The Hilton Conjoined Twins
Beauty isn't pain, as they always told us.
Pain is pain. We looked so beautiful
in our plump, starched petticoats
that we became a giant cupcake, two
dollops of frosting on top in the shape
of bows. And later, the coal black eyeliner,
the flapper girl fringe, and the knee high
leather boots—we were two bad girls
in cahoots, whispering our lusts
to one another, then shimmying behind
whorls of smoke. We sang with high pitched
canary voices about love and heartbreak,
but we didn't know the first thing about loneliness.
It was all an act: the children begged
for autographs, the men demanded
we lift our skirts, show exactly
where we were glued. Only pain is pain.
We shared slopes of skin, choreographed
our four legs like tangled gymnasts,
slid into spotlights double-wide
and innocent eyed. When we curtseyed,
their applause made the tent tremble and purr.
We longed for the man who swallowed fire,
doodled our names with his last name
in our diaries, and when our bodies
blossomed, every man we coaxed
with our twenty fingers of longing
was him, snuffing out the flame
in his stomach, pulling it up reignited—
men were nothing short of magic,
and we were a double scooped
ice cream cone made to share.
Beauty is not pain. We tried to marry
some of them, but every judge
called us indecent, incestuous.
Secretly, they wanted to watch us:
who could condemn a threesome forced
by God? When the curtains fell, when our manager
ran off with our money, when the drive-in
movies replaced the stage, only then
did we daydream about cuts—when one
of us would slice her finger on the paper
grocery bags at work, we'd look at each other
in awe. It could be so gentle, a swift slice of skin.
Scalpels dangled over our dreams
like baby mobiles over a crib, metal clangs
soothing us to sleep. When one of us starts
to vomit, the other hums jazz: the show
is over. We charm no one. Our bodies
ache. We know that when one of us dies,
the other will bear her like an anchor,
until she pulls us both under.
Only pain is pain.
Anne Champion is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013) and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, 2017). Her poems have appeared in Verse Daily, Prairie Schooner, The Pinch, Pank Magazine, Thrush Poetry Journal, Redivider, New South, and elsewhere. She was a recipient of the Academy of American Poet's Prize, a recipient of the Barbara Deming Memorial grant, a 2015 Best of the Net winner, a Pushcart Prize nominee, a St. Botolph Emerging Writer's Grant nominee, and a Squaw Valley Community of Writers Poetry Workshop participant. She currently teaches writing and literature at Wheelock College in Boston, MA. Visit her online at www.anne-champion.com.