The Black Widow’s Bite
Jeannine Hall Gailey
is full of tired venom, a ballerina lost in flames.
The years spent conforming to black bodysuits
and government cabals. Can’t whitewash her childhood
away, can’t forget years spent whispering secrets
into untrustworthy ears. How many hawks and highwaymen
on the side of the road, how many daredevil escapes?
Fighting for one country or cause after another,
it’s not exactly patriotism or passion that mobilizes her
but where else, exactly, does she fit? Educated in warfare
and mind games and little else, her 73rd birthday
behind her and barely a wrinkle, what can she turn to now
but the bottle of fine vodka, Mussorgsky (another team player
betrayed) and dreams of fallen empires? Peel back the layers
of her identity – who was Natalia before the orphanage fire,
a little girl playing at being the last Romanov?
Jeannine Hall Gailey recently served as the Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington, and the author of three books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess (Steel Toe Books, 2006), She Returns to the Floating World (Kitsune Books, 2011) and her latest, Unexplained Fevers, from New Binary Press. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in journals such as The Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. She volunteers as an editorial consultant for Crab Creek Review and currently teaches part-time at the MFA program at National University. Her web site is www.webbish6.com.