(edit)

here is the situation: we are drunk walking
the dog, one a.m., vilas avenue.
neither quite naked, hot
from drinking and dancing and being near
each other. being young is funny that way:
it never takes much. stop at the intersection
to kiss and a middle aged couple catches
up to us. man says: we used to do that
when we were young. chuckles. the woman
is suddenly close—her face floats in
like a lantern. her hands are on my shoulders.
she tries to pull my gaze into focus.
are you okay. what are you guys doing out here.
do you live close by. do you need anything.
i don’t know why this is happening. of course
i am okay. i live at the green house on the corner.
i don’t think i need anything – i guess a pizza
sounds good but—
she looks hard at my boyfriend, peels away
his skin with her eyes. now i see.
the woman’s fingers take to my shirt buttons
i am all done up in a second. i want to tell her
this is a love you don’t worry for i have never
been safer. we are just being kids.
the man says: let’s stop bothering these two.
grabs her arm. she shakes her head but
leaves us, my buttons done tight to my throat.

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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.

one bedroom

there is a romance in dinner alone,
lick every spatula clean and
add too much cardamom because
only you like that much spice.

slick with sweat over the stove,
worrying about what it’ll do to the cashmere
when you realize you are wearing
expensive clothes for an absent audience.

the oven heat touches your bare chest like
a breath. who knew how good it feels
to touch tomatoes to the inside of your arms,
the stickiness of seeded flesh.

turn on some sweet woman
over the speakers who will seduce you
into loving yourself. pour a glass of wine
into a coffee mug. eat slowly and congratulate
yourself on a job well done. when the food
is gone, think of other ways you know

how to feel pleasure. the song changes and
you decide you are just not full enough
i’d like to put my fingers on you

touch yourself beneath the dinner table,
hands nipped with the smell of garlic and
smoothed with olive oil, be 
certain
you are getting crumbs everywhere

 

(ew)

when i find a dead bug
in my underwear i know
it has been too long

without a frenzy to make myself
presentable, to turn
this body into something

you’d want to pull off the hanger.
i try to offer myself solace: i have
been so focused on nurturing i let

myself become a habitat. i am fertile
soil. i remember: the bug was dead.
if this unwashed body cannot support

one bug, i wonder what it is good for.