9/17/18

things that were once hard to love
have become precious with the threat
of absence. it is so hard not to be afraid.
what parts of you have already begun
to grow distant? i am scared to sit even
on the other side of the table. i wash
your forks and love you. i put your shoes
in a row by the door and love you.
i touch my mouth to your side of the bed
and try to imagine it as just the other
side. this is a helplessness i don’t know
what to do with. you are drunk and talking
so loudly, clearly in your sleep it sounds
like a wedding toast. i put your liquor
hands over my face and love you, still.
i never learned to want things
i can’t just worker harder to keep.

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under pink light

i want you
to look at me:
strewn across
our bed, above
the blankets
but under pink
salt lamp light.
all crevice and
dip, no place
to balance a cup.
legs like a line
of tennis balls
inside a sock.
my mother said
don’t wear
horizontal stripes
they don’t do anyone
any favors. i haven’t
touched anything
striped in years.
i am all about
the long lines. all
about underwear
with more lace
than cloth, tight
in the right spots.
an hour under water
hot enough to cook
a small animal, no
more gentle cleansers.
you slide beneath
the blankets like
there isn’t a whole
human in front
of you. a whole
woman who could
be anywhere else.
what more can i do
to this body
to make you
want it?

two snippets~

you sit outside until we grow
dark. i can hear you like a mouse
in a box, the shuffle of a small
thing without light. how can i
tell you i would listen to you run
into cardboard walls face first
forever. your arms seem wide
enough to hold anything all
at once: when you pick up the dog
it is almost too much. you are growing
into yourself. there are fewer
empty spaces. the dog and i
are both helpless: legs or arms
reaching for another minute tight
to your body.

***

this is how it wins. first
it is on you like a tick or a bit
of sharpie or a small piece
of jewelry. then it is around your
neck all feathers and soft but so
heavy. it slides down shoulders
a cloak now or a dress now
it is bigger than the body now you
are being worn. you say little but
make a good broach.

little lives

fingers are biscuit blistered, risen
like dough into fine red mounds.
liquid grown hard under skin, like pomegranate
seeds ripe with pressure. these hands
could be your mothers
but aren’t. have you ever rubbed butter
between thumb and pointer until cornmeal?
it takes long enough to warrant a nap.
the world has ninety babies in that time.
in the oven the soft circles grow and grow
brown with age 
like little lives. we are hardly
any slower.
if you can tell a woman’s age
by her palms i worry i am already too far
along. this sense of time makes me frantic to make
more biscuits coffee little people pieces of good furniture.
all good things are either delicious or permanent.
butter is better because it melts. children are better
because they don’t. if you get flour in your hair
you’ll go gray early. sprinkle the salt
from high above the baking sheet. no, higher.
these could have been your mother’s hands
but weren’t.

kudzu canyons

last time i drove home the kudzu
was still south of Louisville, flanking
the highway like towering green
soldiers shoulder to shoulder, the road
the floor of a canyon. i’ve been told
it grows an inch a day or two
feet in a week but i bet it could cover
a sleeping woman in a night. you
would think this stretch of highway
was my favorite by how many
times i’ve driven it. the first dozen
i loved watching the vines
on their slow march north, loved
the names of indiana’s most exotic
towns: tippecanoe, prophetstown.
lebanon. this time the kudzu is nearly
to Cincinnati. there’s no taking back
the south now. it’s important to know
when to let something go under,
when there’s nothing to salvage.
what would we even be trying to save?
this will all seem better in a hundred years,
behind panes of glass wiped smooth.
history has a way of making everything
worth looking at again. i say let it all
be swallowed, give someone else
the joy of discovery. i stop at a gas station
outside of farmer city, a real place,
and i am kind to the woman behind the counter.
it is the first time i am soft in weeks.
given enough time, the south
can snarl anyone. sometimes it’s easier
to be kind to strangers. i am driving
again, from one home to another
separated by land quilted with corn,
wheat, alfalfa. how many homes can one
person claim? it is also easier to be cruel
to strangers. how long until the kudzu
covers them all?

cat funeral

i am pulling the kayak from the lake
when i see it: dead cat, mossy and waterheavy,
body pillowed almost unrecognizable. white paws
stick out from it’s body like a child’s drawing: circle
with four lines. i want a shovel and a piece of quiet
dirt but i also want to give a good wringing, twisting
out the wet until matted but living. my wrists are
not strong enough to wring water from lungs.
i think about the world like this: i am always
the deficit. i can’t pin this accident to a clothesline.
the cat bumps against the rocks and says nothing.

the blue-green algae is blooming poison. it’s the biggest bloom
anyone can remember. the water looks walkable, solid with green.
i think it is the whole lake in mourning for this dead thing, a field
of tiny flowers, the procession moving in ripples. nature knows
how to throw a funeral. the water climbs over my sandals and it’s all
the same. toes water is dead cat water is every water in this big hole.
i can’t help but feel too late. i am not responsible for everything
i could have prevented but it knocks around behind my chest
all the same. i can’t tell which end is the head. it must be hard to die
out in the open.

the wrong hour

i dream about kissing
the throats out of men
i’ve loved. in the dark
they taste like mango
but chew like oats. all
breakfast. i wish for coffee
to wash down the sticky.
i wish they dreamed me
into pieces. maybe they do.

i explain to my now love
how i always seem to find
myself made of hair on tile,
a smear across sheets,
a towel wet at the wrong hour.
it is easier to hurt than be
hurt i say but know
they are the same thing.

walk me around the city
on the same pieces of sidewalk.
when it’s too hot to touch,
use only the flat part of the tongue.
turn me to a salt lick. fuck me
behind glass.