A Televisionary Life

                    i. Station to Station

‘I guess you could say she died
          the twofold triumph, virgin

          and martyr,’ blonde-tongued Daphne,
          daughter of my weird neighbours,
          the only Catholics in
          town, the Petersens, regaled
          us with sour irony she
          sugared with lies, her honey-

          comb mouth holding captive my
          best friend Stephen Holmes and me,
          a private audience in
          the alley behind the old
          liquor store uptown, down on
          Seventy-Fifth, her glistening
          lips lured us in like blind flies,
          further whenever she licked

          them, and even if all her
          blaspheming gossip was just
          bullshit, we listened any-
          way, attentive as thieves caught
          by cops in a lie, being
          read their rights, caught in that sweet
          trap of hers, if only for
          a night! So we fantasized.

                    ii. Testing Patterns

‘Yeah, well I heard she did it
          with scissors her grandmother
          told her never to touch, some
          antique pruning shears the old
          woman only ever used
          when wearing gloves herself, those
          same ones Sylvia had on
          when they found her down there, torn

          Bible pages trashing their
          basement floor next to her torn
Stephen offered,
          the recent death of our town’s
          local Methodist church’s
          most popular minister’s
          misunderstood children was
          a double-homicide—well,

          according to the papers,
          but who killed Christopher and
          had the balls to split him wide
          open as grotesquely as
          his murderer had, was not
          the kid’s sister, no, not her—
          sick Sylvia Cavendish,
          however sinister her

          aversion to people, was
          nowhere evil enough to
          castrate and mutilate him,
          a brother the guys at school
          always said had knocked her up,
          no—how they found the preacher’s
          dark-hearted daughter was worse
          than theirs, the great work of an

          even sicker fuck, but her
          old man—the irreverent,
          for-any-disaster (that
          is, except [t]his…), funeral-
          clad Pastor Cavendish—he

          insisted it was “strictly
          suicide,” that his only
          offspring had succumbed to some
          sin “the secular world must
          have planted inside their minds
          and sacrificed themselves to,”
          a cult he still insists on
          calling the worst kind, “that damned

          Televisionary Life,”
          but as I laid out for them
          this sad legend’s growing lack
          of consistency, Daphne
          and Stephen just grinned at me,
          at what lack of facts fueled our
          last of all those back-alley
          summer reveries, behind

          the spot winos stand in front
          of, in back of the bottled
          watering hole where we, once
          a week, would let Daphne lead
          us as she strolled, in seeking
          a lurid, more convenient
          means of not dying virgins—
          we martyred ourselves to that

          common cause of this “troubled
          girl’s” not-so-subtle tales she
          spun of our own suburban
          misfortune, desire herself,
          the unspoken symbol but
          outspoken and most frequent
          victim thereof, those hollow
          stories that rolled out of her

          mouth like cherry pits off her
          tongue, stoned and stone-faced, crashing
          down decency even more
          furiously than the two
          swollen boulders of her chest’s
          premature development,
          echoing our own unfed
          desire to explore farther

          and feast our eyes on them, both
          of us so curious to
          devour her like the Holy
          Eucharist of which she had
          sometimes joked, claimed of being
          forced to receive it by her
          devout parents, as weekly,
          too weakly, blind faith bled us

          any possibility
          of stealing a peak at them—
          somehow, we soon drowned like drunks
          stumbling foolishly around
          an abandoned quarry, each
          refusing to heed the most
          obvious warnings, our moist
          imaginations thirsty,

          parched from constant employment
          as our only outlet that
          summer in Richmond Peak, where
          unlike us with Daphne, heat
          and humidity managed
          to get it as they held hands
          until their poem’s tangled,
          metaphorical palms wed

          and sweated Augustan balm
          nearing Hell’s own plus-forty.

                    iii. Living Off-Air

And if faith in the unseen
          is a barometer of
          a mind’s infirmity, that
          season Stephen and I spent
          fishing for a lost girl whose
          only talent was for words,

          deceiving us both into
          believing her, instead of
          being with or in her, then
          it came as no surprise when
          those cruel murders we spoke
          of returned to us when an
          eternity had passed, and
          an entire bland adulthood

          later, when we both returned
          to our spurned hometown as ghosts—
          the only ones gathered at
          her memorial who could
          recall Daphne Petersen’s
          own tragic downfall—we mourned,
          retelling with zeal how death
          waits for no one—not even

          for her, our most clever girl—
          especially not for those
          whose minds not merely wander,
          but crawl, into the darkest
          places where curiosity
          has no business being at
          all—there he found her, death’s doll
          pulled apart by lies she told.