunger
that grows without natural enemy.
A desire uncurbed
is a flagrant thing, is a woman
in the mirror, seeing clearly.

Self Portrait as Everything that Rises

macaroon sparrow, rococo finch
the painted birds don’t fear
flame, they waft
on pillowy heat
peck the curling canvas
   with their sugar beaks
and cock their heads
at futurity
outside the frame the gold
coffered ceiling
the real birds
   the pelican and his
ominous wingspan
the vulture’s
ugly dignity
officious hummingbird darning needle head
   circle and weave
and in their arrangement
draw the eye upwards
to the center
   where we all raise crowns raise sweet bay
leaves to crown our own victory
as if suggesting
a greater hand
a composition to the clouds’ progress
across a sky dotted with billboards
as if to suggest
the birds are the birds regardless

Self Portrait as Boy in Flight

Curtains close
curtains open:
the town wakes
with the sun and sleeps
with the moon
which is when a boy can really be
youth joy a bird broken out of an egg
and crow
crow crow the stars
pouring from his small mouth
for all the good
they’ll do him he can at least
plot a course and stick to
the town
a bit of Hollywood
dazzle the way the love
interest picks up her paper
in the morning
(that there is a paper)
seems false
the ink doesn’t transfer
she’s unmarked in every way
but his watching
is a longing sprouting
   and her disregard
   the most tender care

Self Portrait as Not Dead Yet

The body is no modesty, feigned or other.
The less pretty wedged
 between the tiny diamonds
of our skin,
a testament to decorate,
erase and to refine
bringing the line in line
with the pleasing composition,
the method and the message
we can live with.
   If A then B.
If A is painful
B is worth it.
A split melon
with its sticky sweet juice
   and the spilling seeds
is domesticity:
a stunned hawk is a study:
so the rose of a girl’s face
is a laboratory
for observing
the spread of blight,
if you believe that having a look of knowledge
is cause
to prune back
to the cane and starting graft,
   where surely some wild strain
remains, brought forth
   by this hand, reaching for a ripe fruit.

Self Portrait as Great Scout Leader III

In the menagerie
strapped to my back,
there are two of everything.
If you need a fox, I have that.
If you need a lion to eat that fox,
I have that, too.
The necessities don’t weigh me down.
I keep mementoes of you
on my person.
I wear your gloves
to better understand
your hands.
I have read the books on survival
in the harshest of climates.
I can build a fire
from a dried carrot
and a turtle shell.
I stalked a deer for miles
and when I saw its eyes
were yours I didn’t hesitate.
The arrow was true.
Is this my voice
that once called to you?
It packs up light as twine.

Self Portrait as a Gorgeous Tumor

The idea of breakfast in bed
versus the sloppy practice:
thumb the soft peach and the nap splits open,
the wet surface sister to the glossed grape,
the shining plum, the nectarine
with its faint veins,
all that clusters and spreads
seeds with a hint
   of more to come.
I watch the ceiling
for cracks, a water stain
a new territory
   to mark with dragons, to demarcate
the unknown with known designations.
Glazed in fluoridated water
like a red wheelbarrow, I am
in the hot tropics of Florida,
where the geckos on fine, invisible hairs
   Velcro across
the bathroom window,
and so much depends
on the polished and perfunctory
hanging over all of us
   the chandelier promise
of a one way trip over and out
   to the happy kingdom
where the princess sleeps and sleeps
   and no one registers
    the slow explosion
of sawdust, feathers, glitter.

Self Portrait with Birds in My Fingers

The streaming glow of smart bombs
on the television screen
dispassionate seeds
bloom from the tenements into blue hydrangeas
and if I’m the rose tinted monster rising
   then I am secure
in my American summer
if the peonies that drunk and drowsy tumble
from my hands
are knuckles tossed—then here’s the real luck,
the Botticelli gaze
where I transcend aviary,
each finger on my hand
wears a fluttering
thought for a ring.

Self Portrait as Quarry

It is difficult to walk in a skirt
made of prey,
it is difficult to be dignified
when the deer’s broken leg points skyward,
at my hips all these ungulates
   that tiptoe through life,
   all the fowl that flop
against my thighs and down
   my down below with soft and warmth.
Because the blue and brown spears
of a pheasant’s tail multiplied
have a martial air,
and there are hooves and horns
   and the occasional warning thrust
of the tusk,
I might seem a woman
whose procession through this nation
of carnivores
is assured—
but the scent of my delicious
vulnerability curls off my legs and perfumes
my coiled red hair
marks me hunted and ever a ward,
dependent on man’s better
   ambitions, to keep me safe
from the weakness I walk in.

Self Portrait as Post Script

And another thing
another thing
another thing spills out when I am a rose bush
cascade of lyre bird spill out of plumage
these ancillary passages of peacock feather
these pumped out plush petals the plus
of the bloom the minus of the bud
stacks of animals
a still life studying
   the many pretty ways to die
if these swirling vines look like my hand
please realize the black beyond I stand by
is set to devour these words
your name
one my syllable to swallow and lick
one my sign off to the greater good
going down to where the downed and feathered
   flesh parts to a knife’s
introduction to meat
symmetry in the cock’s comb symmetry
in the aureole the glands starring the nipple
and if the moles match the constellations
if this sky was the same in your world
as in mine, which is as it was
   when the giant squids
unfurled in the depths of dark waters
   with the soft seaweed light
squinted into a tube
such is the filigree of me
against the velvet
my shy knees crossed against the
once again and never more.


Each poem is an ekphrastic of a painting by Julie Heffernan, bearing the same title.


"Self Portrait as Thing in the Forest" was published in Vinyl.

Rebecca Hazelton

Rebecca Hazelton has been published in Agni, The Southern Review, and The Gettysburg Review, featured on Verse Daily and Ink Node, and included in Best New Poets 2011. She was the 2010-2011 Jay C. and Ruth Hall Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Creative Writing Institute. She won The Ohio State Press/The Journal poetry award in 2011, for her forthcoming first book, Fair Copy, and in 2012, won The Discovery/Boston Review Prize. Her second book, Vow, is forthcoming from Cleveland State University Press. A chapbook, No Girls No Telephones, co-authored with Brittany Cavallaro, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press.