(image jumping)

when the baby latches on to the young
mother’s nipple, she pockets air
in her cheeks, feels the tiny
teeth like bee stings.

in grasslands, ants harvest stalks of grass,
drag them into tunnel cities to rot.
the rotting feeds the fungus that feeds the ants.
people, too, can live like this.

he wakes up because she is choking, but not so
much that she cannot say she is choking.
stomach to back, he forces his hands up into her
diaphragm. the culprit: a halls lozenge.
she jokes that next time she’s looking for a rush,
she’ll catch the bathtub spider, or let him
tie her to the kitchen table.

the flea-burdened girl on the sidewalk shakes
her soup can full of marbles in the face
of the man walking by. when he dumps the change
from his ethically sourced latte into her can,
she pulls up her shirt – she is trying to make a fair trade.
later, the man fucks his wife for the first time in months,
closes his eyes to see the homeless girl’s tits.

termites build their mounds always
on a north-south axis. thumbnail shaped
heaps like rows of red-dirt gravestones.

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vilas ave, 1 am, as a woman

here is the situation: we are drunk walking
the dog. neither of us is quite naked.
we stop to press our alcohol hot bodies
against each other. cold hands touch cold
stomach touch cold. an older couple catches
up to us. the man says: we used to do that when
we were young. Chuckles. The woman
puts her hands on my shoulders, pulls my gaze
into focus. Asks if I am okay. What we are doing.
Do I need anything. Do I live nearby. She looks hard
at my boyfriend, who I know loves me but
she couldn’t know, she can only see the situation.
The man says: let’s stop bothering these kids.
the woman says to me with her face,
“Isn’t it hard to teach a man the things they don’t see?”

2 pm

the day appeared as if we hadn’t been waiting.
he covers my body in sheets like a corpse,
but he is the one who is sick.
together we touch the soft mounds under his scalp,
finger the swollen lymph nodes beneath his jaw.
i kiss just below the ridge of his collar bone
and do not mention what i feel beneath my mouth.

i ask him again about the appointment time.
he lies and says he cannot remember.

when to start worrying

the lumps first appear on his scalp,
red spots that feel like a blueberry
got stuck beneath his skin.
I pushed them, imagined berries bursting –
no such luck. the next morning they feel
like frozen grapes, have begun to creed
down his neck. I want to soak them under
hot towels, prod with sewing needles,
kiss each one with an open mouth.
spit has a way of healing.
we sleep with our feet touching and I am
only a little afraid to share sheets.

personal question

from the other side of the fire he says,
can i ask you a really personal question?
i nod like shaking a can of soup.

he asks about my mother’s dead babies, why
she kept giving birth to bits of bone and ear
and whether my insides could glue together
something whole.

he defends himself against my unspeaking:
maybe I shouldn’t care about this but
maybe I just want to know what I am
getting myself into.

I want to reach up, pull out a handful
of uterus: is this what you are getting
yourself into?

next time I suck on his fingers I think
of my mother heavy with child full of holes.
next time I am bleeding, I imagine the
beginning of bodies in every clot
suspended in toilet water.

he says: I didn’t mean to upset you.
I kiss him like a watermelon hitting pavement:
wet red flesh on concrete.

 

how work kills you

his smile rate dwindles to two per hour.
mouth like a hyphen, he won’t open his
lips to kiss me. he is like this sometimes:
a fruit fly drowning in peach juice, a bottle with a letter
that won’t bite. i try to entice him into leaving
teeth marks, something they will use as a match
for the dental records. he grabs my ass and nudges
me out the door.