Sticking It to the Man

Lateeka's working, my favorite teller—
she's got wild nail art & fire red/
feather extensions.
In line: young guy in hi-tops w/ipod,
black blazer girl on her lunch hour.
Lateeka & I always talk hair & makeup,
she's in school for accounting.
A guy with 20-inch arms in a Hines Ward jersey/
cut off at the sleeves,
a white-haired woman with
a cane & her daughter
—no suits.
Restaurant guy walks up to the window
with a bagful of receipts—
the blonde teller working the line
leaves her post & exits side-door,
so it's Lateeka & people
roll their eyes & grumble:
Oh great, now there's only one teller up there.
Steeler guy shakes his head:
Jesus Christ, do you believe this?
Daughter to mother:
Why don't you sit down?
Blazer girl turns:
I'm late for an appointment.
Steeler guy waves his massive arms wide
like he's going out for a pass:
Hey, I got an idea—
why don't we shut this shit down & open up a bank?

We turn to see his arms jabbing the air
like he's trying to grab it down—
his neck red with rage.
He barrels out the door & we bust into
laughing, the air full with mutiny:
1 new spot open, we inch forward like
fat cattle, clutching our checks
a little less tightly.
We have won for the day,
we are sticking it to the man.

More by Jan Beatty

Report from the Skinhouse

I went looking for the body.

The apple, tree, the river.
Gliding voice, curve of arm,
pearly blue uterus.

Muscled calf, the neptune green
eye, blood with the same
taste as mine.

Why do I write my report this way?
An adopted child needs to find a face.

What does a real mother's body look like?
River, chalkline, bloody cave?

I am replica of nothing.

birthmother, conjurer, boneshaker, witch,
let me smell your skin just once,
I'll give you your bloody daughter.

Sitting Nude

The torso facing east, the head nearly west,
as if she couldn't take in the sight of her
own skin and its failings, its parts spilling
onto other parts. She thought:
Nothing for once.
Too tired for fantasy.
If a body can be seen as itself and loved,
it's a wonderful thing. If the thing-ness
of the body is all, we're doomed and
broke apart: I'm offering you my breasts,
inches below the fuselage of my heart,
for whatever a short life can become.

I'll Write the Girl

The thing I'll never write is the green leaf
with its rubbery-hard veins, I'll never
write the structure exposed, instead

I'll write the girl picking it up, green leaf,
her pudgy hand & her wanting it, that's it,
because she knows the sky is full

of stumbling ghosts, & she's back in the cold
room, back on the dark floor, & along
so much sky, what does one person do?

She says, bring it to me & devours,
hungry girl, breaks it open, tastes
the day's first plasma of leaf, first blood

of green on her city street, she takes it
to her like morning's first kill, &
owns it, stem to point,

& knows her life will always
be this biting open one thing
to leave another, that the only

way she'll get anything is
with this tiny hammer
in her animal brain

saying: mine,
& again,
& now.