© Image by Stephanie Craig
Pushcart prize winner Jill McDonough’s books of poems include Habeas Corpus (Salt, 2008), Oh, James! (Seven Kitchens, 2012), and Where You Live (Salt, 2012). The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and Stanford’s Stegner program, she taught incarcerated college students through Boston University’s Prison Education Program for thirteen years. Her work appears in Slate, The Nation, The Threepenny Review, and Best American Poetry 2011. She teaches poetry at UMass-Boston and directs 24PearlStreet, the online writing program at the Fine Arts Work Center.
Domino wears slutty bathing suits: zebra
bikini, black tank with sheer inset that shows, for
a second, her nipple, my hand
to God. I pause
the DVD, flickered her nipple just
to be sure. She wears the black and white surplice
bandeau wrap bikini to have sex
with James. James
wearing scuba gear.
They shoot one shark
to distract the others, and he swims into them,
a swarm of sharks, a cloud of blood, to find
the sunken plane.
He skims past sharks like cats, like
the lady assassin in his bathtub. She
is naked, asks for something
to wear. He hands her
shoes. She’s thinking about Pussy:
James Bond, who only has to make love
to a woman, and she repents, returns
to the side of right and virtue.
But not this one, she says, and shoots.
When the pretty French pilot with the heart
of gold betrays the bad guy, shows James the safe
in the Louis XIV clock, her evil employer
asks her to leave. She leaves. Then he
releases the Doberman Pinschers. She has put
aside the slutty low-cut frocks she wore
before she met James, wears a white dress, long
sleeves, pleats, white lace up her throat to run
through the woods, woods filled with mist, with
slanting sunlight, branches that tear at her face
and hair, sweet dress, the score rising with her ragged
breath until, in slow motion, the dogs take her down.
For Your Eyes Only
When you break into the drug lord’s lair, there’s
the swimming pool, girls. A Pacific Islander wears
a red hibiscus behind her ear, a turquoise bikini, tassels
bouncing at her hips. A white woman with beaded
cornrows, off-the-shoulder tank, dives in;
a black woman in a red one-piece looks on
from her lounge chair, looks like she just
got high. A periwinkle swimsuit crawls
up a brunette’s ass. She walks toward
a tall white girl: white bikini, camel toe.
The sound of heels on flagstones. Disco.
They dance on the crabgrass. The Asian’s
in lilac, reads a magazine, smiles. A strung-out
blonde fights a blonde man; he agrees
to play paddle ball. When the white girl
in a white one-piece sees the suitcase is full
of cash, her eyes widen
like a girl’s. She
whispers—Wow!—the one line spoken by a woman
in this scene. Pam Grier, or the one who looks
like Pam Grier, wears big sunglasses, sucks
her stomach in. She’s seen the suitcases before.
She grins, raises her eyebrows; the drug lord,
balls bunched to one side of his tight striped
trunks, tosses a stack of bills to her lap.
Everyone is having a good time.
When he gets hit with a dart and bellyflops, dead,
in the pool, the women laugh at first—
our drug lord, always goofing around—then
understand, cry out, reach for each other. James
shoves men in the pool, knocks bad guys around
with sunbrellas. This is their life: getting high, piña
coladas, paddleball, all the waist-chains
and swimsuits they need, that wiggle that makes me
think they all have yeast infections, UTIs. Happy
until James shows up, kills their benefactor, leaves.
In the last glimpse we have of the pool, their whole
world, they gather together, lift his bloodied corpse
tenderly out of the pool.
You know, things are going pretty good. Sure,
your dad named you Octopussy, then killed
himself, but you’ve pulled yourself up by your
garter straps: diamond smuggling, your own
all-white-girl Indian island cult. They rise
gleaming, naked from your swimming pools
to the sound of more young women chatting, laughing,
wrapping each other up in high threadcount
towels, gold and pink saris, a hundred shades of rose.
Where did you recruit all these lovelies?
Doesn’t he get it? Did he ask Blofeld, Goldfinger,
Drax where they got all those matching futuristic
suits, the blinking lights at headquarters. No. I train
them, give them a purpose, a sisterhood and a way of life.
