When Lucille Bogan Sings «Shave 'Em Dry»

by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

I blush quicker than a school of blue jack mackerel
arranging itself into an orb of dazzle to avoid

nips and gulps from the dolphins who’ve been silently
trailing them, waiting for them to relax. When I hear

her growl—her scratch-thirst and giggle when she drops
swear words pressed to wax—I can’t even look him

in the eye when I ask him to give it a good listen
with me. But he does, ever patient, and we both get

a light bless of sweat on, a bright address that still maps
us to each other after all this time. When I read him

the lyrics, the pink of my cheeks is like the pink
of an orchid mantis. Just when you least expect it,

the pretend flower will reach out and snatch a butterfly
from the air. When I say flower I mean how her song

blooms in the cicada-electric Mississippi night. When I say
pink I mean nectar I mean a long kiss good and sweet.