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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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.

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.

“poem journals”

I’m in a poetry workshop this semester (likely my final poetry workshop of my undergrad life *gasp*) that requires daily “poem journals.” These can be really short/barely poems/basically whatever – just something to get the brain whirring. So there might be a lot of those on here this semester. Here are two from the last couple days:

i grab two small handfuls of stomach, pull
in opposite directions. a set of ribs rises,
sharpens against the air. Palms full of hips, low
back, pinches of thigh – tug it all tight over bone,
bare the ridge lines, peaks. i cannot bring myself
to wish for less – it is easier instead to wish
for more hands.

***

i wear headphones that cover the entire ear,
look expensive enough to be soundproofed.

they are broken, have never blocked out anything.
i keep them plugged in and sometimes i nod my head
in rhythm with something i don’t hear.

i stand close to couples waiting at the crosswalk,
pick the seat at the coffee shop next to friends
whose bodies form a triangle over tabletop.

i suck sounds through the cheap padding,
imagining my ears covered with their open mouths.

her body as novel

  1. find her by reference number. or author’s last name. or just run your fingers down each shelf until a cover, color, texture feels familiar. do not open her yet, save the excitement for later. you are the “best for last” type. check her out.
  2. take her to your favorite cafe. lay her across your lap, spread her open – the sound paper touching itself like a note left on your nightstand. don’t talk back. don’t ruin it.
  3. read her parentheticals. search for words you’d find beneath your pillow or on a bottle of red wine. ignore the misplaced commas, smudged ink from hands wet with coffee or sweat.
  4. crease her corners. gently at first, hesitantly – you are scared to bend her in ways you cannot iron out. then, until she is thin to tearing. leave her folded to mark your precious parts. you have many favorites. explain: this is what it feels like to be well loved.
  5. crack her spine. split her down the center, seams unweaving, glue melting from forgotten umbrella. you shove her under you to keep her safe that way. when that fails, leave her beneath the desk lamp to dry. watch her warp with rain and heat.
  6. she is overdue. try to find someone who will take her off your hands: full of lines deeper than your palms, pages wavy with wet, underlined words like “full-bodied” and “unbound.”