madison

this city is a quilt
of places i know.
it’s unavoidable: contact
with the familiar. each house
i’ve been is a reason
to leave. an ache. first
it’s Little Blue on Johnson
where my friends live
without me. i’ve eaten jam
and warmed biscuits here.
a stack of my bread baskets
sits on one counter and
they look like part of a stage
set. i go inside and can’t sit down.
i pass a house jack could have lived
but didn’t. i want to imagine
him inside but not expecting
me. sometimes it’s good
enough to know someone
is there. still playing
the guitar or slicing mushrooms
or smoking a cigarette or
next, it’s where i came,
once, after a date to let
a boy rub himself on my
legs or stomach or wherever
even though i didn’t really
want to. he grabbed
at the softness snuggled
around my waist and said
something about liking curvy
girls and then i liked him
even less. then, the place
a friend of a friend doesn’t live
anymore. people i love drank wine
on the porch and were happy.
it rained so we raced, bared bloody
feet through parking ramp
puddles screaming names
of those running screaming
my own name and not knowing
who it belonged to

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the splitting

imagine the baby that doesn’t grow
inside me maybe fingernails maybe
a little nose a nub like mine or maybe
not. it’s all the same now, all

nothing. a small swelling / a silent
unspooling. imagine you have
coffee with a friend except she is also
you. imagine she leaves when you blink
except it’s while you are sleeping.
imagine you will never see her again
except there was never really a body
to see just bits and bits knitted together
like quilt turned rags. how can i make
this real. if my insides are such a hard place

to survive why am i here / can’t i leave
also. i love-ache her fist sized absence.
once i thought this might be too hard
what if i can’t do it what if my motherbone
splits unevenly who will get the wish
she must have heard me i guess she was
in here too. how gruesome this is no one
tells you, the hot stink of death in your ears
the taste rolling to a boil in your throat
and the worst is that i didn’t even

know it. i couldn’t feel her gone. i can’t
even return her to the dirt the earth can’t
reclaim anything it did or didn’t grow.
the pipes swallowed what would have
become a life / she is wet drowned
and rushing in pieces i try to pretend
will someday reach the ocean.

day 15

i close my arm in the oven door and leave it
a second past knowing. the extra moment
rises in blisters, a sticky wetness on the inside
of my shirt. maybe i thought it would be a good
reminder, a good way to remember this meatloaf
and brussels sprouts. we eat too much. my forearm
splits beneath my clothes, hot and oozy and later
crusted and still so much burning. surely soon
the heat will reach the bone.

day 13

i drink caffeine too late
in the day and spend
the night drawing pictures
on your back. first it’s as easy
as trees, houses with triangle
roofs. things you might be able
to guess. i am hoping the familiarity
will wake you. i press myself
into you for the same reason. you
sleep hard and i am jealous. i know
i did this to myself but that makes
it worse not better. i’m annoyed
with your steady breath and heavy
eyes. your arms are all over me.
the 6 pm coffee stretches in my chest
and i worry it might crawl out.
each hole in the body a vulnerability.
it’s hard to stay careful. it’s impossible
to sleep.

day 8

on the way home from work i clean
beneath my fingernails with my teeth.
i swallow whatever i find but don’t count
the calories. my left thumb yields something
salty. the right index is a bit of pastry
dough grown crunchy. someday i’ll unearth
a raw bit of sausage or egg and maybe it’ll
teach me. there are so many bad habits. mostly
i go easy on myself because it’s what i can do.
you have to start somewhere. you just have
to start.

day 7

friends sit around after dinner and bash suburbia — who could ever
want that life? what a useless end because that’s it: an end. a place
to fill until. a way to keep you grounded another way to say rooted all
words for stillness. there is a reason we don’t grow into the dirt. we are
born into movement. i am quiet. what i want to say is yes, cheap plastic
paneling and too short grass may not be the pinnacle of human existence
but have you ever been in love like this? the friends talk about how
they will change something, how waving your arms and making noise
are the ways to leave a mark. change or build or take down institutions.
what i want to say is the place i can make a difference has its head
on my chest. i am building this love every day and it’s the most beautiful
architecture. the windows are always full of sun. there are peaches
in the sink. this is juice on your cheeks. all i want is to have enough
to buy our kids raspberries. and to save a couple for you.

day 5

eat the orange in bed with your hands. you have never been
one for manners. if the juice touches the sheets just pretend
it didn’t. maybe it won’t dry sticky. maybe it will and you
will be stuck, glued to the bed by your mouth’s sweet run-off.
that ought to get you out of at least a day of work. the more
words you know the fewer it takes. the white of the fruit
that is neither flesh nor rind wedges itself in the creases
of your hands. surely there is a word for this but i don’t know it.
one of many faults i own.