in sickness and in health

an ex lover lays dying maybe in a hospital i’ve never
been to while we fuck in the morning for only the second time
ever. it starts because i try to pull the blanket
but grab him instead. an honest mistake.

the infection is maybe killing her maybe she won’t ever
be awake again maybe i think this while he peels me open
with his tongue, gnaws at the softness beneath
my chin, the trachea centimeters from his teeth.

he feels heavy above me, waterlogged. together we soak
the pillowcases. six states away she grows so small
that maybe one day the nurse forgets to check the bed for a body,
bundles her out with the dirty sheets.

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Hope.

what do you say when an ex lover dies.

calling her an ex lover might be generous, because ex lover implies that i ever loved her, but neither of us knows if i did. trying to remember every moment with her in it. i think of almost sex in a hotel stairwell but hesitant to hold hands in sunlight, of her grinning inside every taco bell in our little city, of fish and latin and mountain dew and how much she loves graveyards.

how the first time we were naked, i mean really naked, we were parked off the path of the fountain city cemetery. neither of us knew how to love another girl. our bodies were complicated things we didn’t understand ourselves. we stayed inside each other until our legs grew stiff. left love marks like dogs pissing on their favorite tree. after, we sat with our backs against the curved stones and made circles in the dirt with our fingers. i imagined we were practicing for next time.

how it is easier to remember her in pieces – the frames through a needle eye. first: her nipples between thumb and forefinger, a pinch of salt; the only fat on her body beneath the skin of her cheeks, the corners of her smile melting like warm butter. then: her stomach dotted with tiny holes, bloody freckles as doorways for insulin; knees smeared with carpet burn.

how i wore a button down and learned to knot a tie, and she mentioned she prefers me in t-shirts. the next day, she kissed me against the English wing lockers for the first time. she smells like brown bag bananas left overnight. nobody stops to look, but everybody walks on the other side of the hallway. gym teacher shaped like a bowling ball sees us. wordlessly passes a boy and girl gagging on each others tongues. walks up to us. “Too much PDA,” he says. “no one wants to see that. go to class.” we have a hard time talking that night. i want to tell her that i want to see it, her. no wonder we have a hard time unwrapping the packages we come in.

how the last time we were together in a cemetery, the back of her hand outlined itself on my cheek. One ripped nail left a series of blood spots like stippling. she split in two in front of me: one licks the cut clean, rubs me dry with her fingers. the other uses teeth instead of tongue, bites like a scared dog.

she told me once she knew she’d die before she was thirty, so she needed to eat as much taco bell, listen to as much blake shelton, and get her hands on as many pretty girls as she could. she winked. i don’t remember now what I said. or maybe i choose not to.

damn dog

when i wake up there are two small pieces of poop
next to the bottom of the bed. the dog looks at me
looks at the poop looks back at me
presses his ears flat against the sides of his head.

i want to beat the hell out of him right there, where
we sleep. but my boyfriend is still sleeping.
so i take the dog to the street in front of the house
where he is too far from his own shit to understand
the reason behind my heavy hands. his yelps echo
off the other houses, no one steps out to see
what all the fuss is about.

(image jumping)

when the baby latches on to the young
mother’s nipple, she pockets air
in her cheeks, feels the tiny
teeth like bee stings.

in grasslands, ants harvest stalks of grass,
drag them into tunnel cities to rot.
the rotting feeds the fungus that feeds the ants.
people, too, can live like this.

he wakes up because she is choking, but not so
much that she cannot say she is choking.
stomach to back, he forces his hands up into her
diaphragm. the culprit: a halls lozenge.
she jokes that next time she’s looking for a rush,
she’ll catch the bathtub spider, or let him
tie her to the kitchen table.

the flea-burdened girl on the sidewalk shakes
her soup can full of marbles in the face
of the man walking by. when he dumps the change
from his ethically sourced latte into her can,
she pulls up her shirt – she is trying to make a fair trade.
later, the man fucks his wife for the first time in months,
closes his eyes to see the homeless girl’s tits.

termites build their mounds always
on a north-south axis. thumbnail shaped
heaps like rows of red-dirt gravestones.

vilas ave, 1 am, as a woman

here is the situation: we are drunk walking
the dog. neither of us is quite naked.
we stop to press our alcohol hot bodies
against each other. cold hands touch cold
stomach touch cold. an older couple catches
up to us. the man says: we used to do that when
we were young. Chuckles. The woman
puts her hands on my shoulders, pulls my gaze
into focus. Asks if I am okay. What we are doing.
Do I need anything. Do I live nearby. She looks hard
at my boyfriend, who I know loves me but
she couldn’t know, she can only see the situation.
The man says: let’s stop bothering these kids.
the woman says to me with her face,
“Isn’t it hard to teach a man the things they don’t see?”

2 pm

the day appeared as if we hadn’t been waiting.
he covers my body in sheets like a corpse,
but he is the one who is sick.
together we touch the soft mounds under his scalp,
finger the swollen lymph nodes beneath his jaw.
i kiss just below the ridge of his collar bone
and do not mention what i feel beneath my mouth.

i ask him again about the appointment time.
he lies and says he cannot remember.

when to start worrying

the lumps first appear on his scalp,
red spots that feel like a blueberry
got stuck beneath his skin.
I pushed them, imagined berries bursting –
no such luck. the next morning they feel
like frozen grapes, have begun to creed
down his neck. I want to soak them under
hot towels, prod with sewing needles,
kiss each one with an open mouth.
spit has a way of healing.
we sleep with our feet touching and I am
only a little afraid to share sheets.