I step on wet cat litter in my bare feet
on the way to the mirror
and choose to ignore it.

my ankles are tired,
my legs are broken spindles of
scabs and bravado,
tripping as I cartwheeled down your block
all spring and into
early summer.

I’m trying on lipstick.
I’m meeting someone new for dinner.

she’s real and I take my time with each
boldness, playing out each palette of
illusory affection  on my face.
am I heavy red, glossy burgundy, or just a splash
of crimson?
each smile is timed, each grimace is lined in
a joke and
light pink.

I’m nude.
my dry hands are
unwashed, but I can smell flowers in my nails:
rosewater from the quick spritz
to my face to pace myself
when I feel the urge to
go back in time,
retrace things,
name them things like
“us” when I meant to say

unfitting for grown women
and I’ll continue to falter:
cut my hair unevenly
to the nape of my neck without
      be  incorrect
and often
without attachment to its correction,
take my time with mopping things,
take my time with ruby liner,
onyx lashes,
spit in the faucet without washing
the couple spots the stream missed
and I stay waffling between color schemes
and themes of conquest.
I remember the fifteen years of
unnamed longing
and I scream as I
suddenly soften.

and I soften, not in private
but in the wrong place
in the wrong yard
with the wrong idea and a
soft reprisal and a hard hope
I meant it.
but we both know
I dreamt it.

but I’ll teach our daughters how to shapeshift their way
to knighthood without compromise.
without insertion.
they can keep their breasts,
their imperfection,
their relentless gaze towards clandestine martydom,
their overused adjectives that they breathe,
even as they sleep,
work into every passage
(how many times can one really be amenable or
but I am often.
and sorry, how many times they say sorry
when they meant to say nothing,
when they meant to scream I’m starving.
I have no plans to mother, but I will give the world
whatever she wants from me in gratitude for the
relentless purge she forced on me that left me
fed, fed and
my love will have a cradle and a blanket and
a mobile with the planets hung crookedly and
carved into the center of Jupiter
hovering far above Earth,
my favorite emblem of expansion,

with a butter knife and an old eyebrow pen
the only poem I felt strong enough
never to rework:
you do not earn your birth.




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