January 20, 2017
were the men who towered over, the ocean of them so vast
the floor dropped away, the sand submerged, how little difference
it made. Huge were the gods beyond me, the redwoods I ran through
for shelter, the vanilla scent of ponderosa pine. Huge
was the smoke that curled from me as I smoldered, tight-lipped, flicking
cigarettes in the pea gravel behind the church. Huge were tips
I left in booths at all-night diners where I slept on vinyl,
my last dollars spilled spendthrift for waitresses who watched over.
Huge were the lengths of my mother’s hair, the lengths she went to keep
me. Huge was the canyon I stared down and dreamed of leaping. Huge
was the leap, the wonder at how my feet never touched the ground.
January 21, 2017
When the angels came
to our land, we could
not fathom our good
lot. We could not shield
ourselves against their
strangeness fast enough.
When they washed ashore,
there was no whirlwind,
no cloud of amber
fire. There were thousands
of dread faces. There
were no survivors.
We did not touch them.
We heard the breaking
surf fussing over
their wings. We could not
ignore their message,
could not send them home.
January 22, 2017
He was nice enough, and we kissed
in his room, papered with pinups.
His mother called me nasty whore,
threw me out. My shirt, too. I caught
a nasty cough from him, from all
the smokes on my icy walk home.
January 23, 2017
This day’s bread
failed to rise.
I rapped it
with a thumb,
with a nail
tapped it. No
no note when
What I thought
What I did
to kill it:
in the tap
shut off, no
in this room,
Still, it is
this dense mass.
feel it swell
in my chest,
lodge its weight
in my gut.
I tear hunks,
mouth dry, jaw
so I can
drop my knife,
these last crumbs,
January 24, 2017
I tried to prove you were true,
peered through a loupe to detect
your imperfections, carbon
flawed within your sharp edges.
I rubbed you with sandpaper
to know if I’d leave a mark,
fogged you with my breath to see
if you could preserve my heat,
held you to the light to test
your fire and brilliance. It’s clear
what I should make of your shine.
Still, I can’t call this costume,
can’t claim it feigned. I’ll discard
the evidence so I can
flaunt you, my exquisite fake.
January 25, 2017
We woke to find the creature hovering
over us. We gnawed our lips, eyed its hooves,
imagined trampling. We bowed down so it
might see fit not to smash us. When we grasped
we might yet survive, rough flowers blossomed
on our fingers. We garlanded the great
creature with homespun roses, wrapped its horns
with petals. Our arms grew tired, but we kept
our weary hands raised in praise. When we could
worship no more, we fell back to the floor,
hoping the creature would not tear our limbs
from us. Silence was our final reverence.
For years, we did not speak, until our tongues
and teeth forgot words. We were sure the beast
could sense our faintest trembling. We waited
for the brute to make its move. When we died,
the creature kept roaring, never once touched
our bones, never even knew we were gone.
January 26, 2017
We’ve decked the halls in velvet gorilla skins, stocked
the cellar full of first-class graffiti, truffles,
and cigarettes hand-rolled by children. Come cuddle
with our pet silkworms. Come fondle our hired help. Come
sit beneath our chandelier made from skulls of those
we couldn’t abide. Stay awhile. Admire it all.
You’ll reside here one day. You’re heir to this mansion.
We’ve left the heat on and the doors open for you.
January 27, 2017
January 28, 2017
January 29, 2017
January 30, 2017
When we came to this land, we found
it empty save for these creatures.
They grunted like children or gods,
ineffable. We hunted them.
We kept them as pets, well behaved.
We called reinforcements: women
to care for their cubs, men who prayed
and shot to stop their infernal
racket, the squawks when they’d escape
their pens. Some of us went mad, claimed
to make sense of their babble, tried
to take them as wives. Not once was
I tempted, not even when one
whispered in my own tongue. I knew
what must be done. Now, see: they’re gone.
January 31, 2017
We scaled its face
even in sleep,
picked at cracks, gaps
in the mortar.
into our fists,
first magic trick
of this prison.
We hid our best
flinched as the great
gray wave encroached.
We knew it must
fall. Still, we crouched
beneath to block
the blasts of wind.
We tagged our names
across its span
so we might know
if we belonged
to a herd penned
or if we were
lords hemmed in stone
from prying eyes,
no gate, no way
to leave or stay.
February 1, 2017
They built a bower. We were not allowed to rest
in its shade. We built a tower that loomed over
their crops. Sun-starved, they built a machine, planted it
in our fields, painted it green so we would not see
it snatching our feasts from beneath our feet. We built
a god that hooked its jaws through their children. They built
a new universe. We watched them go, built gardens
in their ruins. We grew restless, built a rocket.
Inside, we travel across galaxies looking
for their land. We build each day new ways to make them
come home. We build up our hopes that this time they’ll stay.
February 2, 2017
We survived underground: gray
water recycled, shelves piled
high with medicine and food.
Of course we had guns. Who knew
what creatures or intruders
might breach our doors? We waited
for the air to clear. The old
ones said we were safe down here.
