(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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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.

stalker

she writes letters to my dad like they are lovers.
she calls him “my david” and i imagine her typing
with her tongue, wedging a nail beneath each key
like a crowbar, swallowing without teeth.

when she has sent 17 letters in as many days
and received nothing back, she asks about my
mom, “the kids.” my dad tells me she is sick,
that he showed her kindness years ago and
that is the kind of thing people don’t forget.

another month: she tells him she is going to
have to kill him. she emails pictures of knives,
reminds him of his own address. at the end
of a long string of threats, she threatens
the family dog. finally she has crossed
the line.

camping

we kiss by the fire until he pushes me back
into the grating and red welts rise like cross
stitches on the back of my calves. we unzip
the tent and my legs touch the sleeping bags –
I try not to yelp. when he burrows inside me
with his hands, I make sounds but let him dig.
sometimes the digging helps make him calm.
he makes me a den while my insides pile up
beside us.