Patricia Bowman at the Ocean
Au Bar. Good Friday,
the usual drinking with Michelle
when they came in. Big men—no—
two of them were small but shone as if they’d sponged up
the light of history
in Teddy, who drank
with all the thirst of Lent.
Alive, alive-o, pour another, Willie, Patrick, with their uncle-father.
Closing time, they said, come back to the house.
All of us ripped. Who wouldn’t go
to the beach castle of careless winter parties,
where giants embraced the world?
Of course we went.
They weren’t strangers. They were old hopes
alive, the dream that never dies.
Teddy disappeared soon after we got there.
Michelle and Patrick wandered off.
Willie said let’s talk
out on the beach. We kissed.
The ocean roared no more than it ever roars
when you’re chosen.
The dark was cold and stumbly,
but he wanted to swim, began to strip.
I said no, I’d go back in
and I tumbled; he was dragging back by the ankle,
my nose packed with sand, neck wrenched
against a choke, the slab of him
killing my air. I screamed when he ripped
my center, forced the ocean into me.
No one will believe you, he said
beady-eyed, his lips pressed in a line.
So you might as well shut up.
He was almost right.
Oh she was wild, they said.
All her sockets must have begged
for a good thump.
Imagine his spunk dripping
from her crusted beard,
the big-babied tunnel he had to plug.
Shut. No one came to help
who was stronger than me, just a puny
dress to be dragged off,
but I didn’t shut up.
Did they think they were brave?
That they left me shamed?
That they were champs again?
I kicked that mess away.
Note: Patricia Bowman charged William Kennedy Smith with raping her at the Kennedy estate in Palm Beach, Florida, on Good Friday 1991. Later that year, he was acquitted of the charge.
As Pakistan, Lee Recalls India, 1962
The last time I was blinded by my sister,
I rode an elephant behind my sister.
Understand, I tried to shield her
from that constant light. Throngs pined for my sister
as if she were a memory. Why not
be kind? I’d outshined my sister
with my pretty face, all of our lives.
That’s why I couldn’t see ahead. Mind you, my sister
learned to fold herself inside herself,
to leave the world with that hard smile. Find the sister
who never bested her again, who drank and cursed her,
me, Lee, hid in the dark, not blind, her sister.
Note: Lee Radziwill accompanied her elder sister, Jacqueline Kennedy, on a state trip to India and Pakistan in 1962. Though they were close at the time, Lee came to resent her sister’s status, just as the two countries have had a contentious sibling rivalry.
Mary, at the End of a Rope
If I do it, I’ll do it in the afternoon,
when nothing moves.
Four panes of light distract the barn wall.
No hoots of kids push the hours out.
No moon annuls them.
I never wanted eternity to come in a cup, big drunk
sprawled bloat on the floor.
Did I mention my husband used to be a falconer?
Lover of wildlife, river scrubber.
He left me here the way a woman has to be left
when all her eggs have dropped, broody hen
gone scraggled. What does she do
emptied with the afternoon? Break its neck?
Uncoil the length of it? Drop
out of its beak, Mary,
dangle an inch or two.
Note: Mary Richardson Kennedy, the estranged second wife of Robert Kennedy, Jr., hanged herself in a barn on the family’s property in Bedford, New York, in 2012.
Makeup For After: “End Times Girls Club”
Great grandmas knew
that old silk shatters.
That midnight gets green-eyed
left solo in a room. We say
play the tender buttons.
Loosen stays, the doomy undergarments.
When the rain still shudders down in sheets,
when the spit of sand sinks,
leaks spill away your face—
Wink away. Mix them with ashes, a little grease,
you’ll make mascara, stick in the smudge.
there’s nothing underneath.
Address the moment. Show the finger
to the shutter.
Note: Rose Kennedy Schlossberg is the daughter of Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter and only surviving child. Rose, named after her great grandmother, created and appeared in the YouTube series “End Times Girls Club” in 2016. From a car, she gave the middle finger to a press photographer in 2009, in her great-uncle Ted Kennedy’s funeral procession.