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.

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(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.

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

the splitting

imagine the baby that doesn’t grow
inside me maybe fingernails maybe
a little nose a nub like mine or maybe
not. it’s all the same now, all

nothing. a small swelling / a silent
unspooling. imagine you have
coffee with a friend except she is also
you. imagine she leaves when you blink
except it’s while you are sleeping.
imagine you will never see her again
except there was never really a body
to see just bits and bits knitted together
like quilt turned rags. how can i make
this real. if my insides are such a hard place

to survive why am i here / can’t i leave
also. i love-ache her fist sized absence.
once i thought this might be too hard
what if i can’t do it what if my motherbone
splits unevenly who will get the wish
she must have heard me i guess she was
in here too. how gruesome this is no one
tells you, the hot stink of death in your ears
the taste rolling to a boil in your throat
and the worst is that i didn’t even

know it. i couldn’t feel her gone. i can’t
even return her to the dirt the earth can’t
reclaim anything it did or didn’t grow.
the pipes swallowed what would have
become a life / she is wet drowned
and rushing in pieces i try to pretend
will someday reach the ocean.

day 15

i close my arm in the oven door and leave it
a second past knowing. the extra moment
rises in blisters, a sticky wetness on the inside
of my shirt. maybe i thought it would be a good
reminder, a good way to remember this meatloaf
and brussels sprouts. we eat too much. my forearm
splits beneath my clothes, hot and oozy and later
crusted and still so much burning. surely soon
the heat will reach the bone.