Category Archives: Poetry

the next field over (2)

like monarchs

bitter from all the milkweed

hope, in its before-form,

is only a measure of protection

i swallow, drink from wind.

how i squash that same old, same old

tamp it down with the tin.

maybe it’s best to not turn from the truth

but truth is really just what sticks best

like beggar’s lice hitching a ride

to the next field over, delicate

in its grabbing.

today, spackle

yesterday, i sanded

and i admit, i like to feel useful,

worries smoothing out with the grain.

what passes through my hands

the tremble between the wing

and the thorn— truer

than true still.

Letting Myself Go

There was a moment, in fifth grade.

I, sitting on the floor next to those

metal and plywood desks, waiting

for the bell to ring me home to my mother,

home to the street which was flooded

so high I could go out in my bathing suit

and lay in it, could forget about my body

in the late evening sun. Could float.

There was a moment when I saw

a piece of paper in a girl’s hand and on it,

a picture drawn of me. Giant balloon girl,

tiny pin head. Another girl was laughing

and saying yes, yes, that’s just her—and I

stopped wanting to float or fly, like that

the image of myself in a two piece,

hair fanning out like kelp—was let go of.

I let it go. Later, I got so thin

even the principal would say how healthy

you look now, my stepdad would chat it

at the Ameristop, just look at her,

how she’s got herself together.

And I wouldn’t eat anything, not even a piece

of bread. And still, thin as I was, I remember

being sleek in a swimsuit, walking to Cara’s

grandma’s above ground pool. Grandma

whispering just look at the thighs

on that one, me, and suddenly, who was

I, again, gone out of body looking down to see

what was hanging out or over the sides

of the latex, exposing me, round

cat-eye marble in the pile, to the eye

of the one who says what’s lovely.

Now I am a mother, now I’ve let

my body blossom full as a tongue, full

as a crowning head of hair, full as a marigold,

I’ve unhinged and been above my body,

dissolving body in the lake which even

now is flooding all the fields and calling me

to take off my clothes, to take off my skin,

to let everything roll out and as it falls,

collect it in the little silver bucket I’d carry

into the flood as a child, to catch

something lovely, something god-made,

something washed clean and new. Something

ugly, too. To not worry about the weight

of a girl’s limbs, how tired they can get

holding it all in.

To Mellow His Meltdowns

Our son twists his face into the panicked look

you might get right before a car crash as he

stomps his foot and says Your mom’s


gonna get raped and you’re gonna cry

and we wonder where he heard that.

His behaviorist told us to whisk him off to his room

to mellow his meltdowns, so I say


Let’s go upstairs, Buddy,

but he screams No, I don’t have to


deal with this crap and we wish he didn’t.

He calls himself a jerk, slaps himself

hard and my cheek stings red

because my son’s autism is mine.

When my wife says Calm down, he curses us

until we both feel goddamned.

His words rappel from my ears into my throat

and I can feel that, for him, trying to keep silent

right now is like trying not to cough when the need

rises from your chest and tickles your throat.

He curses the whirling chaos of his world, slaps

his own face and his mom and I worry

 

about what happens next year

when he gets his driver’s license

if his tail-light goes out and the blue coplight

swirls in his eyes and the siren rings

in his ears and the officer says put your hands up

and our son reaches for his ID in his Batman wallet,

swaying, cursing at the officer who doesn’t know

that this boy has bought fifteen extension cords

of all colors and sizes that Youtube taught him

to tie into daisy chains, that he knows he owns

ninety-three shirts and can tell you

there are ninety-nine days until his birthday,

that he’s memorized the height and weight

of every president, watches Elf once a week,

and just needs to calm down in his room

with Johnny Thunders or Joey Ramone

soothing him through his phone

and what if the cop, hand on holster,

says Calm down, control yourself,


show me your hands, now, show me your hands?

