sunday morning

we are cleaning together for the first time
in months. and by cleaning i mean gathering
the cans of natty lite from around the broken
table, sweeping up shards of glass or making
sure it ends up in the soles of my feet. and by
together i mean you are sitting with your legs
propped on the crumpled table, empty bottles
stacked around your feet like members
of your court.

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stalker

she writes letters to my dad like they are lovers.
she calls him “my david” and i imagine her typing
with her tongue, wedging a nail beneath each key
like a crowbar, swallowing without teeth.

when she has sent 17 letters in as many days
and received nothing back, she asks about my
mom, “the kids.” my dad tells me she is sick,
that he showed her kindness years ago and
that is the kind of thing people don’t forget.

another month: she tells him she is going to
have to kill him. she emails pictures of knives,
reminds him of his own address. at the end
of a long string of threats, she threatens
the family dog. finally she has crossed
the line.

camping

we kiss by the fire until he pushes me back
into the grating and red welts rise like cross
stitches on the back of my calves. we unzip
the tent and my legs touch the sleeping bags –
I try not to yelp. when he burrows inside me
with his hands, I make sounds but let him dig.
sometimes the digging helps make him calm.
he makes me a den while my insides pile up
beside us.

i am scared, too

i wake to the sound of the insinkerator grinding its teeth.
it used to sleep through the night, metal organs bulging like
a fresh fed snake. now it is all gnashing. i cook too much
breakfast, pour the first cup of coffee down the left drain.
it coughs up foam, bits of strawberry leaves.

after a night of drinking, pre-dawn body wet and round,
i lose the contents of my stomach to the jaws of the kitchen sink.
i run the hot water for hours, scrub the metal gleaming. i start
to lose other things: bottle caps, spoons, mornings.

the house cat begins to bring me mice, tiny bodies preserved
except for punctures like needle holes around its throat.
i tell the cat: I am scared, too. i hold them by their tails, dangle
them into the drain’s gaping mouth. the bones of each mouse
sound like tires on gravel.

moving in

when the first gray hairs sprout from his temple,
slightly thicker than spider silk but
thinner than cracked glass,
I lick my thumbs and smooth them,
trying to fill again with red earth color,
fissures in drying clay.

when he starts to sleep on the far side of the bed,
folded knees pressed against the doorframe
I start eating six meals a day.
if he gives me this much space,
he must want me
to find some way to fill it.

when he turns a fist on the set table,
rolls wrapped in creased napkin, puddled butter,
he yells because the salt is white,
not pink himalayan rock crystals.
we eat the pork with pepper and thyme instead.
later, i rub the skin of my cheek over the fine side
of the cheese grater. our little salt shaker
fills with pink.

not quite panic

it is like sandpaper on wrists, like
finding a small dead thing
on your body and knowing
it has to stay.

it is like molars grinding insulation, like
the cardboard part of the toilet
paper roll found its way into the throat.

it is like digesting lightbulbs, like
threads wrapped around intestine –
pulled tight enough, thin string cuts
almost anything.

claws

when he offers me a cigarette i say
i dont smoke
and take one anyway.
pretty soon i have one tucked
between every finger on both hands –
a dangerous set of claws.

when i am down to the last one,
i pinch it gently between my lips
while unsteady hands work at his
shirt buttons. he leans down
pulls the lit cigarette from my lips
with his teeth and chews.

the tobacco is a dark stain
on his tongue. he says
i didn’t want you
to get smoke in your eyes.