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Poems by Courtney Liana Wooten

Little Sally

little sally walker
walking down the street

you wake me up in the morning
morning sun like sun-bleached hair,
your hair, your blue eyes,
dry lips, you kiss me awake in
the morning. sweetheart
your sheets twist my ankles
your arms smell like sweat
and i lie in that bed like
gravity and tan skin mixed together.
your sheets, legs, are so white
mixed with mine.

she didn"t know what to do
so she jumped in front of me
she said go on girl, do your thing

our hands are the same size,
you cup my chin with one
of yours, then run to make a meeting
leaving me sitting, smoking
on the ground cross-legged
wearing your oversized shirt
white wife-beater undershirt
hanging off my breasts
djarum clove cigarette hanging
off my lip. bandana
tied in my hair holding back the
curls you say are my brains
going wild. (the wild parts of
me, so different from
what you are/ you know)

do your thing
do your thing

you tell me i am
twenty percent devil, eighty
percent angel, and you like
that i make you late.

(you laughed when i said
my family might like you.
they found us in bed one day
light brown arms around a white waist.
you left the house so fast)

go on girl, do your thing
do your thing. stop

you tell me i am
beautiful to you, that naked
i am so beautiful, and when
you push your white skin
against my black and white
and reddened body your blue eyes
focus slowly.

now turn to the east
turn to the west

(you think too much, don"t
kiss me in public, don"t touch me
fear of trespassing on exotic property)

i put my mouth to your neck, breathe
your smell and shut my eyes
my fingers press red against your back
you look at me and my
image smiles beautiful in your pupil.

and turn to the one that you love the best.
little sally walker walking

you took black and white
photographs of us.
tan turned gray, white stayed white
the way we look together
was, you said, beautiful,
we should put these bodies
on a display.

down the street
she didn"t know what to do

Ode to James Dean Watching Rebel Without a Cause

i first saw you years after you died
immortalized in technicolor
forever handing over your red bowler"s jacket
cleaning knife wounds on your chest.
i confuse you easily with your character,
let your lack of cause
continue on like sun up sun down,
watch you kiss natalie wood
gently on the screen.
your lips are soft.
you fall out of a car
laugh and the other boy falls off the cliff edge
dead for having to do something.
i cover my eyes too late.

my class, sitting outside because it"s march
and it feels like summer already,
starts to discuss you,
the mechanical side of rebellion and
dads that won"t kiss their daughters.
i fantasize leaving our
sunshine intellect circle
going to get drunk, landing in juvie hall,
offering a boy some warmth
in the form of my jacket,
then screaming,
“you are tearing me apart,”
at the top of my lungs.

who killed you james dean,
never saw you there and destroyed you before blinking?
i wonder would you understand
your martyrdom to a cause
you never wanted to claim?
could enough work be done
to erase the image,
let you be the man
i never knew you were?

my eyelids close to make the world dark,
shutting out fluorescent lighting.
i heard they re-opened the planetarium
six months ago, they outline
zodiac signs in the night
projected on the ceiling.
the show ends in that same
old way. gas and fire explode.
the earth will not be missed,
and nobody remains to care about the man alone.

We Stand in the Dark

we stand in the dark,
calm like lovers
arms around waists, you
nestle my head against your shoulder,
breathe cool on my face like
breathing is all that matters.
my body, my matter,
my hand in the small dark
of your back
(not unlike
a lovers"),
my cheek on your shoulder
might affect you
but you
won"t let it matter.
i can shoulder
the ideas that the dark
tried to place in our heads. lovers
romanticize touch like
(i like
touching you)
they should, but lovers,
this is a different matter.
it is just the dark
small contact, my face on your shoulder
too calm to be lovers
too comfortable for it to matter
that i like
you. you
touch me. the dark
creates false lovers, but you like
my head on your shoulder, you
whisper that nothing else matters,
we stand still in the dark.

For Paul

all i really have left is a tape of your voice
detailing some chemistry experiment and
from what i can make out you"re training someone
at the lab, but i"m not sure. when i was 15
and mad as anything at you i recorded
madonna on side a to wipe you out.
i couldn"t make myself destroy side b.
and mom doesn"t know about the tape. i"m sure
she"d flip if she did, hearing her dead son
enumerate the dangers of acid to an unknown
answerer who only grunts in response. and i"m not going
to tell either. the tape is mine, i found it, and
anyway, she still has prints of photos and
memories. all i have: the tape, one picture of us.
we were in death valley with your friend
who took the snapshot, and i"m sure you"re
about to teach me something because it"s a candid
and you"re pointing in the distance, off
the lens, and i"m squinting away at the sky. that
was just like us, opposite directions and we could
take it all in between the two of us. i can"t
think of when we faced each other really until
the hospital. there was no need before, but
by then you weren"t my brother
you were dying quickly and confusedly. they
shot you up with morphine and put me on tranqs
and sedatives and towards the end it"s hard to tell
who had more pain killers and pain to be killed,
but i don"t remember it clearly, a side
effect, they say, from drugs and hysteria, and halfway
i"m glad to not have that memory, for your sake
or for mine. not that the two aren"t related.

Memory of DS

and when i think of you, D,
i"ll think back to me 18, you 17
and called me up, “hey C
i"m in your town” and not having
to ask i picked you up
an hour later. we got coffee,
grabbed some friends and got high
in my parents backyard. D, it came
so smooth, and you knew
exactly what i meant about 2D worlds
cause you trip too and
we recounted our first summer in
rhode island. D you were
so fun, exhaling smoke like a genie
or from your flared nostrils.
you holding it in your lungs
waiting for me to wish on you.
and D, from stolen camels to stolen hash
i"ll think of you and your
narrowed eyes leaning closer
exhaling the words "are you feeling it?"
then smiling leaning back like
we"re goddesses of sin and the rebels
we made each other into,
you ease out the phrase "me too."

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Biographical sketch: Ms. Wooten is currently a student at Stanford University. She has won many academic and literary awards, which she claims come "in part because i don't work at what should, but instead focus on what i want."

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