a work poem

my boss at the bakery touches the inside of my arm
with a hot spatula and yelps for me. i am already a grid
of injury, it’s hard to tell which burn is new. i smear lavender
oil over half the limb just to be sure. slick and shining, i am stunning
over stove top: all grease and flecks of potato and now the smell
of herbs and grapeseed. i want him to think of me every time
he fries an egg. i imagine he is the kind of man
who buys organic vegetables but smokes cigarettes when he drinks.
it’s boring to be too self-preservationist. he refills my water glass
with coffee and pretends it’s an honest mistake. the only real gift
he has given me: a small wooden-handled stainless steel blade,
foldable and very sharp. practical. i keep it tucked in my winter
jacket pocket, practice opening it one-handed while walking.
the pocket hangs in strips of cut cloth against my side. immediately
after metal hits skin, it’s a welt like the backbone of an old cat.
twelve hours, the welt has melted down. just a streak of red. two days
and it is like a smashed earthworm on the skin. what a lovely
spot of ruin. i peel apples with the small knife while he cracks
eggs into hissing butter.

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(body)

i inspect my body in every kind
of light. the overhead is the worst
but not by much. daylight
is the best but also
not by much. it’s no life
to pick the best of bad choices.

start of a poem/unfinished

in the dream it is you.
or at least it’s your voice
in a different mouth. or
at least it’s how you blink
hard when you’re thinking
on a different face.
at least it’s your fingers
laced onto different hands
but maybe not, because
in the dream you never
touched me. everything
is wrong when i ask
you questions, you give
me little bits back like
tastes of something terrible.
in the dream it is not me
because not me is yelling,
screaming even and me
doesn’t raise my voice.
she’s yelling what is
the matter with you why
would you do something
like that. i pretend i don’t
know what she’s yelling
about. in the dream it’s
different but only a little.
dreams are a cheap way
to talk about things that
weren’t but could have,
were almost. in the dream
she yells you into the shape
you deserve.

grit/butter

when she imagines me
my face is covered
in flour. it is smeared
along the jawline
perched on the ends
of all the tiny face hairs
only visible because
there are thousands
of grains in the skin
of my cheeks. flour
is just grit that tastes
good with butter.
every thing tastes good
with butter. i haven’t
been with a girl in a long
time. so long that i am still
calling us girls when
we’ve grown women out
of ourselves. if she imagines
me with flour/face it means
she imagines me. that
is all i need to hear.

so fast so quietly

we are tearing the black sheet
of the land with our headlights.
traveling this fast should make
more noise. how are we allowed
to escape so fast so quietly?
it is my favorite way to feel good.
the music must be playing it’s always
playing in moments like this but
i rarely remember. it’s just sound
until it isn’t — then it’s a song an old
lover used to sing or one the new
love sings and suddenly i miss
feeling lonely. i want to wake up
back seat of the car / gas station
parking lot / marveling about how
cold the desert gets at night.
maybe what i really miss: being allowed
to feel lonely. i am tired
of knowing who makes me coffee,
tired of forgetting to water plants only
long enough to keep them teetering
on the edge of death. i wish i was less
reliable. sometimes i wish i was the girl
you fucked instead of loving me. she got you
for one splendid minute and now can wake up
anywhere. she has never folded
your laundry or made a pbj when too drunk
to hold even a butter knife. that’s really
what this is about — this stupid thing
i remember into existence every morning.
one day i want to feel okay standing still,
in a small space i can’t leave. why does
this city feel like a box? i wish at least
it was the inside of a suitcase. the space within
the headlights shrinks. i turn on the high
beams and decide to starve the houseplants.

the last sad poem

i wish now i had written you
more love poems. i wish i hadn’t
written us as drowning when
we weren’t, wish i hadn’t written
the fear into domesticity so soon.
i wish i had always chosen to be gentle.
now, we are all wish. maybe we have
always been that, all each other’s
almost-what-i-want’s. i keep
referring to us in the past tense.
i try to convince myself the unconscious
doesn’t know anything. it is not
a meaningful slip. these little lies
are okay but they seem to grow
on their own. once i nearly convinced
myself you aren’t leaving. it was
only a second but it felt so good.
what pieces do i get to keep?
the way you and the dog sleep
with your bodies curled the same.
how you push up your glasses
with your middle finger like they might slide
off your nose and keep
sliding. the angle of your mouth
when you are disappointed, the little
shake of your head. how tight
your curls get when they’re dirty.
once when we stood in front
of art we both probably thought
was stupid and i wanted you
to keep me like a quarter under
your tongue—the secret is
worth the most. it used to be hard
to tell what it is that i love: knowing
there will be a body in the bed
each morning, or that it is only
ever your body. maybe it has just
become too hard to imagine
anyone else. these little lies pile
up like spare change.