Ciara Shuttleworth

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Eight seconds and he took
the buckle. She liked his smell—muscle,
dust and steel—rode on the back
of her motorcycle home.

First he sounded like a preacher,
then a caged beast, whiskey
and shattered glass. He bundled
into her bones and kisses
fell quick as guitar licks.

He had her believing
angels watched from somewhere close
but not quite heaven.  Now her pulse beats
time to his spur-chimes receding.

Tonight’s bronc leaves him grounded
and he slides past her. She revs her engine.
He’s convinced her
two bodies plus two racing hearts
equals red lights dropping to green.  

Her tires ripple smoke, redefine speed,
and just before the crash
she leans over to turn the music up.



Toasting the Trickster to Thirty-five Years

The cavalcade of casseroles arrived ahead
of the tears, ahead of strong pulls
in pink dawn from his after-dinner bottle, when mystery
novels held her hands and freshly laundered
down spooned her restless body.

Thirty-five years of washing clothes by hand, cooking
lavish meals from meager scratch, and keeping her face
smooth of wrinkles with olive oil.  He slipped out
on her, no last kiss or word, no days hinged to his death
bed, no locking eyes in the last labored breaths.

She’d found him in the driveway,  gravel
and ants imbedded in his cheek as she rolled
him supine.  The doctor said stroke, maybe a flash of Catholic
light but no pain.  Then the casseroles came.  Long before
he was buried and even before blood was let from his body.

In the kitchen, the pans have cooled
and cheese curdled.  He’d have stored and eaten the dozen
or so dishes had it been her, but she has hours
and hours baking used to fill that she fears
soap operas and casserole will now swallow.

The yard is a glazed donut at sunrise, her slippers
breaking the crust to sugar as she takes trips, cheese and noodles,
pork and potatoes to the yard’s edge.  If coyotes
come in daylight, sick or desperate or brought by the smell,
she’ll be at the window to watch, toasting the trickster,
until the bottle is finished.



No Farther West


Norma Jeane Baker, ‘26-’62.

At the center of a palendrome
there is a mirror. At eightteen,

Norma Jeane must have known
she was halfway there; she went blonde and gave Marilyn
to the world, the mirror she was unable
or unwilling to break reflecting
what no one has since topped.


How long will my soft skin last?
I walk chipped sidewalks in heels
even though I’m only going to the corner
market for cigarettes.
I listen to the breathy sigh
of the MUNI spark and rumble
and sigh again.

I did not come this far in search
of gold or a role opposite Clark Gable.
Technicolor has been around almost a century
and the only gunslingers still here
slink the hills in low-rider Buicks,
calling Hey Babydoll from behind tinted windows.


You’re smooth
as thirty-year old brandy and my dress
hangs languid off a cocked hip.

The street grate blows
warmth up my skirt but I’m always imagining
I’m Marilyn Monroe,
so I pause, watch the smoke
from my cigarette roll around my fingers
like a tongue, moon over the latest
daisy’s love me, love me not.

To Do List: buy coffee, return movies, draw
a roadmap of his heart,
fall out of love.


From here, Pacific waves lap the shore
and the sky is as blue as Arthur Miller’s ghost;
there is no farther west.
Even 100 yards east I sling shade
on bridges and trees.

If I squint hard enough I can almost see where you stand
at the Atlantic—colder water, same moon—closer
if either of us would turn around.  But I’m too afraid
to look behind me, too afraid I’ll find the mirror, and you,
like Arthur, never wanted to be in California.  

So I keep busy imagining
a silver-screen life: flashbulbs, makeup
brushes, and a full glass of bubbly, always
cold, just out of reach.


"Crescendo" and "Toasting the Trickster to Thirty-five Years" were previously published in Plains Song Review vol. XI, 2009. 


Ciara Shuttleworth is a poet and painter currently pursuing the MFA in Poetry at University of Idaho.  She has previously published, or has work forthcoming, in journals including The New Yorker, Los Angeles Review, Plains Song Review, Cutthroat, and Concho River Review.