Selected Poems

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i.

There’s a fever dream in me that keeps coming.

In a photograph she wore a black pencil skirt and you said,

don’t worry, she wears a promise ring.

All these women with their promise rings and pencil skirts

and virginities and love of god. Every woman was a virgin.

Blessed Art Though Amongst Women in Indianapolis with godly devotions

to promise rings.

ii.

In Omaha, in your hotel room, you whispered in her ear and she melted like

wax all over your bedsheets while I was in a mid-atlantic city saving space.

When I think about it, it makes me want to taste the saltiness

of every single man who’s ever batted

an eyelash in my direction. I wanted to tell

the tin-man that I had enough heart for the both of us.

iii.

In June, I was a Skeleton. Pansy seeds were burrowed

in my clavicle and in my kneecaps and in the jammy gap

between my big and little toes. In June,

you were a botanist.

iv.

This time was no different,

we marched like refugees, bare feet stomping on cold

linoleum to my bedroom. On my back I carried the life

we once had. My former world fossilized like an insect in amber in the lies

you’ve told. My skirt a heap on the floor, the yellow

lighting refracting off your shoulder blades.

v.

Between pursed lips you told me she moved to Peru. I’m sure

she brought her virginity, her promise ring.

I told my sister I forgave you. I told anyone

who would listen until my tongue cells went dry and both

sides of my mouth were exhausted. The freckles on your back

shackled me to you. I wanted to tell

the scarecrow he can have the squishiest parts

of my ridgy brain.

vi.

Your father was a taker-backer so I gave you a free pass

as I patiently watched the syncopation of your breathing.

Forbidden fruit, you told me.

You had a sweet tooth for it.

Forbidden fruit, they tell me,

pairs well with the Lagavulin left over

from easter.

vii.

Autumn came like a bill in the mail.

While the sun hung low like a pendant on the neck of a mother

and the birds had all left us,

I was opening the envelope.

viii.

We’d given life to something more than we had planned when

pressed into each other like a right foot and a gas pedal.

The crumpled white sheets in an Ohio apartment knew

of a motherhood

oh which I was unaware.

ix.

At 7 weeks its ears and teeth

At 5 it’s heart, limbs, and eyes.

They put that on posters

to make you change

your mind

x.

Eyes, limbs, heart.

They keep asking if you’re certain.

But I knew I was certain as I’d pinch the translucent skin

between my thumb and index finger to stop the acid

from rising in my throat. Just like someone told me once,

just like I did three years before. I’d like to tell the lion

he can have all of my courage.

xi.

Two weeks later, a warmth previously unknown, came

over me when the portly black butcher said,

“lay back and count from ten, this will only hurt a bit.”

Choice

The blood blooms in the bowl. One drop, two

drops at first. In quick succession. And then

a gush. And then it was all over.


Across state lines, you felt a sharp pain, a

pinprick in your chest. For you, it was

all beginning. 

Heathrow 

Josh, your voice melted like chocolate

in the back seat of a hot car and we were

rummaging through drawers in a flat on

the Thames. I could feel you in the goosebumps

at the nape of my neck. We’d sit on the rooftop

with our found treasure and sign our names

with cigar smoke. You said our names sat

next to each other like we’ve been pouring

from the same pot for years. I was twenty –

two when they took me away, thrusting a half

decade’s ban on me like prison clothes. I found myself

on foreign soil, the wrong side of the Atlantic lapping

at my feet. The loneliness breaking over me like a rainstorm.

Timid Shame

That winter split me 

like firewood. I was smaller,

splintered, Elliot Smith would play 

on cassette in my blue Volkswagen

while our breath coursed 

through flared nostrils and damaged lungs. 

*

I hid my pain like a sick dog. I slinked

out, under the back deck, 

I swallowed some pills.

In those hideous places 

I can still smell the acrid, peaty heat 

of your breath, reeking like remorse. 

*

But even though you swore that you left 

I still caught you shoplifting.

Greedily, you shoved 

every broken piece of me

into your pockets.

*

The more you took, the more

I couldn’t help but remember you

feeding our cats, their tails licking

around your ankles like muted flames.

And now I’m jealous of people 

I don’t know. I want to be that stranger

sitting across from you on the subway.

I want to claim the dust you leave behind.