spit-smooth

we are sitting around the dining room table trying not to think
about how it is the last time we will. the ceiling hangs over
our eyes like a cloth so we touch hands, cheeks, lick salt
and dirt off each others noses. it tastes too good to be
the last time we all come to rest between my teeth. the mouth
is not made a place to keep things but we have given it
our best. we are worn spit-smooth, good under thumb
and tongue. i have done nothing that matters more than making
this, this object shaped like a good skipping stone built of our bodies,
of my little black dog, a hundred ripe bananas and the way we insist
on brushing our teeth at the same time. i want to draw in each
of us where i can’t imagine us not. it’s hard to lose something
all at once that you gained little by little. though i am not sure
it would be better to lose every piece of this house, this life we built
at the speed we made it. to wake up one morning with a hole
where the stove was. the next day, we undo our laundry and bicker
for the first time. some day the hole will be one of us. no, it is better
like this. there is a joy in seeing how far you can throw even
the afternoon’s best stone.

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pinned

it’s snowing in the first week of april
and it feels like it’s all i can take.
it heaps on hoods and branches
while i dance frantically in our empty living
room. the music is so loud i would fear
for the speakers if i could. i’m drinking straight
from the moonshine jar i’ve been saving
for a special time. i wanted to wait,
share it with you or at least drink it
while you watched, kiss you a hundred
sixty proof and let the dog lap up
the spills. instead i’m left with the best
option that doesn’t include you. what i must
look like to passerby through the windows:
a sugar drunk girl, body like a sheet
pinned to a clothesline. i hide the moonshine
behind a lamp where i hope you’ll find it whenever
you are here again. when i hope you’ll worry
just a little. i crack a screen-less window
and the snow swirls in like a cloud.
it is not wrong for you to be gone
today. there’s no day where it’s wrong
for you to be gone. it’s that you are gone
on all the wrong days when it’s too snowy
or rainy or sunny or anything to read quietly
on the couch or appreciate red wine or
pretend i’m doing anything other
than trying to make someone on the sidewalk
see me and think i look happy.

last light

i am tired of writing angry poems
but you are making it so hard.
i drank four cups of tension tamer tea
yesterday and still i found myself
with my fingers wrapped around
the dog’s ears like yanking a girl’s ponytail.

i am not normally like this. the last light
is still touching the tops of houses
and i have been walking a long time
the key is don’t stop nobody gets away
by being the fastest they do it by staying
in motion. my sweater is too warm
and the wool is drinking in the wet.

i don’t know if i’m punishing you
or myself or the dog trotting beside me.
the snow gets in between his toes
and he hobbles along on three legs
until it melts. imagine that, having no hands
to fix things. just waiting for it to stop.
the sunset i drank it i think because
it’s gone and i have been running a long time

the sweat freezes on the point
of my nose i am lost somewhere
the city buses don’t go. i hope
you missed the last light it tasted
delicious. another cup of tension
tamer tea down and this time i didn’t skimp
on the xanax. i hope you get snow
between your toes.

i cannot get to my mouth in time

i am trying hard to get the vegetables
into the oven on time. i want the table
artfully set when he gets home. i want him
to kiss me and be sure of it. i am wrist deep
in cauliflower, brussels sprouts soaking up
olive oil. the butternut squash fights me
with everything it has – imagine cutting a log
with a kitchen knife. “butternut” is not much
of a warning. the knife slips, cleaves my finger
like ripe fruit i cannot get to my mouth in time.
i wonder how blood tastes with nutmeg, cracked
pepper. i am too slow to avoid the damage.
it is the only red in the bowl. i can smell the iron.
i was going to make chicken, too—but now
there is no choice. i fry a steak on the stove
and mix it in, big pieces of quick seared meat.
blood to disguise blood. i keep one hand
beneath the table as we eat. when the blood
drips onto the floor, the dog takes care of it.
after dinner, he kisses me and is sure of it. 

when it gets too big to hold

when I don’t fuck things up
too badly, just a forgotten dinner
date or maybe a whole chicken
left within the dog’s reach,
i am able to hold the entire apology
in my hands. i offer it up to him:
a cat bearing a dead mouse.
i don’t care where he puts it
as long as he doesn’t give it back.

once i had to carry it slung
across my body for two days because
he stayed angry. it dug
into my shoulders like a burrowing
animal. when he finally accepted,
he asked if the day i spent
on acid in the wisconsin countryside
with another boy, ignoring his phone calls
and breathing in cattail smoke
was worth it. i coughed up seeds for days,
found the fluff gathered in bunches
at the bottom of the sheets.

this time, it is too big to fit
through the door. the frame
is dented from trying. my hands
are more splinter than flesh.
i know i cannot keep it hidden.
i know not even an i’m so sorry
too big to fit through the door
will soften him.

signals

i set a fire in the sink and lay down for a nap.
sometimes a lighter and bits of plastic
are the best way to get a man’s
attention. it was the sink because i wanted him
scared for me for the dog for his precious
things but no real loss, i wanted it close to water.
sometimes he just needs the flame to see
what’s really going on. it was a nap because if i made
a critical mistake, picked an afternoon he decided to stay
late at work or his tire went flat on the way home
then maybe i’d be able to sleep through the whole thing,
through the neighbors hot-faced on their lawns
the dog whining at the door then settling
into an unbreathing smog sleep the trucks
like toys in front of this black cloud.
sometimes i can only tell him in smoke signals.

how anyone finds out about anything

my senior year of college, a friend of mine
whose coffee order i knew and liked
how her lips struggled around
her braces – her boyfriend died.
i found out via facebook – the same way
i learned who was getting married and
what to eat for breakfast. she posted
a picture of the two of them laying
atop a picnic blanket on their backs.
they looked like beetles – limbs
too tired to move. their frame of vision:
all sky.

i called  to tell her i couldn’t imagine
what she felt, to tell her i was sorry
for not being able to understand but mostly
just relieved. still, i wanted to know,
in the way that we all like to be a little
close to death sometimes, what
it was like to lose something you have
done so well at holding on to.

do you still take the time to peel
off the white flesh encasing
the grapefruit, does it still give you the sweet
after the bitter? how do your small shoulders
bear the weight of the entire bed?
have you changed the temperature
of the shower water, or has your body become
something you are afraid to get wet,
a collector’s item, worth more because
he can no longer love you?