Kristy Bowen


from the working girl’s grimoire


spell for married men

Begin with your wife's rosemary plants. Lined up on the kitchen window, the selves she shed to get here. The pantry shelves with too much macaroni, but never enough salt. Your fault she burned the eggs for weeks straight and singed her hand on the stove.  There were too many dishes, so you stopped having sex. Sex, the siren turned dowager who donned her hat and maidly umbrella and set sail for further shores. No one knows where she drowned, there amid the pans caked with sauce and the lonely olive floating a spoon. She tried to pull you to the sink one night to listen, hands down your pants, but you couldn't hear the weeping over all the rattling coffee mugs. You'd leave them half-full on the desk every day for months, Where she'd line them up and see what sprouted in their black, fertile, bottoms.



spell for the lonely

Begin with your own shadow on subway tiles.  The pile of gas rags and broken barricades at the end of the platform.  How one frigid night, you watched them burn the tracks to thaw them in the rail yard. Like so many things, not sure if it was a disaster or completely common. The window washer that seemed like he was flying, but was really falling. his leg broken by the rope in three places.  He was back at work a week later in a cast, balancing above the city on his tight rope.  The pictures of men on early skyscrapers holding sandwiches. The waitress balancing on one foot at the diner, runs in her stockings.  How she was beautiful and sad, and maybe more beautiful because of it,  You can't think in the bathrooms, for all the secretaries crying over lost mothers and lovers. For all the lipstick smears on the mirror.  You'd write your name there and it would rub right off.



spell for the traveler

Under the new moon, everything looks like blood.  The sky, the Mississippi.    When you close your eyes, red blooms like algae at the edges. When the man in the French Quarter placed his hands over your face and spun you around, you saw not stars, but red, dark moon. Soon, you were lost in cobbled streets, hobbling through voodoo shops with 50 cent knock-offs. The medium who grabbed your wrists and inquired whether you were okay. But then it was all relative.  The heat, your slow sweat beneath gas lamps. A sign above a flat said it was haunted, but then so is the body. All it's crooked nooks and spiders in the rafters. No room for the living in all that clatter. No room for magnolias, dropped blossom by blossom into the river.



spell for uneven floors

Begin with rosewater, rubbed on the wrists and throat.  The places only his mouth goes. Throw out the bathwater with the baby, the baby with the stove that smells of gas eve on a good day. Be prepared for thunder. What wonder when the sky lifted itself above the buildings  and came back as rain. The lake swollen and barely in its banks. All of it surely a delusion, brought on by whiskey and lack of sleep. How the furniture was always creeping across the room when you weren't looking, The books that disappeared from the shelf. How you were always hooking your ankle on the ottoman in the dark.  Hunting the hammer, the slotted spoon in the depths of other closets. The faucets that dripped a steady rhythm  that sometimes corresponded to your heart. The pipes that rusted and ruined every towel.



spell for the somnambulist

Overnight, work men dismantle the kitchen. Replace countertops and cupboard doors and soon you do not recognize your own house. The place where the paint cracks on the ceiling reveals a river of water, near where the train tracks split the room. We keep moving the couch to the other side, but the light down the tunnel grows larger and larger.  Last week it took out the bookshelves. Took the tail off the cat. Even the neighbors, strange and clamorous through the hole in the wall, where you find an entirely new house, full of everything you lost. Single shoe. Broken clock. Frocks and feathers and strange furred creatures gone slack on hangers. You'd even find your mother there sometimes, alive again and crawling the floors.  She'd never get it clean in time. The inner space, so much more vast than the outer. The thin wall that separated them nothing but a row of curtains you were always hiding in, but still too scared to look behind.





A writer and book artist, Kristy Bowen is the author of many chapbook, zine, and artist book projects, as well as several full-length collections, including the recent SEX & VIOLENCE (Black Lawrence Press, 2020) and FEED (dancing girl press & studio, 2021). She blogs regularly about writing and other creative pursuits at dulcetly: notes on the bookish life. She lives in Chicago, where she runs dancing girl press & studio.