They claimed they were our parents,
that we’d never been beyond
the bunker. They lied. We lived
outside. How else would we know
the give of earth underfoot,
the gloss of sun on our skin?
No matter. We took the guns.
We sent out the old ones one
by one. None came back. We make
children now in this dark room,
whisper to them of the sea
and sky. One day we’ll send them
out, too. For now, we keep watch
on the storerooms, each other,
the guns. We sip shallow breaths.
We wait for help to arrive.
February 3, 2017
February 4, 2017
no one gave
a damn. We
all sat calm.
us. We had
no limbs with
which to feel
numb. They rolled
in the screen.
We did not
wince at the
We did not
close our eyes,
did not scream
or cry. We
watched the crowd
We could not
see the dead,
though we knew
they were there.
they fed us
more. We took
what they gave.
us there were.
February 5, 2017
We broke some
bones and bled
but did not
use cruel words.
sticks and stones.
We were asked
as some were
asked to tea.
We were crack
No one said
not to take
our work home.
February 6, 2017
After, we do not know what to do
with our hands, how to gentle them, perch
them tame upon another’s body.
When our loves whistle in the kitchen,
they mortar us. We seek shelter, press
our snouts to their fur but cannot find
their scent. We learn to touch with our eyes
first, not to look beyond at the sand
that tracks through the halls. In bed, we hear
the curtains flap like canvas. We rest
under cover of our armaments.
In our chests, the machine still pulses.
February 7, 2017
February 8, 2017
We bought the decoy. Hook and line,
we were sunk. As we drowned, we aped
faces of shock, mouths agape, air
bubbling from our lips. We dropped deep
in the sea, let it bury us.
We did not know we would surface,
that sailors would drag us to shore,
scientists would assemble us
with new parts, all arms, all hunger
for more. We reached for everything.
We could not be coddled or cheered.
We raided for intelligence,
the alchemy to make us safe:
ochre of burning earth, metal
tang of blood on the tongue. We had
faith. We would not fall for their lures.
We remembered the twitch of bait
before the water filled our lungs.
February 9, 2017
We played the hands we were dealt. We were not sore, unsportsmanlike.
We conceded defeat from the start. The crowds threw ticker tape
parades, filled fields with snow, asked us to lie down to make angels
or corpses. We rolled the dice. We came up short. We roused for days
of marching through brambles and thorns. In the distance, we could hear
their hunting horns. Stags and foxes, we left prints in mud, our scent
for dogs. We drew short straws. Our lovers welcomed home dark horses
who outstripped us, the doppelgängers who go where we cannot.
February 10, 2017
February 11, 2017
The masters said to win heaven we must make our bodies ready.
We bathed in unguents, unwound our nakedness, lay shrouded in dark,
waited for angels to take us. At midnight, our rooms shone with light
cast by the masters. On the new day, we redoubled our efforts.
We held our breath, steeped our minds in snow, journeyed to the moon. We touched
down with different gravity, knew the gates would open soon. Through space,
their voices followed, retrieved us from that void. We went underground,
seeded graves, grew into purple-berried bays. We earned our laurels,
put down roots. Still, when the masters stormed, we broke, windthrown. We gave up
on salvation, on making plain. We wove gold thread into our skin,
lamé and sequin. We winked, flashed, surrendered to dance. The masters
could not spot us, soaked in frolic. The winds and drums consumed their calls.
At last, we lifted to the faceted sky. We arrived, mirrored
spheres revolving over the revelers, a heaven after all.
February 12, 2017
Let me show you on the diagram: here’s the hatch
to access the breakers in case of overload
by hours with no rest, in case of short by wrong
word spoken over dinner. Try to clear the fault,
close the contacts. If power is restored, proceed
down the corridor, cubicles arranged along
one side: house, job, kids, wife. This draft is drawn to scale
success to a manageable size. You may wish
to make your way to the far end, nearest the fire
escape, where you punch the clock, get paid for the time
you struck your brother, the row when you chucked the chair
out the window. Follow the hallways so you haunt
them even in your sleep. Remember your exits,
best routes should you need to beat a hasty retreat.
You might crawl up ducts or kick down doors. With these prints,
this design, there’s no way to see the other floors.
You cannot know whose wheels spin on other levels.
We have only this overview of rooms. Admire
its structure and dimensions. Fathom its makers,
architects who plotted paths for all your actions.
February 13, 2017
February 14, 2017
Draw tight the tape,
block a sharp stripe
to frame the way
you see, to keep
your eye inside.
The image needs
its limit, strict
The line instructs:
do not wander,
do not hazard
the margin. Bar
the stray gaze, make
each edge exact.
record, your black
marks from the clean
expanse, white space
upon which you
must leave no trace.
February 15, 2017
Dear one, may you stub
your toe, bark your shin,
trip but never hit
the ground. May no harm
befall you except
the itch that vexes,
zipper that slips off
its track, coffeepot
drained of its last drop
before you arrive.
May you be perplexed
by these hexes: snag
of sweater, misplaced
keys, catch in your voice
when you must speak, blush
when your crush catches
you looking. Aside
from this, I wish you
the best, all of it.
