My tears are real in that photo -
Marlene didn't put them there.
And that speckle of blood -
Not FD & C No. 1,
Not Kool Aid mixed with lotion or Vaseline -
I tripped on some wires, like an idiot,
And He decided to keep it -
Even thought that meant
I couldn't wash off.
This upset Marlene from Tucson,
Who'd told me about her boyfriend,
And about her three-year-old named Spike,
About the Shooting Range,
About growing up poor,
About the teary joy of heroine rising in its pipe,
About running coke from Trenton to Newark
During that time back East
(Two trains and three busses)
And about keeping a tiny pistol her mother gave her
Tucked between the folds of a small black purse
She stole at her father's funeral.
I said I was sorry for her loss,
And she called him a bastard and laughed -
Her face real close to mine -
And said, "He reminds me of Daddy,"
And the freckles on her nose danced.
Marlene has long hair the color of wheat,
Under halogen it's like the sun setting on a field.
Her skin is the color of coffee with lots of cream,
And hers is the smile of a woman who's lived some shit,
And that's fine.
Under these lights she is a goddess,
Standing in until it's my turn to stand,
And do the things I think Marlene would do,
If pushed too far
If made to feel love like she loved once -
Maybe more than once -
Who can say, Marlene,
But my blood and my tears,
Trivial as they are
As they flow from me to you,