I’m trying to learn how to write within parameters – how to follow a structure. I told this to one of my friends, and he told me to write a poem about oral sex that had three lines followed by a rhyming couplet. A little specific, if you ask me, but I followed directions.
the dog watches us have sex
from the bottom of the bed.
you roll each nipple
between your fingers like
corn kernels. luckily
they do not stick in your teeth
the same way. when my head
dents the plaster instead of meeting pillow,
you laugh like a bulb burning out.
the dog looks as if he might ask a question
but decides better of it.
- find her by reference number. or author’s last name. or just run your fingers down each shelf until a cover, color, texture feels familiar. do not open her yet, save the excitement for later. you are the “best for last” type. check her out.
- take her to your favorite cafe. lay her across your lap, spread her open – the sound paper touching itself like a note left on your nightstand. don’t talk back. don’t ruin it.
- read her parentheticals. search for words you’d find beneath your pillow or on a bottle of red wine. ignore the misplaced commas, smudged ink from hands wet with coffee or sweat.
- crease her corners. gently at first, hesitantly – you are scared to bend her in ways you cannot iron out. then, until she is thin to tearing. leave her folded to mark your precious parts. you have many favorites. explain: this is what it feels like to be well loved.
- crack her spine. split her down the center, seams unweaving, glue melting from forgotten umbrella. you shove her under you to keep her safe that way. when that fails, leave her beneath the desk lamp to dry. watch her warp with rain and heat.
- she is overdue. try to find someone who will take her off your hands: full of lines deeper than your palms, pages wavy with wet, underlined words like “full-bodied” and “unbound.”
his body on mine:
cold butter on thick-cut wheat,
but I am the one who is spread.
he asks if it is time yet, I ask
for just a little bit longer.
he thaws. I start to drink him in.
i build him a nest beneath my diaphragm:
collected bits of gum wrapper, dark hairs,
unraveled thread, abandoned earring backs
for months, flooded my pockets with
the folded corners of strangers’ lives
and then swallowed them,
prayed they’d arrange themselves inside me.
when i told him i found a place he could sleep,
he was eager until discovery:
i’d have to swallow him, too.
i promised to take him with a cool glass of water,
swore i’d never dream of using my teeth.
i imagine the south carolina girls,
their faces cracking like august earth.
veins of sweat roll from their hairlines,
flooding away: asphalt grit, foundation
from bottles and buildings, silky spider-web spit
hung in strings.
i want to grind their bodies
against a washboard, pinch their shoulders tight
with clothespins, ask them
how they feel about doing “women’s work.”
it was the winter of sex and tomato soup:
the only two things a good body needs
to remember how to wake up each day.
the soup was watery and hot, burned
the tongue to rawness, softness
in preparation for its other pastime.
there were fewer men than months,
but not by a lot. tomatoes are a spring fruit.
eat one from a neighbors garden,
sprinkle with salt. throw away the uneaten
cans of soup. vow to never go back.