Tuesday, 29 June 2021


by Alexis Rhone Fancher

I remember listening
to Bob Dylan in Donna Melville’s attic
bedroom, 3 a.m. We were
drinking her daddy’s bourbon, playing    
Subterranean Homesick Blues over and over,
memorizing it word by mumbled word.
Johnny’s in the basement,
mixing up the medicine, I’m on the pavement, thinkin’ ‘bout  
the government...
Donna passed me the bottle. The bourbon made me sick but I took a swig anyway. I didn’t want her to think I was a lightweight. The word might get  

Maggie comes fleet foot, face full of black soot...

Donna took the bottle to her lips, her moon face flushed,
beautiful. She was my first Catholic and I was in  
awe of the certainty of her faith, couldn’t take my eyes off
the lucky gold crucifix that dangled between her breasts.

“What do you think Freewheelin’ means?”
We were on the bed, pretending to study
the album cover, Dylan and some blond on
a New York street, looking happy. “I think it means fuck the
consequences, just do what you want,” I said.
Drunk, reckless, soon I’m ready to do what I want -
let my hand slip from the
album jacket to Donna’s left breast. Her sharp intake of breath. My tom-tom heart.

Look out kid, it’s somethin’ you did God knows when but you’re doin’ it again...

These were the moments I lived for at 13: the hot, disheveled solace
of Donna’s attic room, her clueless family asleep below,
Dylan’s growl on the stereo,
Donna in my arms, her lips on mine, her tongue down my throat,
Fingers fumbling with my zipper.

Get dressed get blessed try to be a success...

Donna hits the Confessional.
“Father, forgive me for I have sinned.”

I am that sin. I listen in.

“I kissed a girl,” says my girl.
“You’ll go to hell,” says the desiccated
man in the box.

light yourself a candle...
you can’t afford the scandals...

The Gospel According To St. Donna:

She is the innocent,
I am the sin.
I am the bad girl
That let the sin in.

I remember listening
to Bob Dylan in Donna Melville’s attic
bedroom, 3 a.m., the last time I drank
her daddy’s bourbon, the last time we ever touched.
This was the moment I dreaded at 14: Afraid of
the spark, afraid of her own ignition -
Donna changed the rules.
Jesus had entered the bedroom.

“See ya,” Donna said as she walked me
out of her life.
“Soon?” I asked. (A girl can dream, right?)
“Sure,” she said.

She didn’t call.
I didn’t call back.

You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows...

* * * * *

"Subterranean Lovesick Clues" was first published in Cultural Weekly and is part of Alexis Rhone Fancher's 2021 poetry collection Erotic: New and Collected (New York Quarterly Books).

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry, Rattle, Hobart, Verse Daily, Plume, Cleaver, Diode, Duende, Pirene’s Fountain, Poetry East, Pedestal Magazine and elsewhere. She’s authored five poetry collections, most recently, Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press, 2018), The Dead Kid Poems (KYSO Flash Press, 2019), and EROTIC: New & Selected (New York Quarterly Books, 2021). Another, full-length collection (in Italian) by Edizioni Ensemble, Italia, will be published in 2021. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Daily. www.alexisrhonefancher.com