Charles Jensen


The moon watches you through her veil of thin clouds. You camp in the woods or make out with a boy you just met behind the shed. Poor victim, that pale moon—scared white by the nightly killings going on below, until, at last, her all-seeing eye closes in a sky-wide wince. A girl goes down. A girl goes down. Every night, the same three cuts: sternum, belly, throat. The moon stands at the doorway like a bride in her wedding dress whose groom, unbeknownst to her, is dragged by the feet toward his grave. How long does she need to wait—the lover isn’t coming. The moon knows he won’t make it. But now she’s seen too much.


It wasn’t inevitable—imagine the beautiful boy wasn’t destroyed. The way we keep taking all the beauty from the world we’ll soon forget it wasn’t always something feminine. Two guys out for a good time snicker, Let’s go fuck up something beautiful. They mean a garden or the seminude statues in the downtown plaza but then the boy is bloody before them, crumbled in a heap. Nothing about this world is worth saving. And here there is a delicate face made ugly by pain. It is done: the myth of male beauty is still a myth. The world moves on. Men are nothing but ugly now. Men have taken off their human faces. Their smile splits open like two halves of rotten steak. Their breath is a smell I can never forget.


When I heard sixty-three birds were found dead in your city, I was afraid it was a kind of omen. Birds die every day in smaller numbers and each death is unremarkable for its solitude. A collection of things that move en masse toward oblivion smacks of disaster, of ruin. Love in the time of plague is more urgent and I was ready to be urgent for you—I was ready to count their small corpses and name each fallen body before they left our world. It seemed important, giving them something else they could leave behind.


My mannequin is not very tall or thin. My mannequin has disproportionate arms of another sex. The name of my mannequin must never be spoken. My mannequin is an outcast in the mannequin community. My mannequin strives for excellence. My mannequin votes only in presidential years. My mannequin trusts first in god and asks all others to pay cash. My mannequin believes justice is absolute—stupid absolutist thinking is just like a mannequin. My mannequin is rumored to be gay-for-pay. Several men who have loved my mannequin have been hospitalized for removing their own limbs. Sacrifice will not make my mannequin love you. My mannequin says the world will end not in fire, nor ice, but due to lack of interest. Something has been living inside my mannequin. Something has tempted my mannequin beyond my comprehension. Mannequin, be not proud. Be silent and still. Mannequin, be tender.


He brings the night into the house like a long thread of smoke. The dark chokes the white out of light. He has you before you awake, doll-like in the bed, his hand across your cold, unmoving face. He smells of wet hay. His lithe body enraptures the walls with acrobatics, a tenuous balance. He absorbs all the elements. His black ski mask. His black leather gloves. Black shoes. There is black in the center of his eyes. The house you love is compromised. He breaches your bedroom and longs and longs to be near you. Everything he loves, he destroys. There’s a certainty to his touch, the taste of tin, the smell of wet hay. He belongs to you. If this were a dream, he would stand for something else. The way he tears through your nightgown would stand for something else. That you, startled, finally wake, would stand for something else.