personal question

from the other side of the fire he says,
can i ask you a really personal question?
i nod like shaking a can of soup.

he asks about my mother’s dead babies, why
she kept giving birth to bits of bone and ear
and whether my insides could glue together
something whole.

he defends himself against my unspeaking:
maybe I shouldn’t care about this but
maybe I just want to know what I am
getting myself into.

I want to reach up, pull out a handful
of uterus: is this what you are getting
yourself into?

next time I suck on his fingers I think
of my mother heavy with child full of holes.
next time I am bleeding, I imagine the
beginning of bodies in every clot
suspended in toilet water.

he says: I didn’t mean to upset you.
I kiss him like a watermelon hitting pavement:
wet red flesh on concrete.



$20 bottle

we sit on opposite sides of the table
and try not to drown in over-poured wine:
the most expensive pinot at Trader Joes.
we talk briefly about the bouquet and the body –
sometimes our pretension saves us.

when we have run out of wine-words
I pull the pork chops from the oven.
they cut like hardboiled eggs and
my mouth burns with all the salt.

how work kills you

his smile rate dwindles to two per hour.
mouth like a hyphen, he won’t open his
lips to kiss me. he is like this sometimes:
a fruit fly drowning in peach juice, a bottle with a letter
that won’t bite. i try to entice him into leaving
teeth marks, something they will use as a match
for the dental records. he grabs my ass and nudges
me out the door.

sunday morning

we are cleaning together for the first time
in months. and by cleaning i mean gathering
the cans of natty lite from around the broken
table, sweeping up shards of glass or making
sure it ends up in the soles of my feet. and by
together i mean you are sitting with your legs
propped on the crumpled table, empty bottles
stacked around your feet like members
of your court.


she writes letters to my dad like they are lovers.
she calls him “my david” and i imagine her typing
with her tongue, wedging a nail beneath each key
like a crowbar, swallowing without teeth.

when she has sent 17 letters in as many days
and received nothing back, she asks about my
mom, “the kids.” my dad tells me she is sick,
that he showed her kindness years ago and
that is the kind of thing people don’t forget.

another month: she tells him she is going to
have to kill him. she emails pictures of knives,
reminds him of his own address. at the end
of a long string of threats, she threatens
the family dog. finally she has crossed
the line.


we kiss by the fire until he pushes me back
into the grating and red welts rise like cross
stitches on the back of my calves. we unzip
the tent and my legs touch the sleeping bags –
I try not to yelp. when he burrows inside me
with his hands, I make sounds but let him dig.
sometimes the digging helps make him calm.
he makes me a den while my insides pile up
beside us.

i am scared, too

i wake to the sound of the insinkerator grinding its teeth.
it used to sleep through the night, metal organs bulging like
a fresh fed snake. now it is all gnashing. i cook too much
breakfast, pour the first cup of coffee down the left drain.
it coughs up foam, bits of strawberry leaves.

after a night of drinking, pre-dawn body wet and round,
i lose the contents of my stomach to the jaws of the kitchen sink.
i run the hot water for hours, scrub the metal gleaming. i start
to lose other things: bottle caps, spoons, mornings.

the house cat begins to bring me mice, tiny bodies preserved
except for punctures like needle holes around its throat.
i tell the cat: I am scared, too. i hold them by their tails, dangle
them into the drain’s gaping mouth. the bones of each mouse
sound like tires on gravel.