February 16, 2017
We are of but not in it. We leave prints
in mud, a blaze of crumbs to mark our path
through vacant tracts. Snow fills our hollow steps.
We withdraw into our flesh. We relax
into astonishment, watchers behind
glass. We cannot smell the tires burn, the plush
pink smoke that chuffs from stacks. For all we know,
the ocean still exists beyond the reach
of our sunrise, sunset. We won’t venture
out until it’s safe again. We’re busy
with danger. We have known the best of both
patting our own and pressing weight on backs,
footfalls on shoulders. Our better angels
and devils crouch close, hunch over, whisper:
We’re not long for this. We wouldn’t miss it.
February 17, 2017
I wake up
in a snow
by your long
from my rest,
make me dance
make me fly
with no net.
It’s not you
me but glass,
which I watch
you watch me.
I am no
but I twist
to touch you.
When you leave,
in drifts deep
In my sleep,
your hands still
hold my world,
put me down.
February 18, 2017
Let it start with bareness:
every inch of my skin
a place to etch your name,
to adorn with your light.
You may not touch, but choose
my arrangement: one palm
on your metal, one knee
bent to your ice. The dance
begins not with music
but when I lift the veil
of your cheers, cloak my eyes
with that fragile fabric,
black bar to block the gaze.
I pin your hoots and shouts
to my mouth, what I might
have said left to guesswork.
I fasten on each gasp,
gauze that sheathes what I wish
to share, conceals this flesh
that craves revelation.
You may stand in the spot
where at last I vanish.
Let it end with applause
at my disappearance.
February 19, 2017
In the rubble, we clutched
structural beams, unsure
if we were tearing down
or shoring up. Bombs rained
in our dreams. We burned, left
for dead. We wished an end
to comfort and had it.
We deemed acceptable
sacrifices. Our hearts
had too many gaps. Blood
coursed in, flowed out. We gasped,
our lungs all apertures.
After a time, our flesh
went so numb we could not
ensure our borders. Smoke
fell like a lover’s clothes.
In the dim light, we thought
we were the ones who’d won.
February 20, 2017
If you’d wanted, I would have dropped a ring in your champagne, handed
you a velvet box, shining inside. But you asked only to own
me, so I offer shackles on a silver cushion, this cake piped
with leash and chain. For you, I vow: I will be had and held, honored
at market value, locked away or displayed in keeping with taste.
You make for me a gilded frame from the splinters of my glory
box, my hope chest. I cannot shy from your gaze. I spread my dollars
upon the bridal bed. I am yours to spend. I am yours to save.
February 21, 2017
My mother dealt in sorrows, passed them out in rounds, face down,
so we each received an even hand. She was every queen
in the deck. Her men dressed as the one-eyed jacks and the king
with the axe, blade behind the back or turned aside to stay
blind to her weeping. We each awaited our turn, unsure
whether to hold or to cut our loss. We all called, all checked.
She never claimed to know the rules, the difference between raise
and fold. She only knew the stakes. She placed us: her best bets.
February 22, 2017
They flew past us, shoes shined, black gleam in the halls,
sharp tap on the tile. They performed their solemn
offices. We took note of their holy rites.
In the evenings, we snuck among them, spied blue
silk slipped from their throats, crisp cuffs turned up to show
what could have been skin. While they slept, we entered
their rooms, unlatched each sacred case filled with hosts
of gifts. In closets, their forms hung. We swung souls
through sleeves, hid ghosts in pockets. Cloaked in their robes,
we at last gained access to the promised land.
February 23, 2017
We remained on the safe side,
enclosed in patterns designed
to baffle. We thought we’d stay
unexamined while the world
went white. We shrank, our contents
private. We promised silence,
would make no noise save the sounds
of our folding. We creased: bank
note, rent check, what we owed come
due. We sent ourselves packing,
stamped, sealed shut. We were better
than sorry for what we’d done.
February 24, 2017
that I did not know the roots
of this word: hermaphrodite,
womanish man. Bad my flesh
cannot conform, can perform
to be mistaken for. Bad
when awakened with a kiss
am still embodied, when sleep
alone knows all my names. Bad
as toyed with, misfit, sprung, notes
pricked backward, figure recoiled
in box. Bad that powerless
to shed dress, that had power
to suit but did not. Badly,
fingers numb to touch, divide
too much. Bad about such terms,
such common ways of saying:
to identify what hurts,
I make of myself a slur.
February 25, 2017
I sever you with glass pipe, shotgun in our dealer’s
car, spray paint in paper bag to force awe. I banish
your jaw working over some blue boy, dollar store gold
hoops swinging, slipped off before each fight. I cast out you
of leopard prints, of stolen bras and stilettos stuffed
to fit. I exorcise you who needed to be seen,
who drank and threw up on the kitchen floor, then returned
to drink some more. I exile you to a distant shore,
you who strung the night with stars, who swam in streams alive
with ice, who blew smoke, wafted it in clouds, tore tempests
through our hometown. Without you, the air is still. The path
I walk alone is clear and clean. May you remain gone.
