the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




FOUR WORKS
BY JACKIE SHEELER

CRAVER

On her back in bed
before the loud clock strikes
she dreams of it: thick,
black and hot-exactly what she needs.

When it enters her body, like
dark electricity, she will come
alive, the dull morning blood
jumpstarted by this object of desire.

In the kitchen, she smells it on her fingers-
licks a thumb, a pinky, then sucks
up every last bittersweet drop
swirling in the king-size coffee cup.

================

MY MOTHER'S NUMBERS

Refrigerator charts. Mysterious
algebra of Momdom. Sums
penned in calendar squares,
week after week for years-
a hairdresser's bounty of quarters,
condensed to a total in bucks.
No sick-day paychecks, no ADP,
no salary. Manila envelope of wrinkled
fives passed weekly under the table,
yellow license scotch-taped to the wall.
My mother dreams in numbers, leaps
away from sleeptime coffins to bet the dead's
years of birth. Before the coming of Lotto,
she visited her bookie at the butchershop on
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
Sunday he didn't take bets. Catholic,
you understand. Observant.

Ahmed now accepts her money daily, stacks of pink
tickets slipped into pockets and drawers, or slid
beneath the plaster feet of dressertop saints.

After a year of feeding her tips into the beauty
parlor slot machine and charging casino
junkets to her Visa, Mom went bankrupt.
My brother paid the lawyer's fee.
On his next birthday
she gave him a five-dollar ticket
tucked inside a Hallmark card
listing all the lucky numbers of her son.

================

THE CYCLE

Her image, it comes with the blood.

Rises behind my sleeping, waking
eyes as the latest clot of useless
eggs ripen and let go, fall

into the nothing of another lunar month.
These barren days the wrenched, familiar

face that signified abandon now signifies
abandonment-my abdomen
rocks with ache, the heart
a timid accompanist, its beating

half a measure behind the throb
of those secreting female

parts. The most familiar
is often the most painful-
thirty-four years of menses does not dull the cramp,

six months without her has not dulled the ravening.

================

HOW TO COOK WHAT USED TO BE OUR ONLY MEAL

First, you have to get the supplies: this can be complicated, and instructions are not included here. For instructions on obtaining your supplies, please read William Burroughs.
This recipe assumes enough supplies are already purchased, in whatever amount of supply is enough for you. This decision is highly personal, therefore, amounts are not provided in this recipe. For instructions on selecting the right amount, please speak to any street sales representative.
In addition to the personal right amount of supply, you will also need: a knife, some water, some fire, a bottlecap and, of course, a diabetic syringe. You will also need a small slice off the filter of a cigarette, and a quiet, well-lit place to work.
First, use the knife to scrape out any bits of rubber gasket left inside the bottlecap - pint bottles of cheap wine generally provide the most suitable, least-gasketed caps. Then take your slice of filter - no bigger than the tip of an infant's pinky - and drop it in the cap. Now use the knife to slice open all of the glassine bags that hold your personal right amount of supply, as described above. Make sure to put the knife away now - you will not be needing it again, and unattended knives can become dangerous. Upend the bags, squeezing to widen their mouths, and tap them into the bottlecap. Tear them open and get all the powder out of every corner. Take your time: this step is most important. Waste not, want not. Throw away the empty scraps of bags, licking them clean first, if you wish. The taste is bitter, but not necessarily unpleasant.
Now draw up some water with the syringe - not too much, or else you'll drown the shot. (Although how much is too much depends, of course, on the size of your personal right amount of supply.) Squirt all of it into the cap, soaking the dope and the coke and the filter, and hold the cap carefully above some fire, trying not to let your fingers burn. When the juice just starts to bubble, it is ready. Remove it from the flame at once.
Stick the needletip into the filter, and suck every drop of liquid back up into the syringe. Some cloudiness is normal. A few strands or particles suspended in the solution are not necessarily cause for concern. Tap out the air bubbles, as you have seen the medics do on television.
Everything is ready now. This recipe does not include instructions on how you should proceed.