By Kathleen Radigan
Image: “Flexible/Fractured,” by Sarah Schechter, 2016.
An elevator up to a cruise ship karaoke bar
is a ride to the next universe,
where vacationers chug cocktails
blooming with paper umbrellas
under low-lidded eyes.
Pitch all over the place, baritones ragged and horny,
they teeter between saunter and sob.
A dad with an island of hair and a blue polo gut
spins the blurred room close-eyed
on a somber cover of MARGARITAVILLE.
The floor tilts above a rumbling ocean.
“Up next is Ruth”
A middle-aged brunette with peeling
shoulders heads on stage.
She’s got an ass red-faced guys
follow with rheumy eyes. Blue angel
on her arm floats above the phrase
LOVE YOU FOREVER.
Out the porthole, ocean and sky merge,
a sloshing gradient, and over the electric backtrack
Ruth begins to sing. Notes slide low and trembly,
“The room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away”
Someone shouts, “Ya wicked good!”
Ruth looks out the porthole onto ripples
of moon in shadowed water and sings
“Her face at first just ghostly turned a whiter shade of pale”
the audience sways full of blank drunk kindness.
She cannot translate what she’s lost.
“And so it was” becomes a hymn.
As the cruise coasts the Atlantic
under a dizzy heaven, Ruth sings karaoke
at the fringe of the universe.
I am sitting in the dark with her
to listen, and learn how she is made.
A Rhode Island native, Kathleen Radigan is a Wesleyan senior. Her previous publications include The Harpoon Review, PANK, The Adroit Journal, Vagabond City Lit, Atrocity Exhibition, and a 2014 chapbook with Wesleyan’s Stethoscope Press.