Cathlin Noonan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Plan II Honors from the University of Texas at Austin. She currently lives in Missouri, where she works for the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. “A Drive, Twenty-Five Years On” and “Annunciation of a New Self” are her first published pieces, and she is honored to be in such great company.
A Drive, Twenty-Five Years On
San Pedro Road grins a new city over buildings
we used up. I think about how decay can be foundation.
How old teeth, after twenty years, grey against new crowns
but bricks laid first resist plank and linoleum and tile.
I think our film, still cast on surfaces, shifts the new build on Blanco too —
hands slapping vinyl booths in Jim’s Diner, Marlboro Red
tongue, uninvited, on tongue, fat, paused at a drive-thru
in that black Camaro cliché, back seat, bucket seats
nicotine-calloused hands pushed upon but from below.
I’ve seen mausoleums swallow other crypts, tipping
across shying walls and wires, and I search for your name
on Facebook, a desperate séance for someone dead
sunk long before the formaldehyde of internet posts.
Here’s another cliché I learned addiction is
a mistress, resented and trite even at sixteen. I learned
another language lingers in the skin around lips, a twinkle, a tell.
But words were my first lover, shouldering steady
views from the tops of Spanish-tiled roofs, so skin just peeled away.
Now let San Antonio be my newborn cliché, a drive demanding knees to ground
as words, cast as spittle across the floor, lay the decades’ grout.
Annunciation of a New Self
I cleave myself from other selves
in those first new days. Fragile fingers grasp
keys for an apartment in Queens for a first time.
Alone I track unsteady steps through the hallway
where padlocks thick metal swaddle other souls
to detangle without witness a self twined in weeds
in a post-war walkup. A decay between
walls off Northern Boulevard. With my dollar store broom
I sweep up loneliness, brittle as dried bark.
Collect scraps in a bowl on the entry
hall dresser. Greet the smell of mulch with exhaust
in each evening’s unlocking. The kitchen,
twitching lights and harlequin floors, ashtrays
and cigarette smoke. Instead of soup, I stir paint
to seal dry rot of wood along walls and reclaim my sills.
Afterwards in my oversized rocker, feet upon screens,
steadying between drags and cradled in muffled noise
from alley-side windows, I summon my next life from cracks
in the concrete. How I tilt and swell, knees
to chest, below the panes of an open window and exhale.
My mother never taught me how to pray. At night,
alone on a hand-me-down bed clutched
together with pegs and rope, I sculpt Virgin Mary
in the streetlight below the bedroom window,
trace her silhouette between electrical wires, imagine
a heart hammered with nails, strain to channel to that pulse
nectar from the swollen stings of my past.
But when I say please, when I close my eyes pleading
I hear air — car horns, neighbor’s radio, a holler’s echo
between courtyard bricks — quivering, until dampened
in the impossible slice of grass along sidewalk.