I liked your pressed shirts
best
kept on you.

End of day;
wrinkled, bleached,
sleeves rolled up past your elbow,
            I count four moles on your forearm
musk standing straight and
consumptive;
eating away at the fresh cotton scent
you sprayed in the air and
walked through  just before I
laid on my side,
let you come in from behind.
I was always craving the earlier temper
that had you so wet with sweat and mindful
reproach.
But I couldn’t face it.

You would re-enact shit:
yell at the floor and I would become it
to prove my loyalty
to soft barrage.
I assured you of my masochism
and we kept our plays
our little secret.
I would follow your bellow
to North Philadelphia.

I live in North Philadelphia.
I live in a daydream.
I live under a memory of a canopy of a
full fertile moon
that I painted my toenails under the night he said,
“I want to see you more.”
And I agreed that would be a good thing
to do.
You say it freely now without meaning
but the word holds a bit of a sharp
weight to it;
like a knife when it’s oil-stoned, serrated
and facing you and you aren’t sure
how this is gonna play yet but you’re
trusting and palms out,
                      I count three cuts across your fists
like expectations you had on
yourself or someone else when you should have just
taken out the trash regularly
and not complained so much,
like a sudden accident when you needed
one more thing from the store that day
but there you are,
wounded and without the slivered almonds
on a bed of fresh greens.
You are concussing quietly.

I looked in my bag today and saw a bottle of blue polish
peeking out
and the train screeched to a halt
doors are opening
and I saw people tumble through the
exit signs.
I saw men that wanted to shred my spaghetti straps
with their pocket knives and abscond with the fabric
to prove their might to
absent wives.
I smiled to show them my canines,
remind them women are animals,
foxes, defensive and
all of the time.
I found a book of my old poems that someone
printed for me and
a nail file.
(Be creative, child.)
Are these signs
or are these shadows
that are chasing me?
doors are closing

I think this
unfolds,
reversing.

“love”

 

 

4 / The Deviation

 

It begins quietly

in certain female children:

the fear of death, taking as its form

dedication to hunger,

because a woman’s body

is a grave; it will accept

anything.  I remember

lying in bed at night

touching the soft, digressive breasts,

touching, at fifteen,

the interfering flesh

that I would sacrifice

until the limbs were free

of blossom and subterfuge:  I felt

what I feel now, aligning these words –

it is the same need to perfect,

of which death is the mere by-product.

 

 

–Louise Gluck, A dedication to hunger

 

“How to Talk to God”

 

cough.
windows wide open.
sparrows taunt
with their love calls.  
we both rustle briefly and
separately.
I am sleepy eyes and smothered grief.
you are wide awake and pretending to
be asleep.
trace the constellation of moles on your back
into a mountain.
crumple underneath that,
old words.

“Remember when I made you all those CDs?”
minor shuffle and a dog yelps nearby.
my old record heart sits away from you,
buried under untouched breast,
cradled by a hand that once was open palm,
an unsteady hum,
a jagged drum that beats on
unsated memory.
you look at the ceiling.
you look through something.
you look heedless,
like a year ago
and you’re ready to leave.
someone screams at their insolent child.
you say:

“The only one that still works is ‘How to talk to God.’

can we still be friends?
can we still be friends?
can we still be friends?
can we still be friends?

“Yeah.”

 

 

 

covered in hot water & onslaught.
my organs shattered somewhere
around 1 am.
I wanted to skin myself to get rid
of your fingertips and view the collateral
but I didn’t want to be seen in public
either.
I sat cross-legged
under the shower
for twenty five minutes
to steam some of it out.
you would have said it was wasteful.
I usually go to bed by nine pm

swathed in cheap sheets, tortured
with absent flowers, cold feet,
lamp on next to me and
wax all over the unfinished table
you were making
before I threw the chair you had finished
down the stairs to get you to
open up
a bit.
it’s heavy;
my tongue flush with
little darted lullabies.

I’m up now and I
linger
in the hallway,
nothing in my hand
or my throat,
watching the front window,
voice hushed and brusque
and barely noticeable
when I finally move to speak,
like low tide,
like you,

your sudden
midnight
retreat.

“February”

“did you think I wore this city without pain?”
-Adrienne Rich

it’s midnight.
i’m with you
in a ball.
you’re taking up my half
of the bed with your engulfing
speculation and a partially harbored rage,
marking pages you skimmed
to later find your place where you felt,
at the time,
some things are better left theorized
than in flames.