May your shadow never haunt my door. I will not look
at the trail, tracks you left. I will not retrace your steps,
press against this thin partition, listen to you curse
and laugh, so close I could touch, I could welcome you back.
February 26, 2017
You made a name for yourself that night. The papers placed
scare quotes around your life: shudder or sneer in the wake
of our doubt. Self-styled even in death, you professed no
hesitation when you said that God was a skeptic.
Let us suppose you misused and believed. In the end,
you dubbed our loss alleged. On this, we disagreed.
February 27, 2017
February 28, 2017
When our travels got tough, rocky
turf and snowdrift, we strained our necks
taut against the bridle. Our hips
and ribs rose from our skin, our coats
grew thin. Winter fell and we found
no pasture. We changed hands, prodded
round the auction ring. Lashed, we spun
in everlasting ruts. The pen,
at least, we shared. I did not mean
to kick and bite, but I thirsted,
the stall was so small. Forgive me.
When the men raise their numbers, fair
price for our ugly bones, think how
I placed my face to your withers.
When the bidding has closed, hear me
nicker and whinny. In our sleep,
we race the long distance beside
each other, ground easy under
our thunder, going, going, gone.
March 1, 2017
In the myth I invent,
you do not hand your sword
to the man who will kill
me. You unspool your thread,
mark the route. We both know
the promise of a sure
way out. From the center,
the path back is a crease
pressed to your face by sleep.
I stop waiting for you
to retrace your steps, quit
dreams of escape. You let
the wind scuttle your string.
Each night, I learn I can
devour and not be damned.
March 2, 2017
You squint as you listen to the voice come
down the line amid static and crackle.
You consult the manual of all right
and proper processes, grant or deny
requests. You practice quips, jests to leaven
the mood, let fall by the wayside the rest:
the man you could hear beating his girlfriend
in the background, woman who could not speak
through sobs, one who called you motherfucker
three times, like a chant. None of them know you.
You’ve never met. You’re the anonymous
song of business droning on the phone, last
chance for desperate souls. Some will ask your age,
where you live, verbal pinch to check you’re flesh
in convenient reach of threat. Some will guess
you are outsourced, and it’s true: you’ve become
foreign to yourself, wrong-tongued on the script
that fills your servile mouth: how may I help?
March 3, 2017
And after no one was left
to sing to sleep. And I dropped
the name of the one who took
both my wrists and spun me, forced
out and tethered to the ground.
And my thighs rubbed the backseat,
and my tongue in another
mouth was peace and stone my thumb
fluttered over. And I placed
my conscience in a cramped box
for authorities to keep
locked or spill open at will.
And when I added the sum
of my labors I found them
different in kind, strata
of sand and silt in a jar,
layers and lairs. And anthems
played long, and I raised my hand
to my heart, pounded my fist:
revive, recover from this.
March 4, 2017
as nails driven
not to join but
to hook, as old
boots that still march
they took on harsh
streets, as cheap cuts
of meat and jaw
muscles that flex
to tear and grind,
as tanned hide stretched
into a drum
and mallet swung
in steady time,
as thick tissue
formed over wounds,
as our armor
no ardor may
pass through, as spires
that rise like teeth
and drip with spit
in the dark caves
we fumble blind,
as the brittle
shell that signals
the ripeness of
the seed inside.
March 5, 2017
I thought if I threaded to the spool,
the dark room would fill with illusion
of movement, stills brought to life. It did,
but first I appeared: blank, nothingness.
I had prepared a song, but my voice
was reduced to a hum, a hiss heard
loud as a blare of horn: make ready.
They hushed for me. I was an angel
that way, no story of my own, just
this annunciation, countdown to
the feature, suspense before the show.
March 6, 2017
It’s no shame when I fall to my knees in this hall of worship, when I shimmy
up silk to slip from great heights, sleight of hand that shouts here I am and then makes me
disappear. I stoop to conquer, get low to show I have not learned my lesson.
I strut, lift my skirts, reveal the sweat that slicks my shirt. I thrash my hair and stamp
my heels against cement. The crowd says it’s an embarrassment to dance this way—
writhing with radiance in the face of collapse, all outthrust hips, punch-drunk fists—
even as they rise to cheer and clap. I make them sway in this ecstatic trance,
help them to let go at last. They don’t know and don’t care what comes next. I undress
my teeth, snarl for the audience: You owe me nothing. I’ve bared myself for less.
March 7, 2017
of flame shoots
us to watch,
though we don’t.
rooms of rare
beasts struck dead,
pinned to walls
While the sky
throws shade on
moon, we peer
through thick glass
at the jaws
rows, long bones
tusks. We gawk
formed in strange
we can’t catch
sight of slabs
of night cracked
from a time
cease to please.
