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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
At 7 weeks its ears and teeth
At 5 it’s heart, limbs, and eyes.
They put that on posters
to make you change
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.