Ain’t Got No
by Claudia Putnam
In grade three Scotty said I ain’t got no
lunch money. We were delighted.
We crowed, That means you do.
If you don’t have none, then you have
some. Mrs. Cole, otherwise kind,
had just taught us the double negative.
But Scotty, one of those kids always
moving, dirty, in trouble, starved for food,
kisses, laughter, anything and everything,
still had no money for lunch.
Some languages would let Scotty
have his doubled poverty. Russian,
for instance, negates everything.
U nevo ne bylo nichevo. Literally:
In his possession nothing of anything wasn’t.
U nevo is interesting. With him, beside him,
near him, in his possession, in his situation,
in his position, he is characterized by.
Most common English translation: he has.
U nevo nichevo. He has nothing.
English gathers round Scotty, jeering.
Don’t you know how to talk? Haven’t
you learned anything? Can’t you think?
Russian isn’t concerned with that logic.
Russian is concerned with nyet.
Nikovo nikogda nigde nichevo ne bylo.
No one never nowhere nothing was not.
A person with no lunch money could say,
U menya nichevo, ni deneg, ni obeda.
I am characterized by nothing,
nothing of money, nothing of lunch.
This Isn’t Really Happening
My black bird was bigger,
my mountains were burning.
The snows stopped coming
sometime around 1999. The wells
dried. The shower sputtering
with soap in my hair
so I was always late. That tame crow
someone set loose spying
through the skylight, jeering.
How many ways is that? Each year
the river running thinner,
fleeing its shrinking glacier.
The Arapaho said the thunderbird,
black as any bird
gets, lived just west of here.
Someone must have seen it,
the day it flapped away.
We don’t get regular afternoon
stunners the way we used to.
You could set your heart on
those 2 PM monsoons. Biblical
lightning, all that water. Now: rusting
Ponderosas, centuries old,
disrobing. All good things
must end. Perhaps nightmares
also end. Not perhaps
in our lifetimes.
Poor lost crow, these are not
the best of times
to be falling asleep.
A few months with other women,
a woman bleeds.
Ten years’ time, a woman synchronizes
with her man.
Over thousands of miles, your arousal
brings my body astir.
Men make movies, you said—now they loop
through my head.
Golden locks on our dark headboard,
naked ass raised.
If I were making this up, I’d be watching you
both; the camera’s on her.
Your currents churn through my body;
don’t think I don’t know.
Claudia Putnam’s work appears in I-70 Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, Literary Mama, Barrow Street, Artful Dodge, Cimarron Review, Confrontation, and in many other journals. A chapbook, Wild Thing in Our Known World, came out last year from Finishing Line and is available from Finishing Line Press and on Amazon. In 2011-12, she had the George Bennett Fellowship. In 2015, she’ll be at Kimmel Harding Nelson. www.claudiaputnam.com