vilas ave, 1 am, as a woman

here is the situation: we are drunk walking
the dog. neither of us is quite naked.
we stop to press our alcohol hot bodies
against each other. cold hands touch cold
stomach touch cold. an older couple catches
up to us. the man says: we used to do that when
we were young. Chuckles. The woman
puts her hands on my shoulders, pulls my gaze
into focus. Asks if I am okay. What we are doing.
Do I need anything. Do I live nearby. She looks hard
at my boyfriend, who I know loves me but
she couldn’t know, she can only see the situation.
The man says: let’s stop bothering these kids.
the woman says to me with her face,
“Isn’t it hard to teach a man the things they don’t see?”

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2 pm

the day appeared as if we hadn’t been waiting.
he covers my body in sheets like a corpse,
but he is the one who is sick.
together we touch the soft mounds under his scalp,
finger the swollen lymph nodes beneath his jaw.
i kiss just below the ridge of his collar bone
and do not mention what i feel beneath my mouth.

i ask him again about the appointment time.
he lies and says he cannot remember.

how work kills you

his smile rate dwindles to two per hour.
mouth like a hyphen, he won’t open his
lips to kiss me. he is like this sometimes:
a fruit fly drowning in peach juice, a bottle with a letter
that won’t bite. i try to entice him into leaving
teeth marks, something they will use as a match
for the dental records. he grabs my ass and nudges
me out the door.

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.

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.

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.

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.