Cynthia Arrieu-King



L’Assemblée Nationale




It hung in my mind, a cloud of promising metallic qualities.

A metal frame stretched out, an umbrella’s skeleton flared

to introduce suction and assemblage:

Women at work on truths untied and forever reframed

with perpetual interruption. Cascading green velvet

and chocolate thread; moreover, stares cruising past,

walk signals on and blinking.




Women behind women, Russian doll clapped over a doll against dolls.

A student walked in and asked the boss if Iand not the others

would teach her to scan a heart all morning. Ultrasound it.

Of course, I said, right as

a doctor who’d given birth to six children stood outside

the boss’ door to say she disliked

a too-bright quality in my work.


In a dark lab, I leaned my hand on top of the student’s

and showed her that her death grip on the probe

kept the camera tucked firmly under the fourth rib

and would never focus a good picture for her. Heart windows diverse,

she had to sweep the wand over a patient’s ribs—

like a gaze ranging a whole store

for a walk identifiable

in lack

of loping, or side to side,

its person wearing known khakis, slow toss of hair.




When she was four,

my mother crawled, a secret,

down one arrondissement, across a bridge,

knees down another cobblestone mile

Germans sniping from the top of L’Assemblée Nationale

the largest building downtown.


Thunder roll of bombardment or not, her mother crawled above her,

mother an arms and legs shelter,

her own doll held beneath.




That's enough,

she never said to little me

that's enough, stop looking in the tin

at a stack of identical sweets.

She knew one day I’d learn my own enough


and gaze – a bright enough – would fill the space

around each fog, brick, and soft face arriving.




When language throws out the last

heel of bread, failing to break your purpose;

when speechless, I've likely seen a brand of mother—say,

a many-faced Picasso—red, framed, grandly lit, and known

beyond the hundred sweating heads.


Her white face, each disfigured eye stuck wild

on a green drift means the mother leaving, her child

quiet behind a door, human instinct on her many lips,


crimsons burning around the stillest face.


Night Available


We pass over a long bridge being

built while we ride it, your favorite incidental

pasture of goats to the side. That picture—

goats up a tree—recalled from the web,

while birds sew a long thread that spells

red and brown. My hair, too long, decides

in the rearview to look eternal or sage, as if 

warning you never know what you’ll wake to.

There’s no way back from this story

to the real goats. A stylist snips and a woman 

claims her children three and five more

animal than human, then pays. I sit,

the stylist combs my hair to a peak. I flash

on a desiccated body, a marble foyer

but don’t scream. The stylist pulls my hair down,

snips it blue wet & straight across.


What sweep, what an arena, available imagination:

dead bodies, birds sewing trees, a thought

where you appear as my co-worker and scold me

about my large city of glue gunned Styrofoam

when in real life I rub your arm often.

The goats aren’t really up that tree. Scissors

click, hair falls through air. Having received

sophisticated instructions immediately to lie down,

the hair looks flung. It starts a quiet wave,

incidental hair of a child whose whole mien says

almost. These abstractions grow impossible.

Perfection forms its slow lies, flops to one

region of pillow; hair awry like a cow tongue

as it lathers. I fall asleep and I keep this to myself:

I asked the barber for dog ears. And keep to myself—

always there’s night available for darting words

singing there’s some other version you don’t see.