James is suspicious. How can it be this good? In crime?
In business. It’s 1983, you fool: I diversified into shipping,
hotels, carnivals, and circuses. Oh, Octopussy, don’t
do it: think of Gwendolyn and Midge, a dozen more
in matching scarlet spandex, the blonde
who ties her sheer pink sari to a balcony rail
and tumbles, graceful, to the ground. Don’t make
the damn martini, go to bed with Bond.
Here’s what you’ll get: three dirty men
breaking in with their knives and yo-yo saw
blades, a turbaned thug with a missing eye, no teeth,
a redneck’s giggle. Bond’s in your bed an hour and it’s
trashed, saw blades everywhere, satin pillows torn, aquaria,
teak honeycomb lattice smashed. Shirtless, sweaty
men covered in feathers lunging after you, mahogany side tables
sawn in half. Your pink silk sheets, your gilded
octopus-shaped bed, its pink satin upholstered
octopus head. Your thirty-foot ceilings, priceless
stained glass dome, your marble tables laden
with ripe tropical fruit, all sawn up, broken, gone.
Don’t do it, Octopussy: you shake that
martini, next thing you know you’re breaking
bottles over strange men’s heads, shooting
half-naked men with poisoned darts in your dressing room.
It all starts here: the Russian generals slipping
nuclear warheads in your circus cannon, duplicate
cabooses, Bond panicked in a clown suit, the works.
You’ll have to use your whole girl circus, your dancing
girls, your acrobats, your human pyramid of girls in matching
spandex. You’ll have to break out the sheik headdresses,
the ropes, the galley slaves, fake prostitutes to first distract,
then knock out the guards. Your whispering
pole balancers, your tiny snub-nosed pistol, your nets,
your elephants, all your sword fighting skills. Is it worth
your veiled half-naked trapeze artists’ efforts, Octopussy?
Octopussy. Don’t do this, please. Take a look
at his old man’s mouth, the lewd looks
he gives Gwendolyn, poor Midge. Don’t
give up everything you’ve worked for, don’t
do it, don’t you do it, no—Oh, James.
Judi Dench is M: I think
you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic
of the cold war.
Junkyard of Soviet statues, busts
of Lenin, arms, a disembodied
Bond-size Lenin hand. Long
shadows, sourceless light: cue
the creepy fog, a raven’s call,
a crow’s. Rusted-out red
star, rusty columns, a wreath
of wheat and stars. Strong worker
heroes, muscular men and women out
of Rockwell Kent. Three Lenins, one
capped, another trapped in scaffolding.
In the turncoat 006’s evil lair, James mocks
his loyalty to his dead parents, calls him
“little Alec”. Oh, please, James, spare me the Freud.
I might as well ask you if all the vodka martinis ever silence
the screams of all the men you’ve killed. Or if you ever
found forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women
for all the dead ones you failed to protect.
Die Another Day
The movie starts with Bond getting caught
in North Korea, unable, for once, to fuck
his way out. The naked ladies
in silhouette, black silhouettes of guns—
this time that alternates with James
in a filthy prison, James
refusing to talk. Scorpions, syringes, primitive
waterboarding. A man laughing, ducking
James’s head into dirty water. The camera is
with James, under the dirty water, again
and again. The camera can’t
do anything to help. A woman
strings him up by the hands and holds
a scorpion to his face. A woman made
of ice, a woman of fire, a woman of melting
ice, water droplets filled with Bond
under water, the water hitting the women
of fire, the water turning to steam. Then men
haul him out of the water to kick
the shit out of him. Fingers of ice stroking
flanks of ice. Time passes. Bond has
long hair, a beard, a filthy t-shirt, pants
he’s been wearing fourteen months.
About to be executed, he’s exchanged
for another prisoner, a smiling, clean
Korean wearing a freshly laundered
jumpsuit. Freshly shaven. Sleek
and healthy, fresh from an American
prison. Lucky guy.
from Oh, James! (Seven Kitchens Press, 2012).
Visit Seven Kitchens Press.
Visit Jill’s website.
Visit the Creative Writing, MFA webpage
at the University of Massachusetts Boston.