We Are Loved
and the moon presses a finger to her lips
Such remarkable sway, this music
held warm between the palms of a Florida night,
a tinge of sweat clinging to her skin.
It smells like salt and something else:
like cotton candy sticking to your fingers, like
fireworks and sand, like the opening of flowers
on a rainy evening. It is the cicada
serenading its mate; It is the footprint
of a gecko on a fern leaf, the murmur
of a current that never stills. It is the tide,
climbs up the shore, wets your toes.
Note: “and the moon presses a finger to her lips” is a line stolen from “Winter Dreams” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
At my brother’s third birthday party, I hand him a package wrapped in newspaper and offer to open it for him.
He says no, he is three, he will do it himself.
My aunts crowd the couches in the living room.
They smell like sugar and face powder.
Most heads are grey. Most smiles stained with coffee
and lipstick. Everyone’s shoes match their sweaters.
We wear pointed hats with characters on them.
Red curls poke out from under his.
His cheeks are pink and so is his nose and he loves me.
He lets me pick tape off the side of the box–
Paper rips with it. Words stick, ink
printed on my fingers:
“For the First Time, Ukraine Protests Lead to Deaths–”
He peels back the paper and reveals a red and yellow boat
with plastic passengers. He smiles. He is missing a tooth.
I slip the words into my sock, saving them for later.
Southside Catholic Romance
The kitchen smells like alcohol and french fries,
and you speak only when you need more
ketchup. Your Sundays are crossword
puzzles, grease, aluminum cans, and
sports television broadcasts. No reverence
on your lips, no warmth of skin, no sacrament;
only over-washed grey cotton t-shirts,
dimes jingling in your back pocket, and
an unspoken Amen.
We Are Stone
A Bowl of Dead Bees
after Robert Hass
You never meant harm when you believed art was a beautiful thing: Rose petals in a blue vase, collected with years of brushstroke, strap falling from shoulder, light nods. You didn’t know that when the corners of the mouth upturn, they reveal not only pearls but the cracks between them. Pink, wet, dark; rouge, biting. You didn’t know that grace comes from blister and cramped ankles, that perfect skin is stitched. You didn’t know that red silk hides worms, that thread binds pricked fingers, that blood dyes in desperation. You admire paint, not canvass. You want roses, not the bees that bred them.
“O river, I see drifting
Deep in your flux of silver
Those great goddesses of peace.
Stone, stone, ferry me down there.”
-Sylvia Plath, “Lorelei”
Stone lungs are cleaner than flesh
when water swells in them;
music needs no meaning,
only sound, and beauty
forgives no man for drowning
in want of a kiss. So, to leap
into the sea, to expect death.
To trust trusting–such
an irresponsible thing.
She only wears her leopard print tights
when no one is home;
she slinks over to the wardrobe,
plucks them from their drawer,
and pulls them over thin,
pale legs to let them shimmer
like a cat in the sun. In those tights,
she is a grey-eyed huntress, hidden
in the brush, pursuing her victims:
men of Dionysian breed, of wine,
of madness and ecstasy. In those tights,
blood slates her thirst, sacrifice–her
hunger. The wild beats inside her.
She is jungle caged in skin, and
if you see her leopard tights, she’ll purr
before her teeth sink in.
She wore that orange turtleneck
over her stunning red prom dress
because she couldn’t stand the idea
of Fred looking at her curves and liking them.
Fred, whose gaze lingered too long
on her knee-high stockings. Fred,
whose hands went too far under
her skirt, when he said, “It’s just
for fun.” Fred, whose name she moaned
in the back of the painted Chevy
when his tongue outlined the shell
of her ear and his cock pressed into
the side of her thigh. Fred, who
loved Daphne like Apollo
loved his laurel tree, a prize
for a man who could wait. Fred, who never
looked her in the face, never counted
her freckles, or noticed the scar
above her left eyebrow, who never said
her name, or asked to see her
without her glasses.
We Are Drowned
A market, women holding baskets
of fruit, a man smiling at his son
is what we heard when third grade history
textbooks said Pompeii
burned, is frozen. But you are a child,
lying beside her mother, face fused
to the ground, the arch of a spine
as it writhes. You are fingers
clasped in prayer, gasping. You
are a dog curled on its back, legs
extended to the sky, bared teeth,
a cry, basalt squeal cooled
by years of slate. What words
fossil in your mouth?
Are you Hercules before the arrow
is shot? Hand on bow, straining
for redemption, release? Are you
the Icarian plunge to the sea,
suspended feathers and wax–
are you gravity? Or are you
Epicurean peace? A tranquil
surrender to suffering. Now you are nothing
but stories, a skeleton of faces,
ash, questions, and stone.
a found poem, influenced by Kat Rosenfeld
A rough man outside
of town saw her first:
Crumpled by the side of the road,
a rust-colored blossom
drying beneath her.
Someone had left a bag of clothes
lying in the dirt, where snaking
curves crossed briefly over Route Nine,
like a damn ragdoll, all jumbled up
together like that. A woman with a mouth
that bled lipstick, rolled her eyes, snorted;
she looked kinda boneless, in a pile,
smacking the top of the bar, “shut
the fuck up.” Falling asleep, drifting
toward the shoulder, delicate arm
outstretched on the pavement, he told
no one the full truth: He had run over her
fingers. She was dry, dry
inside. “What the hell was she doing
out here, anyway?”
Sea of bitterness, you were named
for the taste of red wine before lips
meet glass; expectation of the coming
of holy blood into the mouth. I was named
for my grandmother whose veins crossed her wrists
and ankles like blue roads on a map, destination
inherent in her anatomy: woman bound in swaddling cloth,
anointed with oil as the priest claims her bound
for the Kingdom of Heaven. There is
nothing sacred in my blood, but the sea
still claims me as fruit of the bitter seed
you tasted when you swallowed–God,
forgive me, Mary. I do not deserve your sadness.
Your tears anchor mine, but I am adrift–
I know no holy bearing. The wine
hitches in my throat like sand.
I faint in the embalming room of the Hinchliff-Pearson Funeral Home
I faint in the embalming room of the Hinchliff-Pearson Funeral Home,
not because my blood is thin, but because theirs isn’t.
What bumps, bruises as it lurches through sinking
venules, forced by formaldehyde and human,
to the autumning of the body, the gradual turn from red
to brown to crunch. I flicker not at freezing, the eventual snap
of icicles, the crystallization of skin, of eyes, the blueness
of lack of breath, but melting. The sogging, the seeping,
the sludge of mud and spring as it leaches
the solidness of snow, of bone,
improbable pith, and fertilizes the ovule
of chrysalis, and molding, of steam,
greening under sun. I sway, they are not still;
we stagger into the impossible next.