self-cento (i keep an aquarium inside me)

the older girls talk about touching themselves
keep your nails short keep your fingers
together keep your knees

where you keep all the pretty things,
all the breathing things you know
your body can make

space for orchids and women’s work
and a tongue like a trowel too dull
for digging deep enough

to see how you let it get this bad,
how you ate nothing
but canned tuna and celery until your teeth

made piles in your palms and
your body got so small it
could be bundled out with the dirty sheets

how no one will kiss you with their mouths
open with their eyes open with
honey on your skin, waiting

for the flies to discover you,
for your laugh to become a bulb
burning out, for the

koi to do laps of your stomach,
scales the color of ripe fruit
it is a dark place for such beautiful fish.

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thanksgiving

 

his parents want to know what about me
they should tell their friends. i am not sure how
the details will be translated. i write poetry into
our son’s girlfriend doesn’t know what she
wants to do with her life yet. 

i spend thanksgiving morning with my head
resting on the oven’s top rack, hands cooked
blistering. skin parting from muscle like
baked sweet potatoes: easier to peel.
his dad tells me i’ve been incredibly helpful.

when we sit down for the early evening meal
grandmother asks me what kind of poetry i write.
i tell her i like poems about sex: how it’s never
really all soft or all hard, how her grandson
rubs his thumbs over me like polishing a stone but
would rather rip a bra than learn to unhook it.
she nods, dabs twice at the tight corners of her mouth.

ways to end up old

if unlucky, the days will be eaten by thousands of ants
each one carrying a little bit away – the hour you meant to spend
folding your collared shirts, the moment between hot oil and smoke.
you don’t even know it’s being taken until you wake up
some afternoon and find the houseguests you thought you left laughing
are sprouted potatoes and peppers gone soft.
or it is swallowed up all at once – first you are drinking
coffee because you like how it beats its fists against the back
of your eyes then you are on your third cup or maybe third pot
because this way you can explain the unsleeping.

your therapist asks you how you feel about all this death in your life
while she sips from a mug you think is sweet
with whiskey. you tell her you are tired of people
making a home of you, taking shelter in the caves beneath shoulder blades
and then asking to be buried there. you never agreed to this.
you are tired of tucking yourself into the sock drawer tired of your body
feeling like a blueberry rupturing between thumb and forefinger
tired of letting loves erect gravestones in a row down your spine.

someone tells you they like melted butter in their coffee. you are willing
to try anything. you dissolve a tablespoon. it sits on top of the coffee,
shininglike motor oil on asphalt. when you drink, it unpacks its things
in your mouth,makes itself hard to swallow. to fix things, you eat
the entire stick of cold butter and think this
is what love making should feel like.

therapist tells you that the most challenging times are times
you learn the most. you begin to wish she would share the whiskey.
you make a list of things learned: how to cut vegetables for one.
where the body goes when it cannot go into itself. how to fall asleep
on your back and polish old leather. how when it floods,
coffins rise to the surface and parade down the streets.
how it feels when the streets are inside you,
the coffins falling from your mouth like lost teeth.

fish bones

a man with a little boy inside pulling all the strings
tells his date over dinner that he wants the love-making
to feel like eating a stick of cold butter.
he wants to kiss her like blueberries rupturing.

his date keeps an aquarium inside her,
koi tracing circles in her stomach, sometimes
trying to wiggle their way upstream.

the boy pulls the mouth-string and the man orders
a sprite and a bowl of ice cream. The date orders quinoa,
roasted autumn vegetables,  minnow soup. she is disappointed
when the minnows are boiling, dead. the evening
is over early. still the woman feels ghosts
of rubber-bones in her throat.

experimenting

I am trying to write poems that are different – that are not in the same style that most of my work is in. I’m trying to write new. It’s hard. One of the ways that I’ve been trying to do this is by revisiting old poems that were either too short to be a real poem, or only had one or two good parts in them, and re-imagining them. here’s one such poem.

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ruby-fruit

the razor package promised it could not snag skin
but somehow your leg is bleeding.
drops tumble like pomegranate seeds – try to gather them
in your cupped hands, raise them to your mouth.
discover it does not taste like ruby-fruit.

instead your mouth is pennies
and you read once that the body tastes
copper briefly before death.
maybe the shin’s razor nick is the end of you.
maybe your shower head has been trying
to drown you all along.

the violence is there, in how you can’t look away,
how you keep telling your hands to apply pressure
to the cut, but instead fingers pull the wound open:
the gasping of little crimson lips. you live in the swirls
of red curling clockwise down the drain.
your blood resists the clotting.

reorganization poem

I went through a bunch of old poems and picked out some lines/images that I like and reorganized them into a new poem. Ta-da.

it is too hot to sleep or fuck.
we have run out of wine-words.
flip our bodies and toss ourselves
across the futon, a fever fit –
our brains and ankles swell
and soften like rice.

i tell him to pull my hair:
want a fist full of me yanked
down my back like a zipper.
want mandolin strings wound
around my arms, termite lines
in the skin of my wrists.
want my ears covered
with his open mouth.

he is like this sometimes:
a fruit fly drowning in peach juice,
a bread-stuffed sparrow too fat to fly.

he rolls each nipple
between his fingers like
corn kernels. luckily
they do not stick in his teeth
the same way.