March 8, 2017
She crooked a finger at me and I was hooked, her little lamb sure
to go where her merriment went. I was out of joint, out in drag
as soft white meekness, garb to lure her in. I did not mean to fleece
or snow, though I admit it was criminal how I overlooked
the tender nooks where her veins showed, where I could have followed against
the rules, could have swindled the blue that shined through her skin, charmed her red
as her cloak. She left me with this smile that does not quite reach my eyes,
that cannot lie, that says here I am, though I make my best efforts
at disguise. Next time I will bare all my teeth, set strange in my mouth,
the better to greet, to taste, the better to break open in howls.
March 9, 2017
You built me:
that dawn will
wretch who might
When you left
I did not
feign this ache,
did not need
to guess or
I am your
twin. I am
of your tribe,
brought to life.
March 10, 2017
March 11, 2017
Our works start to slow, seals leak
and gaskets blow. Our belts strip,
timers skip nanoseconds
until valves intake too soon,
too late. We don’t pass muster,
don’t make the grade. Still, you keep
our boilers stoked, though our teeth
slip over gears, our wheels screech,
ungreased. We have lost our fine
tune, our bellows wheeze to fan
the last stray flame. Each ball pops
from its ill-fitting socket.
Cogs grind to a halt until—
though you press our buttons, flip
every switch, curse and mutter
and pummel us—nothing clicks.
March 12, 2017
he broke us
he called forth.
we were trapped
in the slab,
knocked off stone
strokes to find
parts. No rasp
beasts, liked us
dull, could not
stand our shine.
March 13, 2017
Her wicked charms disarmed me.
She laced my bodice tight, combed
my thick curls, and poison-kissed,
put me to bed in a glass
casket. She made for me strange
prisons: woodland towers and homes
built of cake and confections.
Though I know she wished to keep
me secret, to devour me,
still I recall the woman
who climbed the moonless staircase
of my hair, the one who held
out a red apple, begged me
to take a bite. Now, I stand
before the mirror that speaks
the cold truth of the ever
after: each witch is no more
than the girl who once survived.
March 14, 2017
March 15, 2017
We went to worship, pored over the book, tried
to comprehend what each word meant. This only
resulted in puzzlement, so we huddled
around the candlelit table where spirits
delivered one rap for no, two for yes, three
for but I digress. Those ghosts never offered
all they wanted to say. Still, we were certain
there must be a way to grasp the afterlife,
so we spread tableaux of cards in which we searched
for those futures the deck might divine. We turned
up the same truths again and again: ragged
vagabond, skeletal rider with no name.
We were no fools, would not let death get the best
of us. We lifted our palms, implored seers
to discern our fortunes from paths worn by work.
Our fate was in their hands. They told us to go
back to singing psalms. No wonder when the man
came to town with his potions and cures, cases
full of balms and salves, we swallowed his tonic.
We woke in our caskets, where we know no more
than we did before. Now, we shift our restless
bones, wait for you to ask us what to expect.
March 16, 2017
who served us who placed the dish stirred the pap that clung
to our lips who spilled the wine on the floor who called
out for more as we chewed the fat skipped from
one thought to the next slipped our tongues in the
mouths of friends we did not plan for how the meal
would end we jarred teeth loose on bread we gnashed and
gnawed we mashed fists on flesh to know touch we
could not help but give in to such fetes what lush digs
what land of rose and milk who doled out this fare each
course lapped from the bowl we shared who was it we once
dined with in this hall where we passed the plate licked clean
March 17, 2017
What was the last
scene you witnessed?
We have nothing
to report, no
broadcast to air.
What of recent
events? We tried
not to watch. What
word can you share?
We assume all
is well. What else
can you tell of
the front? We still
die for lack of
what is found there.
March 18, 2017
On the first floor, nothing but a parable,
that prodigal son, how he wallowed with pigs
but ended dressed in robes and rings. Such nonsense.
Our fathers were the ones who had wandered off,
our fortunes in their pockets. If we saw them
again, there would be no embrace. Still, we climbed
the flights. We had heard the murmurs of marble
and gilded walls, chalked them up to gossip. News
on the street was mucked with more grime than we were,
and for ages, not a peep from the boxes,
not a flicker on the screens. Yet we trekked past
tiers of scenes that, if we were not so hungry,
would have made us laugh: small seed that grows so tall
birds roost in its branches? No green could survive
here but foul weeds. And the stranger who tended
to the traveler’s wounds? We began to guess
there would be no riches in this hall of fools.
By the time we reached the top, the air was thin.
The sun had dimmed more than usual. We pushed
through the last door, and there they were: the sages
reclining on velvet pillows, scholars bent
over old tomes. We bowed low, cleared our throats, posed
the questions we had hauled so long on our backs.
Light filtered through the stained glass, struck bars of red
across us. We stood hours in the silence
of the wise men before we grasped they were dead.
March 19, 2017
March 20, 2017
I thought I was immune, but the fever found me, soaked sweat
through bed sheets, crept its flush over my chest and cheeks. They said
the devil touched my flesh with his red, that I would not last
the spring. Months passed. The illness cast its hunger over me
until I was just breath and ache. They gave me pills to ease
the pain, to make me sleep. I palmed them, slipped them in their tea.