Traps

after I was diagnosed       &         my friable red gut leaked blood like a new animal I’d grown

I came home to learn how to sleep & to name Crohn’s & you should ask someone out to coffee

everyone said         &       an ampersand looks like a pregnant belly the famous writer said

&         all the sick poems I read had lovers in them kissing the belly          &

their mouths linked as if by a blue stone          &        the water kept electrifying me

mildly as a penitent angel         &       sometimes I pray to thunder to be anything but what

I am    &      someone says to me there is nothing more universal than the love poem   &       I

find out the woman who once lived here stuffed steel wool in all the outlets    &      her husband

died shortly after      &       it was to drive out the hunger of small mice     &        you never know

how 
the right man will change your life people told me       &       once I walked through

an unfinished house    &      left a message on the bare lathe a coiling dragon with my name

in its claws    &       I set traps around the house      &      my life was not complete until I met


& don’t worry the pain of being single is not forever & how many times have I risen at night

listening

for god      &        I can convince no one there is no pain in what I am     &        the black sky

splits open godhead      &      I fashion lungs out of my breath on the window   &     how many

times has the female god come down   &     lain next to me wrapped her arm around my side &

there is no set of jeans to hook my fingers into & there is no mouth filling with cum & my

pulse

is a hammer making stars deep in body   & the couple next door fight & fuck beneath the deer

head mounted on their wall &   I once found a mouse the cats killed   &     licked the skull clean

to bare bone     &      am I staving off death if there is no one on top of me       &

scream a white candle litany       &   my chronic body turns over          & in the dark mouse

backs snap in half

Queerplatonic

if I wrote you a love poem : you would have pearls at your wrist and teeth at

your throat : wolves have suckled you : in my love poem your skeleton would be

soft as a pulse : wrapped in blue rain : fox skull socketed with yellow coneflowers

: in a house filled with black water I’d find you dead and suspend you from rafters

to drain all your blood : let your flesh dry like a rare shark your limbs packed

with ammonia : and write letter after letter to you over three days until you woke

: remind you how we corresponded for years from one city to another in code :

dawn chorus meaning marrow full of sorrow : but I refuse to write a love poem : I

refuse to make just another coffin for uneasy breaths : to bind you to a you that

is no more than you than I am the I : slender and breasted enough for men to

arrange in a cage of antlers : I refuse to make a place where friendship means

less than : where love has to mean I want to make a braid of the soft hairs at the 


nape of your neck : instead of saying I want to be gathered in my bones in your arms


like roses in the robe of the blue mother and cry until salt dissolves me I say let’s walk


the roadcuts looking for philodendrons because I refuse to make a house where

I 
would be forgotten : leaning ladder : and because to say raze every tender curve of


my skull is supposed to be too much for friendship : because I cannot handle the

choking gasp of drowning of being told it is not love if I do not want to cleave

body in two if saying love means nothing in this too-large house to you if I could

not say sun instead of fuck o you o yes :

American Mother

The phone rings. Automated call trying to sell me a cemetery plot.

 

The procurement form is due today and my aunt fell and broke her collarbone. I

must get some soy sauce and salsa for the week. The kid texts me a little heart. I

am about to text him back but the dog is whining to be let out and as I am waiting

for the dog to come in, I’m thinking about freedom and what it means to me

(the name of the essay my daughter is supposed to write for school). I’m distracted

and thinking about sex and how sex is part of freedom, and if only I had time

to read again, if only I lost ten pounds and this damn cough would clear up. I

see the ragged petunias I got for $1.99 at the grocery which really should get into

the ground. What does freedom mean to me–did the kid finish that mandatory

essay finally? I ought to call Bryan about that procurement form before he’s off

work and I forgot to defrost the taco meat and Dan is supposed to be coming

home early bzzt that’s the dryer.

 

Phone rings. Automated call trying to sell me a cemetery plot.

