The Unabashed Tourist Talks With a Skee-Ball Proprietor: Poems by Catherine Pierce


The Unabashed Tourist Brings Her Lover to the French Quarter

Baby, darlin’, cher—we can talk like that
here—let me show you around. In this place
you can buy me a hurricane, and we can
stroll all night with storms in our hands.
Let’s pretend it’s the Jazz Age. Let’s pretend
there’s no such thing as Pennsylvania.
Baby, just pretend for once! Lure me
with oysters. That sign glowing gold—
DESIRE—is a lodestar. The streetcar’s
a bus line now, but we can rename any route.
In this place you can rename me. Get me
an absinthe, I’m wearing my tall black boots.
I never wince on the sip, do I, because liquor to me
is smooth and sweet and I never stagger, do I?
No. That’s the word you’re looking for,
although here the word is usually Yes. Say it
with me. Say yes, the abandoned construction
site at midnight. Say yes, your hands inside
my dress outside the blue-lit closed-up gallery.
Yes, the oysters that won’t make us sick,
yes, the French words like sugar, yes, sugar,
in our throats, the river boats with their cargoes
of diamonds (yes, diamonds—honey, my head
is a guidebook), yes, our eyes are full
of glitter and guile, our mouths spin
voodoo, I am gorgeous with my cigarette,
you’re a gangster with your sazerac,
the tuba player plays, yes, yes, just for us.



The Unabashed Tourist Talks With a Skee-Ball Proprietor in Ocean City, MD

I’ll tell you a secret:
I’m highly skilled at scoring hundreds.
I bank it. Watch. See?
I’ll tell you another: I want
to love the ocean, but it panics me.
It’s not the water, it’s the opacity,
how you could step on claws
or scales, how you could open
your mouth and a fish—or worse—
could drift in. I’ll take the pink shark,
please. Here’s another:
I want to love that Ferris Wheel—
its reds and blues are the colors
of my invented childhood—but
the kids kicking to rock the cars,
the suspension at the top while
riders unload—I can’t take that
kind of uncertainty. Yes,
another pink shark. Here’s one more:
later today I’ll sit on a bench
eating French fries with vinegar,
though I hate vinegar, gazing
at the sea in the hopes that I’ll look
straight out of someone’s dreams
of what has been missing
from America these last decades.
I told you I was good, didn’t I?
Yes, I’d like to trade up.

About Catherine Pierce

Catherine Pierce is the author of The Girls of Peculiar (Saturnalia 2012) and Famous Last Words (Saturnalia 2008). Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, Boston Review, Slate, Ploughshares, FIELD, and elsewhere. She co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.

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