sugar high

i spend the whole afternoon making cakes
you won’t eat. they all turn trash differently.
the lemon turns dark where it touches air,
the blue-gray of storm clouds. the pumpkin:
frosting turns sour first. the carrot — each bit
of shaved vegetable starts to grow mold,
the rest of the cake remains. i try to read the rot
like tarot. i am not sure what this means for us.
i imagine i am getting better which does
nothing. i imagine you are getting better at handling me
which does worse than nothing. when the mold
overwhelms them, i leave heaps in the front yard.
the city animals ride the sugar high for days,
careening across the telephone wires and falling asleep
wild-eyed under tires. the street in front of our house
is part asphalt part fur. you say the city should clean up
this public death. you feel the dried, flat skins
on your body like punishment. you should have
just eaten the cake. i had to make them,
crowding us out of our small kitchen like artifacts
from a happy life. i am fooling no one. when i stand
on our porch the road screams with a dozen toothy mouths.


panic attack in the theater

all at once my stomach starts trying to crawl out my mouth.
little hands pulling itself up my esophagus, one length
at a time. it burns like acid reflux but I can feel the fingers.

when it cannot get out, it acts like a child – a tantrum against my ribs.
I don’t know how to understand this, the organs revolting
while my body tries to tell me it is dying.

vision like an eclipse through a keyhole, there is no winning here.
when my stomach finally crests the hill of my throat,
I feel tiny fists beating the backs of my teeth.

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.

(Day 12): Professor

suit jacket pulled across his shoulders every day
since he turned 12, chalk smoothed arms
white against dark tweed, the smell of resale shops.

phone to ear with the life insurance agent,
she questions his propensity for risk taking:
do you regularly engage in activities like
surfing, down hill skiing, skydiving?
the sweat gathers in puddles where skin meets collar,
muscles in his thighs spasm so strongly
he is forced into sitting.

layers to keep out Wisconsin winter, stiff wools
to keep his back straight.
he uses words like emotional-
ly unhealthy and philosopher
and father
to describe his outline on asphalt.

(Day 11): Thoughts when the boy next to me has better nails

i cannot pull my fingers from my mouth.
they taste like oranges, wool thread, rust.

his are rounded like the print of wetness
ocean makes on sand, painted metal blue.

i cannot criticize how his boy hands handle
the can of cold coffee. i imagine his cuticles

taste of saltlick. like the cow in midwestern summer
I am tethered by my tongue.


a new place to be stored when you sleep:
space that makes skin taught,
air-broken flesh shade of stop sign,

you do not stop.
I am kept inside bathtub drain
when you eat, chin familiarizes with knee caps,
toes with glutes fingers to shoulder blades
chest thighs introduce yourselves –
like a paper crane creased to stiffness.

once you left me sitting stove-top
pink-soft skin needing days of licking.

There are six drawers beneath counters,
insulation spills into your closet shelf,
leaves me glittered with glass.
Your thumb smears shards above my eyes.

A number can always be cut in half.
you say, one body should be no
different, feeding me
down the neck of your beer.


How to be a White Girl Poet

Write an ode to Starbucks.

Start a blog.

Smoke weed (but not too often) and practice yoga poorly.

Keep an expensive notebook inside a vegan leather backpack, and make sure you always write in public places. Display the notebook prominently on the table, even if you aren’t writing in it.

Act embarrassed anytime somebody mentions that you write poetry. Insist that you aren’t any good, but always have a short selection of poetry on hand to share, should the opportunity arise.

Chew on the tops of your pens until they are dimpled with incisor-punctures. Make sure you look like you are deep in thought.

Journal obsessively. If you didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen. Do bizarre things just so that you can record them in your journal.

Gnaw on your fingernails, the ends of your fingers, the carcasses of your cuticles. But keep trying to paint them. Write about how you wish you could stop the chewing.

Read cheap volumes of bad poetry. Read hardcover copies of selected Whitman. Read the sharpie on the library’s bathroom stalls. Read the creases in your tongue.

Stay awake until your nose won’t stop bleeding and then blog about how you’ve been feeling “off” lately and are considering trying a cleansing juice fast.

Siphon in SSRIs until you’re sick with serotonin. Drown yourself in dopamine and figure most poets were fucked up anyway.

Spend Saturday after midnight fingering brass buttons in bass-heavy basements. Find yourself hoping that one of them will rape you, so that you can write poems that someone will actually read.

Try to paint your nails on Sunday morning.

Discover that you have chewed straight to the bone.