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?

grease on our tongues

there is a reason animals hide themselves to die.
to watch something go out like this, to still look
alive just so still, it is not something we deserve.
i wonder if you keep a dying animal on a leash
how long it will avoid the dying. i try to stay
close, close to this love that is like the last of lotion
on skin. we are still slick with it but can no longer
see it. it is grease on our tongues. i trade long runs
for sprints down the block, slow walk back.
i am scared to get too far away. scared the whole
frame might uproot itself in search of a place to go
out alone. the best places to die are only slightly
bigger than your body. the absences make us louder
but we all have to take breaths sometimes. we both
are children again, passing our fingers through a flame,
so quickly at first then slower, still slower in search
of the burning point.

sugar high

i spend the whole afternoon making cakes
you won’t eat. they all turn trash differently.
the lemon turns dark where it touches air,
the blue-gray of storm clouds. the pumpkin:
frosting turns sour first. the carrot — each bit
of shaved vegetable starts to grow mold,
the rest of the cake remains. i try to read the rot
like tarot. i am not sure what this means for us.
i imagine i am getting better which does
nothing. i imagine you are getting better at handling me
which does worse than nothing. when the mold
overwhelms them, i leave heaps in the front yard.
the city animals ride the sugar high for days,
careening across the telephone wires and falling asleep
wild-eyed under tires. the street in front of our house
is part asphalt part fur. you say the city should clean up
this public death. you feel the dried, flat skins
on your body like punishment. you should have
just eaten the cake. i had to make them,
crowding us out of our small kitchen like artifacts
from a happy life. i am fooling no one. when i stand
on our porch the road screams with a dozen toothy mouths.