Sitting on my ass in the sauna,
sweating among a bunch of old men, tails
between their legs, the hardwood benches
take on the color of rosewood.
Sweat rolling off the flesh
slowly builds up and embeds in the walls.
Hard, dry smell of heat: rosewood,
pink flamingos don’t mean that much.
I like to be true to Alice;
that’s what my Grandmother always said
when we sat down to a game of chess.
She pointed out the red and white pieces.
Rose-gardens are filled with hothouse blooms.
They’re as pretty as a pussy
which is cultivated with desire.
When they wither, they don’t leave hips.
Black stems and shriveled petals,
piling up as compost.
Walking out on farm roads, a woman
taught me that those ugly, pink flowers
with four petals are roses. They make
bright red hips in the fall, free
for the picking. Steeping in acrid tea
keeps the scurvy from your hide.
first published in Living With a Stranger: self portrait, 1993. Also published in Love is Just Lust Misspelled, 1994.