Exercise: “pink reveals important dating advice she gave daughter willow”

After the New York School/Frank O’Hara, we had to write a poem in 15 minutes based on a headline our poetry professor gave us. This is mine.

i can’t remember who pink is
when i see the headline, let alone
her daughter. “willow” i thought that kid
belonged already to another celebrity
do they exchange kids every couple years
i know nothing about how these people
live. five minutes and a hundred posts
on facebook later, i begin to remember:
breakup songs, party songs, songs about
using liquor and your body to get back
at whatever man screwed you over.
seems like a good authority on dating advice.
“I guess I just lost my husband
I don’t know where he went
so i’m gonna drink my money
I’m not gonna pay his rent”
yes, Pink, yes. you know your way around
a healthy relationship. were you trying to give
your daughter advice or the readers
of E entertainment because if you were talking
to your daughter I hope you said something about
how the body is bad at storing revenge softness is ok
but if you were talking to the internet, to the people
with their fingers in their mouths, waiting —
I hope the headline link leads
to an error page.

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for a year

we sit on the sofa her mother gave her
and smoke until one of us laughs into the bong,
sends water and weed across the faux leather.

i want to say you look like someone i kissed
everyday for a year everyday
with an unbrushed tongue.

instead i do not kiss her, instead i keep
the whole couch between us, sitting
with my legs parted at the knees.

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.

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.