I ran. Now I search for others who dream animal dreams.
We will become the creatures we were always meant to be.
March 21, 2017
We huddled, shrouded in the corners.
Our wounds were ample. We displayed them,
glistening red spectacles to prod,
to scorn. We were housed in the sorrow
cages, kept in pens meant to mimic
our native habitats. Children poked
sticks through the bars, fed us scraps, whispered
from behind the legs of their parents.
Some called for us to caper, to ape
their strange sounds. We did the best we could.
We ate their crumbs, smiled wide, shammed laughter
even when doubled over with hurt.
We refused them little. We waited
until they had turned their backs to weep.
We waited until they left to roar.
March 22, 2017
I’m nobody. Who are you to tell me
I’m not, to craft for me a name that fits
slack as the bag in which I must carry
the clothes you chose to cover or expose
my nakedness? Who are you to assume
I wear flesh, inhabit space, can be kept
in this house of food and breath? Who are you
to say you can observe me plain as day,
sitting on your porch, sleeping in your bed,
standing in your kitchen, cooling my head
under the sink’s tap? We are not a pair.
I do not make a sound, do not disturb
the air with movement or voice. I do not
fill my hollows with song, do not stretch stiff
limbs at dawn, do not make charms to ward off
the void. You think you’re the true nobody.
You could be. The trick’s not to disappear.
The trick is to learn you’ve never been here.
March 23, 2017
We developed a fault, a crevice
that shifted and shook our patch of earth,
left a crack. It’s not light but water
that got in, seeped through our ragged seams,
steeped the bag in which we carried sin,
malfunction, wires and words crossed. I stirred
that brew thick as tar, bitter extract
of mischief. I poured us each a cup,
and we drank to our mistakes, swallowed
old habits that were not dead, that fed
and sated still. They were the perfect
size to slip down a windpipe, to choke.
You sputtered, spit, asked why I couldn’t
repair the breach, mend the split, stop this
poison infusion. I nodded, sipped,
agreed you were right, even as I
prodded the rift, spread the chasm wide.
March 24, 2017
You look horrible, green
around the gills, a wreck,
a tumbledown mess, dress
in tatters. Is that grass
in your hair? And that tear
in your tights, that blood striped
across your cheek? Don’t you
wash? Don’t you care enough
to run a comb through that
mop, to dust a little
rouge over those bruises?
What will the neighbors think?
March 25, 2017
Do not let me off my leash. Keep me tethered, my gleaming teeth
forever in reach. Now you’ve tamed me, I’ll cram my hackle, play
the wag. When you shut the door, I’ll whine, left behind, but stow all
barks and howls, all bays that may offend. For you, I’ll keep my snout
clean. For you, I’ll end the prowl. You’ve put my wild to work, given
me this pristine bowl of water to lap, a groomer to smooth
my fur, to comb out the mats. Still, I can’t help notice your scent
resembles the musk of the one who once called me mutt, kicked me
in the gut, sent me panting. Blood crusted where my ear was torn
by that cur. His voice—so much like yours—hounds my dreams, shouts mongrel
bitch, hunts until I bite, grip tight the bone, shake my head to break
the neck. I wake with snarl and slaver, strain against my silver
chain. Forgive my poor training, my bad deeds. He was my master,
but that is past. You’re a different man. Yours is the hand that feeds.
March 26, 2017
We shaped ourselves
begged gods to pour
their stores of wealth
into our skins.
We shook our sieves,
sifted the dross
until we held
gold, stolen flames
that, when cooled, looked
just like rock slicked
with shine, worth no
more than other
earth. Still, we clung
to the small fact
of that gift, false
fire all we had
to keep us warm.
March 27, 2017
Every augury told us the same news: birds
in flight would shift against the wind, would refuse
to circle the carcasses we left. Ravens
ceased their guttural rattles, crows stopped their croaks.
Even hens rejected the bread we threw, kept
to their cages rather than feast on our food.
We conceded that the counting of wing beats
was a job for fools. We turned to other tools.
The wolves declined to stalk or chase any prey,
would not say all they knew. The sheep would not bleat
or flock, strived to wander off when we approached.
We watched the sky, but the clouds, too, had renounced
us, offered no sign of thunder, of lightning.
The stars shuttered their lanterns, allowed no wish
to be uttered on their account. With no word
from the mountains or the seas, we tried to scry
in the glassy eyes of our dead some new end
for our tale. They only glared back, reminded
us that while our threads severed, the world endured.
March 28, 2017
We believed we moved in the correct
direction, but no matter which way
we faced, we had only two choices:
offense or defense. Turned north, the sun
set on our hearts. We fought in the dark,
could not reverse the course of our fists.
We struck any body that entered
our squared circle, called all who approached
fair game. We stood as long as we could.
When we fell, we dreamed of rough rings drawn
on the ground. We believed the angels
would come to wake us, replace our gear,
shepherd us out. At dawn, they arrived,
carried signs to announce the next round.
March 29, 2017
They saw first the soft gloss of my gaze,
my metallic shine. When they prodded
my slick skin, they found it conductive,
its resemblance to flesh electric.
