(anxious)

it is feeling my heart like a rattlesnake
on and off again somewhere i can’t
touch or quite understand. was that too
long off or too long on i’m unsure. i am
too afraid of my own body, of it’s ability
to fail. just one wrong piece at the top
of the row of dominos. the waterfall.
i turn on everything: the television,
the computer, phone. every light in this
little room. it is so bright but still not
enough. sitting in myself hurts. sitting
hurts. i try to climb anywhere but inside
and can’t.

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going out with gusto

seven year old me said when i die
i want to go by tornado. scooped
up and whirled and whirled until
probably some fatal airborne collision
or the wind tired of me, dumped me
onto something sharp or hard or
just too far down. this was the best
i could imagine: some kind of glory,
gusto, pizzaz. maybe there’d be
a body maybe there wouldn’t.
the mystery felt good out loud.

i have considered other ways.
for a while it was getting smaller
until i winked out. one minute
we’re talking and maybe you
can see through me a little but
i am definitely there and the next:
air. surely it can’t be this lovely
but the imaginings were sweet.
this time it might have been closer
than the tornado but not much.

i spent a few months thinking
of keeping a tally on my hands
and a few days doing it. of what
it didn’t matter: maybe the cups
of coffee i drank or the number
of dogs i saw and then the number
of times i wanted to see a whole pack
of dogs all at once. that wishing
was the same as wishing for help
but i wouldn’t have believed it.

now mostly i’m boring. i try to forget
to fasten my seatbelt (though never
on the highway because somehow
that feels like too much). i chew
my fingers to bleeding and play
the overconfident pedestrian. i blink
comically slowly. it’s a silly charade
because it’s not. when i dream i dream
of tornadoes.

madison

this city is a quilt
of places i know.
it’s unavoidable: contact
with the familiar. each house
i’ve been is a reason
to leave. an ache. first
it’s Little Blue on Johnson
where my friends live
without me. i’ve eaten jam
and warmed biscuits here.
a stack of my bread baskets
sits on one counter and
they look like part of a stage
set. i go inside and can’t sit down.
i pass a house jack could have lived
but didn’t. i want to imagine
him inside but not expecting
me. sometimes it’s good
enough to know someone
is there. still playing
the guitar or slicing mushrooms
or smoking a cigarette or
next, it’s where i came,
once, after a date to let
a boy rub himself on my
legs or stomach or wherever
even though i didn’t really
want to. he grabbed
at the softness snuggled
around my waist and said
something about liking curvy
girls and then i liked him
even less. then, the place
a friend of a friend doesn’t live
anymore. people i love drank wine
on the porch and were happy.
it rained so we raced, bared bloody
feet through parking ramp
puddles screaming names
of those running screaming
my own name and not knowing
who it belonged to

cabin fever

we fuck hard enough to knock
the himalayan pink salt lamp off
the bedside table, send the organic
lube and shea butter tumbling
onto the carpet. the salt lamp remains
intact, but we check only once
we’re finished. the lamp falls about
every other time. but we replace
it in the same spot. we are dutiful
with our ions. this is winter fucking—
it is frantic, too little heat then too
much, a desperate attempt to feel
like the day accomplished something.
we try new things. some of them work.
most don’t. the sweat freezes on our
noses, condensation turns ice
on the window. it is us against the cold—
the only way to prevent us against
us. february can turn anyone.
the snow would be beautiful
if there was just less. your skin
is too pink under salt light. the days
pile up like a drift in front of our door. 

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.

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.