I’m investigating an inner stillness that dissolves
when exposed  and counting
(to ten, my sponsor said)
contusions around my throat.
you’re learning about economics
this week,
hyperbole & statistics;
the way my freckles move
depending on my
frown.
the likelihood of a temper tantrum over
soap scum on my mug,
unloved refrigerator pictures circa 1993,
premature forgiveness when I’ve still got to
fuck
the bitter out but someone gave me two weeks of yoga passes
so I’m suppressing it in down dog and polite nods
on a borrowed mat on the other side of
town.
I’m diffident but I’m hiding my scoliosis
in poses.
the amount of times my palms moved from open to
across your cheek and at what velocity;
which side of my useless back will face you tonight,
how long before one half of the bookshelf is cleared out,
how not to trust
                    you’re a poor investment, Sarah
anything that has to do with
us.
simply put
(count the marks on my throat)
you already know
(inhaling without prompt)
about sharpness;
                       (my Christmas tree is in a dumpster)
some things shouldn’t be touched
                     ( I’m in child’s pose)
and you should
(exhaling without noise)

never bet on
anything
that talks.

“the economist”

“We have loved different people, knelt at different graves,
prayed at different altars.”

I described my most recent
bout of obsession.
I understand confession.
I’m Catholic.
girl in the corner with the
knit cap, medicinal
fingers curved into claws,
the gun draw.
my eyes are big and brown and dead set
on yours.
the chewed straw in my hand;
my most glaring tic,
the polish, the heart that reaches
across blocks to grab what is hers,
the public  psychotic break I had been
asking God for so I could just own
it;
the way I see your thoughts,
and shrink at my own
grandiosity.
I thought I was bigger than this.
I’m sensitive.
The one that finally took me
left me.

“What a fertile experience you are having,”
she said through the receiver
after I told her I demanded public humiliation
for what I demand.
I’m Catholic.
I’d rather have the
stuff
you seem to be having,

drifting cottonwood blossoms,
decaf Earl Gray and a cinnamon bun,
a joyous, sober experience,
mountains in the viewfinder,
a paying job you
studied for,
no guilt about needs,
and generally good
advice for others that you
take without scowl.
confidence.                   

What I have:
three apology letters
for making fate worse
that we all know I’m bound to
howl across town
in pithy titles or
rhetorical questions
in a way that makes no sound,
a new boyfriend in the clip
to give me something to fuck with

so I can move past one slip
that left me shaking in my
ignominious song,
echoes of absence,
nothing of my exes,
and
impregnable hurts that I birth,
covet,
like unfucked sons to show off
when I run into you again this summer
and you’re still not ready for words.

Is love the short space between
two wants? Where am
I?

 

“howl”

 

cough.
windows wide open.
sparrows taunt
with their love calls.  
we both rustle briefly and
separately.
I am sleepy eyes and smothered grief.
you are wide awake and pretending to
sleep.
trace the constellation of moles on your back
into a mountain.
crumple underneath that,
old words.
“Remember when I made you all those CDs?”

 

minor shuffle and a dog yelps nearby.
my old record heart sits away from you,

buried under untouched breast,
cradled by a hand that once was open palm,
an unsteady hum,
a jagged drum that beats on
unsated memory.
you look at the ceiling.
you look through something.
you look heedless,
like a year ago
and you’re ready to leave.
someone yells at their child,.
you say:

“The only one that still works is ‘How to talk to God.’

can we still be friends?
can we still be friends?
can we still be friends?
can we still be friends?

“Yeah.”

“How to talk to God”

covered in hot water & offense,
I was broken.
I wanted to skin myself to get rid
of your fingertips
but I didn’t want to be seen
either.
I sat cross-legged
under the shower
for twenty five minutes
to steam some of it out.
you would have said it was wasteful.
I go to bed at nine pm now

swathed in cheap sheets, tortured
with absent flowers, cold feet,
lamp on next to me and
wax all over the unfinished table
you were making
before I threw the chair you had finished.

it’s heavy; my tongue
flush with
little darted lullabies.
I coo, mourning,
from over here,
voice hushed and brusque
and barely noticeable,
like low tide,
like you,

your sudden
retreat.

“February”