Chris Taylor lives in Wisconsin, where she stirs up trouble and lets her apartment get too cold in the winter. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in elimae, Verse Wisconsin, Double Shiny, The Madison Review, and others. She blogs at phonehometaylor.blogspot.com.
We are ten minutes too
late. He is already
on the floor, Z-splayed limbs
and a grimace,
or maybe propped
in his bed, serene, as if
the bullet were a pleasant
dream that floods
the heart with red.
I am telling you
how a mystery happens.
How a story
can be held together
by its holes. But we
were in the bathroom
for that first slow pan
across the city
skyline, when Bogart
began his voiceover.
We weren’t told
that it was dark, or raining,
or the kind of night that makes
a grown man—what?
Jump when a door downstairs
aches open? Finger his gun
Kiss the first lips that slink,
oh so knowingly,
into his office?
We were still buying our tickets. Two please,
back row, and extra salt on the popcorn. So.
There’s a dead grimace beached on the screen,
and everyone asking questions. Where
was he seen last, who did he speak with, why
would anyone—They dust for prints,
photograph the open window
with its sodden curtains
limp. Is this mud from his shoes,
You’re asking the wrong questions. He’s just
a body. A life that fizzled out early,
so the coroner could take a break from the crossword.
Maybe no one ever saw him
until tonight. Maybe he ate a can of beans
in the dark with the shutters closed,
and that was his only meal.
Maybe he only ever spoke once, to a silhouette
with a pistol, and the words were, “Where am I,