Beauty Killer Poem No. 2: La Doctora Surveys Her Clientele

Summer, 2004 / No. 12

Shame stretches their skin,

and they come to me.

Bloated, canvas of hurt, I am

repulsed. Curl into myself

like a yard snake.

The women shuffle

and heave in my doorway,

laden in track-suit folds.

Even their dreams sweat. They flinch

at the slightest touch, all bruise

so easily. That’s how

they got here.

Like American prom queens,

scheming their own

funerals. A tear in every eye.

Heavy as ripe fruit, determined

to drop. The sun, a siege

in their kitchens,

screeches morning. The dishes

march toward them

in rows. Firing-squad precision.

The poorest plead

a bargain. The currency

of desperation. When husband

turns at night

to thin daughter.

For a price, I can

fix this. Though sometimes

I don’t want to touch them.

This weakness, a contagion,

can jump like fleas,

from their arms to mine.

The blood we all want.

To smile and not crack

like the clay without rain.

I whisper, love will fall

from the sky.

Dishes will not break,

and husbands will sleep

in their own beds.

Today their front lawns

try to swallow them whole.

Thirsty yards buckle and lurch.

They hurtle down sidewalks,

in wobbling stiletto panic.

I offer the end of a rope.

A doorway. A promise.

That heads will turn—

and fall into their laps.

Jennifer LoveGrove is the author of poetry collection Beautiful Children with Pet Foxes. Her novel, Watch How We Walk, was short-listed for the Giller Prize. She first contributed to the magazine in 2001. Last updated fall, 2022.