haiku series: a love poem

a sultry autumn
the squirrels already smell
soft scent of wood smoke

critters rummage through
oak, laminate magnolia
bold in their hunger

lessons in patience:
the eager walk home to you,
chipmunks in the road

kitchen ripe with smells:
tortillas gone soft with heat,
cilantro, fresh sweat.

spatula in hand
amidst metal and marble
you are so lovely.

uncompromising
hunger met with quesadilla,
finally, I relax.

lying parallel
on our old sofa, entwined.
the dogs lick our feet.

together, we wait
for sleep or other hungers.
we have our whole lives.

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milk summer

I move around his body like glass or a fragile plant,
skirting its edges, touching it only with cupped
hands, feeding & watering on careful schedule.

I fear the finality of his presence, the fullness
of his being here. his lungs, life, picked
up and dragged cross country for what?

proximity, to sleep with sheets instead of states
between us. milkshakes nearly every day
in this summer that won’t break

and a dog for each of us. it’s everything
we wanted but the thing about satisfaction
is it doesn’t last. we’re on the edge of what

could go wrong. the scale could tip so many
ways: I leave chocolate out for an empty house
and the dogs turn up dead, we forget how

and why we used to fuck, he refuses hand towels
that match the curtains. our indulgences
grow foreign and soon don’t indulge in each other.

I wish I wasn’t scared of so many ways
we could end up. I want to move
through this city like a lover. unencumbered

by the weight of what we have already
given up. I want to see more futures
of us, park benched and satisfied

with our sweet small lives.

coming home

when he says he’s coming home
after a month in another state
doing what is promised necessity,
it feels like the end of a good book.
i have grown used to leftovers, to
the full width of the bed, constant
music over the good speakers.
there are two dogs and I have two
hands. the dishes are always done.

sure, there have been small
lonlinesses. once i realized I hadn’t
spoken aloud the entire day.
another time the old dog was sick
and i was alone with the fear so big
it took up the whole couch. i stood
or walked for two days until
the dog kept down dinner again.

i do what i should to ready
myself: i bake a pie he likes
or has significance, i vacuum
twice and darken the duster.
i know he won’t want it,
will mourn the death of the dust
mites and leave his plate
on the table just so it feels
like his home, too. i will resent

his little rebellions and dream myself,
as though mid snow-angel,
spread wide and happy.

summer camp

the girls bear the weight of themselves
like urns of water, balanced or sometimes
not. some falls onto their shoulders. knees
and elbows wet with their bodies’
misunderstandings. eating snacks on summer
camp cots, the girls laugh, full of air
and drops tumble into their hands,
a silent rain. hands make poor vessels
but they have been given nothing better.
here, July in the south, there is no sky.
guide the girls to the river to fill themselves
again. we drink pickle juice and runoff
and throw up empty. we are all bad
at saving for later. when the girls eat
all their snacks the first night, i am pitiless
and still so hungry.
the first and only time i held a bird
it was dead. found wing and splinter
in the stairwell, the girls sit around me as if waiting
for a speech. their pupils wide and all
black: my body is small and upside down
in their eyes. they are old enough
for this but not old enough to go at it alone.
this place is full of different deaths:
the wasps spin drunkenly off the cinderblock,
june bugs like flying oil stains, flies pile up
in the windowsills, the girls bleed through
their sheets. every corner is a burial
ground. summer teaches us what we can take.
the faucets leak red clay, the creek
has gone to rust. it’s dirt we know. we bury
the bird without words in the soft muck,
refill our chests with river water. the mud
is cool and gritty on our tongues.

(untitled still)

because the dark is the only time
the heat is breathable, we walk.
it’s what we share: restlessness
past discomfort, feet like old

leather. past the cicada tree
so loud it spooks the dog, leaves
me light tongued and ringing.
a man yells from a passing

suv, his voice swallowed
by this summer-gone-sour.
i am almost thankful for his
practiced flattery but mostly

made to feel thin cotton
sucking at skin, sweat
in tributaries down my stomach,
outline of my tits dark

with wet. i wish i wasn’t so quiet
with my body, that i could rub
myself together and scream.
cicadas’ singing is a series of ribs

buckling in on themselves, clicking
as they cave. i suppose my body
makes sounds in its collapse.
sounds no one would call

song. if it isn’t about loneliness
it’s a lie. i am walking because
i want to, because the dog needs
a little extra attention today

is a lie. the glossy insects live
underground sucking at roots
and wriggling unglamorously
for seventeen years. then:

one supreme month under only
streetlights, risen from the dirt
to die. a strange instinct: to die
in the open. i wonder if it’s worth
the wait.

(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.

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.