On Cass, I think. Maybe 2nd
beside a boarded-up liquor store.
Underage us nuzzling each
a bottle of fizzy alcoholic something,
brown bags nestled like garlands at our chests.
Suburban kids gone to the city, the city we say.
Come to test spit and bluster
among punks squashed
into the out-of-commission meat freezer,
to punch holes life-sized
in the air — Marlboros and pot
and clove rising sweet as sugar. Fishnets
carving checker boards into my thighs,
pulling tight in the crotch as I hunker
on the floor with a nameless boy
but this comes later, long
after Larissa completes her magnificent croak
into the microphone, after
the band has abandoned guitars
to party in the alley. Larissa, Catholic schoolgirl
skirt shortened to handkerchief so everyone sees
her skinny ass swathed in pink.
Larissa of broomstick legs
and crabapple knees, Larissa resplendent,
roaring on speed, her dance half pogo, half stomp kick
keeping the double-time beat better
than the drummer, her arms blurred
beneath the single sweating stage light.
Angel she is, dry as winter, rice paper insect furious
in her dance and I am so hot
with longing, thick and damp as ink
among thumping gnashing Mohawked boys,
the band reaching the climax of Clear Vision
and arms come undone, return me
to sour carbonation on my tongue, Larissa still
scoring her silhouette into the smoke,
her buzz crescendoing with the final crush-notes
when she topples backwards — all of us pressed so close
everyone feels her hit, feels the bob of her
against upraised palms
until she disappears towards the back
where I spend the rest of the night thirsty
on my knees, searching for her shadow
across this strange geography of crumpled flyers
and cigarettes flattened underfoot,
the small lakes of silence.
Laura Bernstein-Machlay is an instructor of literature and creative writing at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI, where she also lives. Her essays and poetry have been published in numerous journals including The Michigan Quarterly Review, The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Georgia Review, and others.