The Art of Detection – Kate Falvey

The ideal woman is
very brightly colored.
She is shiny; her breasts
point in sharp
conical assertion of
their amazing defiance of
physical laws; her waist
turns where she leans or
backs away and, if
she is clothed her
static swiveling rumples
her neat skirt, shifting and
hitching it over her
neat hips. Her lap
seems emphasized. Her legs
always exert themselves.
If she is clothed, her leg
is outlined in the creased
folds of her
twisting. Some of it,
usually her thigh, obtrudes
where her skirt is
torn or hefted.

She comes in three
colors and three
expressions.

If she is black, she is
white. Darkness goes
with earring size. Loops
of long gold go with
bare shoulders and,
in general, more
skin which goes with
darkness. If she is
Oriental she is not
white but she is
only one kind of
Oriental and her sloe
eyes crouch, watching
in deep blue lashes.
If she is white she is
a secretary and her short
hair curls in a damp
controlled sheen onto her straining
neck. She can be
aghast and terrified; appalled and
horrified; or icy and amused at some
awful private knowing.

There may be another
way she looks though it
doesn’t show itself
often. She
might look a touch
weary, as if she
were holding her arms
before her breasts and
stopping a something
from coming for
way too
long.

She costs thirty-five cents.
My father buys her all the time.


II

Give me a female sleuth any day,
whether she is matronly and nosy,
the kind of overlooked aunt who
fades into the marmalade, outshone by
a gleam of fresh butter on the toast,
given to meddling and shapelessness,
sprightly in her garden, shipshape among
the crockery and creamware, all
taken-for-granted tweeds and grey and navy
worsted wools and serviceable walking shoes
and greeting the twice-a-day postman
and prickling the humorless village vicar
and seeing to it that
evil
even in the midland counties
is rousted,
stared gravely down, and
ingeniously
traduced
or
whether she is importunate in suave
efficiency, disciplined, tall, fetching
in insouciant glamor, every molecule poised
for success and intricate, dignified capers,
intelligence like a clear bell sounding in an island fog,
emerging from any mayhem with stratagems intact and
scrying the titian glow in the snifter
or rousing a tinkle of ice in the moody old scotch,
drifting into a heady rhapsody of planning and outwitting,
and measured, attentive, lusty competence,
assuring that
if the needle lurks in the haystack still
it will point itself for plucking,
the perverse compass of its ornery
pathology insisting on being known,
and then, even if she is herself
bane and bait, she
steels her nautical, New England nerves
and makes visible
and fellable
the artfulness of
monsters

or
whether she is insolent and cussed,
acrimonious and solo, favoring
greasy meals and dark ales with showy heads
in derelict saloons with juke tunes gunning
and the seen-it-all barkeep scanning with
fatherly watchfulness, her
handicap of temper which spurs her to sudden lurches
of ill-judgment and enriches the mystery with her
scrabbling in and out of scrapes, and, smart-
mouthed, mightily self-sufficient,
boot to the floor of her coupe as she blares
like a suspect fire through the Sausalito canyons,
a hot date with trouble and ready for it, able
to get ferociously angry and,
cunning in her own imprecise way,
she maneuvers doggedly, near-fearlessly through
the minds of whackos and bludgeoners and gets
right into the cracks where the demons force
their lava and then she stuns them
without pity
when they sleep.

III.

This is something I
think about often.

Someone takes away
your place in line
and it is because
their own indignation
is unappeasable and they
can be faulted but
understood to be
aggressively sad and so
pity is warranted, at least
adulterated with annoyed
antipathy, but reprisals
must be tame, a look or a
mild dressing down or a stuffy
reminder that manners
and other lives
matter, or else,
even if your look is too
withering, your tone too
sanctimonious, your sense of
infringement too particular and
pronounced, and even if you
do nothing else,
suffer restraint and check
outrage with memories of
mercy, and
not even utter a caution or
aggrieved resistance or
defense, you
risk, still,
noticing that
you are no better
than they.

And this happens
every day.

IV.

A child is running
and there are no
doorways.




My work has been fairly widely published in journals and anthologies; in a very deeply understocked collection of poems, The Language of Little Girls (David Robert Books); and in two chapbooks. I edit the 2 Bridges Review, published through City Tech/CUNY, where I teach, and am an associate editor for the Bellevue Literary Review.

In ancient times, in a city that was once Los Angeles, I worked in Partridge Bookstore stocking shelves and fending off what used to be mildly termed advances. I got paid mostly in books and experience, not all of the bookstore kind. Other book business: I amassed and lost over a thousand books in a hurricane eight years ago, but still have nearly that many left high and dry. Yet still I moan through my hallways, I have nothing to read….And still I lament the ones that got hurtled and washed away. Even the ones that deserved it.

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