JACK THE RIPPER
There’s a certain romance to it—
a woman walks alone at night, her dress
tattered, her hair disheveled, a stranger’s
semen drying in the crease of her thigh.
Her shoes, stolen off a highborn lady’s doorstep,
are too small and cement-scuffed, but they hide
the torn toenails and the blue skin
from too many nights out, waiting
for a gentleman with a few coins in his pocket.
Once upon time her mother named her after the Virgin.
There’s a certain elegance to it—
a man crosses a stone street, every other step
punctuated by the light tapping of a cane,
a tall black hat slightly cocked on his head.
A century later, he will appear in movies
carrying a medical bag, but here he keeps
a knife sheathed in his coat, and perhaps
a small serrated blade for cutting bone.
He might be quite handsome, with his silver tongue
painted pink to make it look more human.
A filthy, rose-scented poem sits in the corner
of his mouth, waiting for his lady. He recites
Noyes under his breath and imagines he might
commit his first robbery tonight—he might take
a necklace or a coat or an ear. He learned proper penmanship
from his mother when he was seven years old
and has practiced his letters ever since,
creating pseudonyms centered on aggressive verbs.
The word “rend” he finds particularly fascinating.
There’s a certain passion in it—
the dance they might do together,
she with her arms wrapped drunkenly about his shoulders,
he with his lips pressing into her throat.
In another life they might have been lovers.
Her literary-minded mother would have named her
Once upon a time, he whispered in her ear—
“Darling, it won’t hurt at all.”
And you, Demigod,
you with your swaggering hips
and pistol smoke halo,
you will make of your name
In your final moments—
an electric current—
you will breathe in a ghost
and exhale a soiled
A snake winds its way
around your thighs
and up your pale body—
comes to find a den in your lungs.
Ain’t the lungs that make the man.
Ain’t the breath or the phlegm or the blood.
It’s the crease of the palm,
the curl of the lip,
the lines on the forehead.
never gave one damn about you.
The gold under your boots turned to dust
at the slightest touch, and the roses
on your windowsill wilted
into whiskey bottles
and cheap hand-rolled cigarettes—
gifts from a ten-years-ago lover,
a woman in a yellow dress and a white hat.
They don’t make gentlemen
in a land so dry.
will catch you up onto his horse,
will bear you to the coast
and will bury you there.
It rains behind you.
You left the ground dry
She’ll push no more bastards
from her poisoned womb.
Her children will starve
and the rain will collect in their open,
finding new passages
into their entrails.
Black lines melted down your arms.
You never suffered tattoos,
You used your skin as paper
for a thousand worthless numbers—
the psychic hotlines:
a new car under Taurus,
a few drinks with the Queen of Cups.
The Tower waits.
It wasn’t the Death card needed worrying about,
at least you knew that.
It’s the Tower,
Nobody watches from behind those doors.
will put words in your mouth.
Rachelle Taylor is a native of the Appalachian region of Virginia who currently lives in the UK. Her poetry and fiction have previously appeared or are forthcoming in The Blotter, Neon, Gertrude, Gloom Cupboard, Conte, and Printer’s Devil Review. She is writing an ongoing series of poems about turtles and tortoises, which can be read at http://theshelledlife.blogspot.com.