They struggled, automatons aware
of their god. They set me in motion,
and now, long after they’ve gone, I still
fill my pockets with divine debris.
From the trash, the planned obsolescence,
I gather the seedlings, the insects.
They must know some possible reasons
for remaining a thing of this world.
March 30, 2017
March 31, 2017
I put my hands on your slick image, could not keep
up with the jump cuts. When I licked you, static seared
my tongue. I pulled the plug, watched you go cold. At last
I saw your true face in the flat black. Through the screen,
you glittered, ghost light. You could hold my gaze for hours
at a time, never blink. I synced my lips to yours.
April 1, 2017
It wasn’t quite right
to say I offered
myself to the king.
No sister waited
in his chamber, begged
for my tale. Alone,
I came by my will
to live the same way
as all the others,
only I knew lies.
He meant to take me
to bed or kill me,
I couldn’t recall.
Either way, escape
hinged on how I made
fictions. A thousand
times I prayed for dawn
to break. It did not
matter I survived.
In the end, he named
me queen. His story
held more sway than mine.
April 2, 2017
I will wear black to grant
the proper gravitas
to this occasion, pull
the laces tight to seal
my seams, fasten my face
into this studious
reflection, this vague air
of grief. Any embrace
in which I might partake
shall remain staid. No touch
will suggest adventure,
no gesture will imply
I ever misbehaved.
I will keep vigil, stand
stock still until this fruit
furs, thick with rot, flowers
wilt, the hourglass spills
its sand through its narrow
neck into the future.
The table is filled, bursts
with food I will not taste.
My hair stays pinned, hidden.
I’ll loose it in due course,
after the proper wait.
April 3, 2017
What you said was the last to mend.
What you rent in minutes took years
to repair. You were determined
to expose the makeshift nature
of our affair, tear it in two,
slit its flimsy skin, this parchment
you ripped with the slightest pressure,
slashed straight through to the other side.
I pressed my eye to the gash, viewed
our lives, intertwined, left behind.
April 4, 2017
The chase was on. Everyone wore camouflage, but the landscape
kept changing. We were easy to spot, were caught in snares, entrapped
in nets set by our predators. They tracked us for sport, pursued
us for our tender meat. We put on our best looks of defeat,
let them carry us in bags, tie us to stakes, kindle the flames
at our feet. We always had this trick up the sleeves of our cloaks,
tucked under our hats. We cast our spells, sent our souls into beasts.
Now, in the forest, we howl, surround. Let them run. Let them hide.
Let them learn to live as quarry, trailed until the day they die.
April 5, 2017
No reason to
trust the water,
believe it could
bear us someplace
better. Green fields
sprawled before us,
acres in which
we planted those
souls who did not
survive the trip,
who fell sick in
the hold and called
for help we could
not give. The wind
our sails. We knew
land must find us
soon or late. We
crossed. We did not
know what waited
on the far side.
April 6, 2017
This taste upon my tongue, I cannot douse it
with other flavors, cannot choose to savor
its bitter peel, its rough dregs. I cannot spit
away the sour twist, cannot rinse this out.
You put the words in my mouth. Now, their odor
lingers, shreds wedged between my teeth. I must chew
though my jaw is sore, though you’ve made nourishment
a chore. When I refuse, you refill my plate,
you intubate, disallow my hunger strike.
I cannot press my lips tight enough, cannot
rid myself of the reek. Please take your palate
to a connoisseur who will appreciate
what dishes you have on offer. I forsake
your daily bread. I will learn to feast again,
to believe sustenance can be sweet again,
clutch of grapes bursting their juice, honey dripped thick,
sluice of water. I will teach myself to crave,
hanker, remember food as more than fodder.
April 7, 2017
They said we were
in luck. They begged
our favors, coins
in hand. We learned
the truth or died
faster: men weren’t
or youth, but lies
they could believe.
assent while they
did as they pleased.
April 8, 2017
April 9, 2017
I believed in nothing right from the start. I was never good
at obedience. I strayed. I mislaid the ability
to count to two. I knew emptiness was the sum of its parts.
April 10, 2017
To what can I
There is no cloud
I did not pull
down to scour
its silver film,
no first-seen star
I did not seize,
squeeze until it
From this I built
my realm. I helmed
the ship I sent
into vast space
could not trap me,
bring me back to
face this land I
of its plenty.
April 11, 2017
Your wishes are our commandments.
We set them in stone, do not ask
what they mean, although—with all due—
sometimes we wonder why you call
us up for duty, order us
forth from the garden, why you bid
us to bear fruit, to multiply
our burdened hands. No good can come
of this story. Still, we obey.
Today, we light out for glory.
April 12, 2017
no charges, though he deserves it. I cannot risk
the law, its long reach. There is no sanctuary,
only bigtooth leaves at their most golden, folded
between the pages of my prayer book. I preserved
what I could. I ironed his best shirt the morning
we married, let him plead his case again tonight.
We proceed, history heavy in our pockets.
