the good stuff (revised)

when i wake to find the dog bowl
filled with the last of the hundred
dollar bourbon, i know it is a chance

for me to face how bad it has gotten.
i have had other chances. i am good
at deciding not today. i am good

i am good at staying underwater at holding
my nose and swallowing i am good i am okay
at other things. it is the art of looking

past myself. if i can just keep socks
in pairs, the dishwasher empty and
the liquor shelf stocked what more

could anyone want? there are enough
excuses to pick a different one for each
person that loves me. i’m just making the most

of my last few years of freedom. it is all about
balance. i eat vegetables most days
and run without stopping. i know my limits.

i focus on checking just enough boxes.
when i burn a hole in the table
lighting spilled moonshine

as a party trick, flower vase becomes
a permanent fixture. sometimes i misplace
a weekend and while i wait for it to show up

i decide if it is gone for good
i might as well lose the whole week.
recently i got packages i didn’t

recall ordering for six days in a row.
it was like i stole my own credit card
and sent myself presents. this way

that i am failing, almost every day now,
this way is not all bad. i still want to make
myself happy. now, make this into a game:

try to remember how the bourbon found
its way into the bowl. i am just keeping
things interesting. i have always

liked puzzles. the bowl is only half full.
i wonder how much the dog drank
where the dog is i wonder if he liked

the good stuff, if i tried to teach him how
to appreciate nice bourbon, how to roll
it around on the tongue like a marble, if

he picked up on the apricot, the oak wood,
molasses. it somehow makes it all
more excusable when you drink good liquor.

this remembering is a tough exercise. i am yelling
the dog’s name into the street. i am checking
the closet, the crawlspace. maybe he is better

without me. i see the night like bodies
through a shower curtain. i am jealous
of how the water shines flesh. instead

of playing the game now i am wishing
i was still so glossy. it is hard to stay
interested in things with no shine.


i cannot get to my mouth in time

i am trying hard to get the vegetables
into the oven on time. i want the table
artfully set when he gets home. i want him
to kiss me and be sure of it. i am wrist deep
in cauliflower, brussels sprouts soaking up
olive oil. the butternut squash fights me
with everything it has – imagine cutting a log
with a kitchen knife. “butternut” is not much
of a warning. the knife slips, cleaves my finger
like ripe fruit i cannot get to my mouth in time.
i wonder how blood tastes with nutmeg, cracked
pepper. i am too slow to avoid the damage.
it is the only red in the bowl. i can smell the iron.
i was going to make chicken, too—but now
there is no choice. i fry a steak on the stove
and mix it in, big pieces of quick seared meat.
blood to disguise blood. i keep one hand
beneath the table as we eat. when the blood
drips onto the floor, the dog takes care of it.
after dinner, he kisses me and is sure of it. 

when it gets too big to hold

when I don’t fuck things up
too badly, just a forgotten dinner
date or maybe a whole chicken
left within the dog’s reach,
i am able to hold the entire apology
in my hands. i offer it up to him:
a cat bearing a dead mouse.
i don’t care where he puts it
as long as he doesn’t give it back.

once i had to carry it slung
across my body for two days because
he stayed angry. it dug
into my shoulders like a burrowing
animal. when he finally accepted,
he asked if the day i spent
on acid in the wisconsin countryside
with another boy, ignoring his phone calls
and breathing in cattail smoke
was worth it. i coughed up seeds for days,
found the fluff gathered in bunches
at the bottom of the sheets.

this time, it is too big to fit
through the door. the frame
is dented from trying. my hands
are more splinter than flesh.
i know i cannot keep it hidden.
i know not even an i’m so sorry
too big to fit through the door
will soften him.