Harlequinade

Low pranks make fine legends. We hear tell but do not witness
the coalminers pinning a work buddy down and sheering

half his beard and head, along with a single eyebrow.
Checkers, they call him. Or sailors who encircle

a mate’s vacant bunk and tug out fistfuls of their own
loose pubes, then deck the man’s sheets, re-tucking

hospital corners. (Did Seaman Peck even notice the excess
curls on his corpus come reveille?) One prank I saw,

and said nothing: Tiffy and Six poured nail polish remover
into Fantasia’s mascara. More crime than lark,

they meant to teach her. Fan stole regulars, went too
far in the lap dance chair. She looked better

at forty than us teens. Worst of all, she seduced Lollipop
and prayed directly after. I mean got down

and confessed by the tub to eating tang. It was all I could do
not to laugh like a drain when the burn got in that bitch eye.

 

 

Kathleen Balma is a teacher, librarian, and translator. Her poetry has appeared in Hotel Amerika, The Journal, Prelude, Rattle, Sugar House Review, and elsewhere. Her awards include a Fulbright year in Spain, a Pushcart Prize, and a fellowship from Rivendell Writers’ Colony. In 2015 she was a finalist for the Montreal International Poetry Prize, and in 2016 she was a Tennessee Williams scholar at Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her first chapbook, Lunch Alone at Antoine’s, was published by Antenna in 2017. She lives in New Orleans.

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