My tongue runs over sockets where my teeth once were
white as the sun glinting on the river, shining
through blinds, falling on our bed, warming it with light.
April 13, 2017
When we received the earth, we did not know
how to possess. We yielded the remnants
of each death. In the end, we kept the last
dust of our ancestors in our mouths, dragged
their bones from town to town, relics we wished
to bury. The dirt refused us. Obliged
to carry them for the rest of our lives,
we stowed them on our backs, walked to the tune
of their clatter, danced with their graceless weight
holding us to their testament, our fate.
April 14, 2017
The whole audience
booed, hissed, wished us off
this stage. In the air,
layers of upflung
dust, fragments of us
floating through the crowd.
Their claps and stamping
grew thunder-loud, tide
that rose, carried us
in the wind, gathered
grit in clouds of smoke.
When, at last, the din
broke, we drifted: ash
settled upon each
scornful tongue, breath drawn
sharp into their lungs.
April 15, 2017
April 16, 2017
April 17, 2017
And now, in this circle, the poets, philosophers, men of science
and of state, those who wait in limbo, who chose virtue yet have no hope
of exiting the abyss. How exquisite the meadows of hell, green
and gated, fed by a brook. We know this is the entrance to the steep
decline, to the halos of lust and gluttony and greed, and deeper
into violence, into the center of treachery. Forget those rings,
their punishments. Let’s remain among the guiltless damned, end our journey
before we reach the place where no thing gleams, the spectacle of hoarders
and spendthrifts pelting each other with their great weights. Let’s put behind us
the sullen waters and thorny trees, the plain of burning sand. We need
no more reminders that such ditches exist. Ignore the torments, faint
cries of panderers and hypocrites. Pay no mind to the renowned beast
trapped in ice at the core of our world. Neglect the whir of its wing-beats,
its vain weeping. We have no time to descend to those spheres. We belong
here, just this side of the river, among the most decent of sinners.
April 18, 2017
link most sure
to give when
hit, to split
was not well
made, not forged
of the same
Still, I played
my role. Now,
may this chain
fill this hole.
April 19, 2017
just to be nominated, to be seated
here among my peers, to hear the shouts and cheers
at the announcement, to clap my hands raw as
the camera zooms in on my face, grin pasted
in place. What a pleasure to be considered
among such talent. All my applause is true.
I laud the winners. It would be my privilege
to weave them this laureled crown, melt down my faux
gold rings, silver fillings, bronze spray-tan to make
for them more statuettes engraved with their names.
April 20, 2017
on the tongue
of salt, hush
dark, stone rolled
from the top
of the hill
to greet you
once more, chore
to you and
April 21, 2017
Man’s best, she was mine, my hands ran
the length of her spine each night, mussed
the tufts behind her ears, held her
as she trembled through every storm,
warmed in winter by her head leaned
into my lap, her rest against
my restlessness, the calm of her
graceless plunge into the pond, zeal
of her easy bound through each field,
always that look back to track me,
make sure I followed where she led,
watched but did not assess, judged me
worth greeting again and again,
she never did obey, would not
stay, no longer comes when I call.
April 22, 2017
to the touch, the quiver and hush
of air rushing past as we plunge
the arrow tipped to vein, to nerve.
Fletching plumes as our feathered blood
threads. We gasp, so readily coaxed
to the ledge and eager to leap,
breathless each time the cord catches
and recoils, each time the chute blooms
and eases our fall. We call out
as if the gods might hear, as if
we did not design conditions
to manufacture fear. After,
we tremble, recall the pleasure,
the chill as we filled with almost,
as we slipped into our conjured
abyss, into a nothingness
crafted for sport, for the story
of our safe return to the world.
April 23, 2017
April 24, 2017
Go back where you came from, they said,
so I remain shut in this house,
boards nailed over every window
and door, no entrance, no way out.
April 25, 2017
On a scale of one to ten, assess your pain: better, worse, or the same
as the torments you’ve borne in the past? Can you muster movement, struggle
to remember a way beyond this hurt, this wrack? Have you adapted
to the incessant blows, the fierce jolts that throw you to the ground, make you
lash out at the hand that attempts comfort? Would you describe the distress
as intense, unspeakable, or crushing any grasp of consciousness?
Please give us your best estimate. We have no medicine, no bandage
to treat your wounds. Still, we must index the extent of your fortitude,
measure how long you will persist, how much more you will endure before
this agony ebbs, whether you still believe it will recede, will end.
April 26, 2017
One is never born a woman.
All women are made, stitched from parts.
It takes practice to learn the art
of holding the pieces in place,
of coordinating the limbs
to glide and pivot as fashioned.
It takes ages to grasp what needs
you were built to suit, whose wishes
invented you, which hands labored
hours in secret chambers to form
you, kiss you awake. Every day,
you prepare before the mirror,
feign the face you will need to move
through this world as if you belonged
here, as if you weren’t a mistake.
April 27, 2017
April 28, 2017
April 29, 2017
We shift our
tongues to fit
words the world
We turn grit
to pearls, spit
them up and
out, from the
top, once more