Today, we’re featuring Alexis Quinlan’s tribute to Texas riot grrls. The riot grrls are one of the original inspirations for/pioneers of the Gurlesque. What better way to celebrate them than with a rockin’ poem, right?
Five Volvos In and Out of Texas
There was a girl in Austin, lewd girl from Lake Charles,
did the boarding school in Dallas and drank like an oil man
who’d struck it so rich so fast that he retired at forty
to perfect his veal cordon Cajun and to phone the dorm
weekly, basso bursting between slugs: Whar’s mah li’l girl?
That was her daddy. Hers was black, the boxy kind
they stopped making in ‘76, and she sped us around to buy
blow, played the songs we liked for as long as we liked.
There was a Houston girl with angel-blond hair
home-grown on Kirby Drive. Hers was a cast-off from
her professor pop who’d flayed his son in Cambridge
tones ‘til the boy blew his head off in the pool house.
Got sniffed out later by a maid. The summer of
our girl group, she to-and-fro’d us across East Texas,
the damned swamp, pulling over when stars were big,
were bright, to see Orion take aim.
And another lean blonde who hammered tile and bottles
to glitter chips for wall-sized mosaics. Iguanas. Her
fingers were wrecked but her face fine and she liked
to hop on the bar at Café Noche when the jukebox
played its lone Stones song, laugh her low, sexy laugh
until laughter hiccupped to tears. Her dad bought her
a silver beater named Betty, then left for a margaritaville
in Northwest Mex that took his social security checks.
In those Texas days I wanted a car for safety
that comes from fathers, safety like my father did
not offer in the while he might have. I paid cash for
sunny yellow, smiley-face yellow, warning yellow, pus
yellow. Only after I’d driven far away would I
wake to know how one cliché had soaked us good
and wrung us dumb, how these cars were garish
mockeries of safe, how we’d morphed our young selves
into drag queens of free, stuffing our bras with itchy
bravado and a dripping, rancid glee. Though I loved –
all four of us did – hell, our daddies did too –
the night sky on the back roads toward Austin,
for we always stopped (when there was time)
to watch Orion take his best shot against what is
and take it again and again.
Alexis Quinlan is a poet, travel writer, and English teacher (lately at Fordham) in New York City. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Drunken Boat and others, and are forthcoming in Rhino and Human Journal.