Morning Coffee

Following the curve of the Great Lawn

 

I turn towards your public bed

 

The bench with the plaque from the Levy family, remembering loving parents

 

The wooden frame of the Delacorte Theater throwing a shadow blanket over you

 

Your college coat, graduated into frayed hope

 

I sit at your feet, holding two coffees

 

Heat escaping, pushed by this November morning’s wind

 

Mingling with your breath while you sleep

 

I touch your sneaker and call your name

 

Wait a few seconds as the coffee warms my thigh

 

You stir, eyes flutter

 

You see me, moment of almost pure stillness before you reach up your hand

 

I place a coffee cup inside your grasp, our fingers touch

 

I blink quickly, cough, ask how you are

 

You sit up, cup to lip

 

I can wait for an answer

 

Still seeing all the versions of you

 

Beneath the unshaved unwashed face

 

The “ifs “and “did-I-do-enoughs”

 

Hanging between us, a torn curtain never to rise

 

On a play neither could rewrite

 

Praying I am dead before it closes

How to Be

A needle and thread:

Imagine yourself in your hand,

loving what you want to mend. That’s easy.

What’s hard is pulling yourself through.

 

A mirror:

Be a backwards Susanna. Watch old men stroke

their beards while you bathe. Learn to love them.

They are your wet nurse, your supple, your seethe.

 

An ecstatic:

Hold the storm to your belly, feel it

sizzle and rupture like the first man you loved.

Returning, tell the sky what you’ve proved.

 

The wolf:

Learn what it’s like to give birth in the snow,

lap placenta from fur, feel five sets of teeth pull

at your teats. Carry always that hunger.

 

A riddle:

Be your own bride. Speak tenderly

to your shyness. Touch the shivering breast.

That’s your answer, your tryst.

 

A closed curtain:

Remember the first time you bled.

How, after that, you tried to keep everything in.

What you hide is shame and desire, its twin.

 

A palimpsest:

Be enamored by the promise of skin.

Like a tyrant, let someone else stroke your fear.

Part your knees. There’s salvation here.

Music, Darts, and Other Gifts

Atlantic, Chess, Stax

 

Frankie Crocker and WBLS

 

Voices shattering windows

 

You gave those gifts to me

 

No Wednesday night CBS suburban twin bed brotherly scuffle

 

This was Brooklyn hot knife edge balance

 

My eyes sweating fear watching your fingers dance along the blade

 

D train wheels wailing call and response as you turned the volume up

 

Reed and skin, bleeding chords and harmonies

 

Memphis, Detroit, Mississippi, Mobile, Harlem

 

Raising roofs, stakes and desire

 

Closing my eyes, I see twitching toes on Brighton Beach

 

Comic book muscle builders watching girls bounce in the surf

 

In a few months you will throw a football into my shaky hands

 

The sound of crunching leaves under my feet staying with me

 

Later, when you throw a dart into my soft stomach

 

Laughing as a track of blood broadens underneath my t-shirt

 

Midnight listening to Coltrane and Puente

 

Covers the wound in darkness and urgency

 

Between sets I find a way

 

Guided by Otis and Dizzy, sheets of flatted fifths waving in an ocean breeze

 

A child led out of a three room maze of a salesman’s and gypsy’s unnoted decay

 

Into the frightening joy of the different

At Rodin’s House

Bodies tangled like tonsils, two stones claiming space

Deep in our throats. My eyes met yours across vacant pews

In memory of unsacred chapels, those looks locked into arms race

of clenched toddler fists. And your grin unscrupled statues

 

The museum sign warned us not to touch. The ways

You feigned misunderstanding the language to ruse

The rules, to glide your palm over frozen stone thighs, to choose

Which parts of speech applied. I was your girl, your dazed

 

Petal footprint, your sworn-over silence. I was your rock, keeping tight

Secrets in French. I was not the museum guard but a guardian (still)

Of loose appetite. Saying Rilke lived here, wrote of light and dazzling white

Sculputres. Our bodies skewered towards hostel sex, minds angled to fill

 

Faithless hands, corset eyes. I needed someone to catch, someone to indict

You for turning me over. Sculpting desire into mountain you could not, quite.