in 1847 a man exploded his brother and
wanted to die and
instead became a prize. Hundred years later my neighbor
got thinner and thinner
until she could put both legs
between the bars.
Last month a woman flew
past the windows, hurtled by
as their boots came up the stairs
to come put her on the street.
Yesterday was a birthday of white phosphorus and exploding skin
and every article tastes of ink and ash.
I no longer trust mathematics because it is killing us
because it is a tide pulling my feet
from under me. I put my eyes
in a glass of poetry overnight
but when I wake they are still raw and ragged,
jerking tears at the bus stop
because today a child exploded
like every day.
I want to know who counts the bodies when there is
no body left. Who shakes them,
and what remains inside
to rattle. In what language
these spells will finally work.
Dreaming suddenly of a grand-daughter i can tell about my lovers—the handsome engineering student, the Brooklyn comedian, the math teacher with equations on his arms, the sad filmmaker, the madcap anarchist, the veteran who wished for love so hard that women began to fall out of the trees and left him terrified and more alone than ever Dreaming of being able to tell them, you know, a heart doesn’t forget, it is a muscle with cells that have marked every beat. Remembered everything and made poems over it. That even though I feel it swell only at the sight of this one, despite the casual and proprietary way I look at men now, secure in some kind of coupled comfort that I can look, feel, and then go about my day, even with all of this I remember them with a fondness that can ache. Wanting to tell stories as resuscitation, a way of gasping them back, if only for a moment.
My life with a gardener
The screen door firecrackers closed.
I find her at the sundry drawer
prowling for twine. I’m nothing
she sees. There’s a tornado
in her hair, her face is streaked
with dirt like markings applied
before the rituals of drums.
I’ve watched her shadow break free
and tend the next row of corn.
I understand this eagerness
as fully as I can speak for the ocean.
I say water is behind everything,
a blue dictator, say waves
are obsessed with their one word
but have no idea what that word is.
Her hands enter soil like needles
making the promise of a dress
from cloth. In December she begins
smelling lilacs, by February
she sees the holes
peppers burn through snow. I see her,
she’s the last green thing I need.
When finally she’s pushed inside
by the rude hands of dusk,
I set down my life for her skin,
taught all day how to smell
like the sun, and the hundred
directions of her hair, and eyes
that look through me to flowers
that only open their mouths
to speak with the moon.
oh wow I am really fond of how the survivor tag is a mix of SA, cancer and the reality show results. Seriously! I’ve been wandering through forums and things for people who’ve experienced SA (or abuse, or incest) and they’re not for me. But this tag! It’s got the perfect mix of people who’ve been thru stuff similar to mine, plus the completely different perspective of cancer patients, plus some much-needed levity from people who want to talk about how Amazon was better than Vanatu or whatever. Oh man. Whoooooof.
I was crying really quickly, had felt the tears waiting but thought i could do something about that. It was his voice, small and kind and wanting, wanting to help, asking “what do you want me to say,” and my body kind of split lengthwise, uncomfortably, like a walnut shell in a nutcracker, and I was crying, pushing my face between his shoulder and the bed, holding him, whiteknuckled, telle une naufrageuse.
"You’re safe," he said, and, "I love you," and in spite of myself I hated that those words would get used like this, like an ointment. We have only recently begun with that, for months I tiptoed shy as a deer around I love you, said it only when I felt the words fat as a grape in my mouth, needing to be said.
I was crying because two and half years ago I was assaulted and some old splinter had wedged up under my skin and insisted on being felt. This was not the first time. I walked around for two months acknowledging, but not speaking about it, and didn’t really have any emotions until I cried, suddenly, for two hours during a meeting. When another woman published a story similar to mine, and another, I cried quietly and violently, dried off, and walked out of my room.
"Can you give me a hug but not ask why or to talk about it?" I’d asked my roommate, and, bless his beating heart, he wrapped his arms around me and rested his chin on my head. I think he said, "everything’s going to be OK" and I had to blink, furiously, to keep from starting again.
Another woman has written publicly about the space in which I was assaulted. Like the second one, I know the person she identified as her aggresser. Her story is different enough from mine—more complex, involves a relationship over several months—but I watch quietly from my corner of the internet as her reputation is held in both hands and torn down the middle. And I tell myself, this is what happens to girls who talk about it.
"Oh, isn’t this…a bike, riding a bike on a summer night. It’s the best, it’s just the best!" J was lit-up from her teeth-out, tipsy to each curl, eyelashing here and again at I. We pumped, pedaled, swung through the streets with my brakes squealing hard.
I crouched on the floor of the bar to take a long shot of C crooning with the jazz band, twirled back to snap J’s face rising over the bar like a full moon. Wine worked its way into the cuts on my lips.
We worked the U-locks open, twitched lights—“We need a gang name, like, Les Lucioles,” she said—and were back soaring over concrete. C and I tried to sing each other songs, forgot the words, laughed, embarrassed, ivres. At one point I just kept going, bombing light after light, every word I mispronounced pumping through my veins to my feet, the pedals, each inch of asphalt a chance to try again. Going home without saying goodbye a rare privilege, a taste like preserved lemons on a hot day.
This time, the whiff of yeast wasn’t there, no eyefree tell of my barrio. Cutting down Prefontaine, the lights way out, weird-out. Clusters of people at some doors, nervous chatter, glass breaking. No streetlights so I squinted at the street with that no-account moon barely pointing out the potholes. I glided through the intersection in slow motion, staring at the assembly of firetrucks cutting lights into the black. The air smelled hot and dead, the odour of things not meant to be burned.
Even home, it followed me. I woke twice to check the stove, that rancid taste of burning insulation catching in the back of my throat. It lingered, then was gone, like anything.
This afternoon a military plane screeched so low overhead that my eyes rattled in their sockets, that my body was seized by a strange fear that did not quell. Wanting only to hide, to curl and cry like a child shaking under the bed. The frightened animal of my body insisting that this was not normal, that all could not ever be well. My mind a nursemaid, walking solidly down the hall, stooping to straighten the rug. If all can’t be well, at least the rug can be straight.
sometimes busking for a living means playing a dozen times in the first two weeks of the month, hoping you’ll get rent + phone bill + hydro covered before you get sick/lose your voice, and then feeling knots in yr stomach for the rest of the month as you buy beers or almond milk for yr coffee and see the pile of 20s dwindle.
going back out ‘just in case’ and really shredding up yr voice, coughs on the amtrak, wondering if you’ll bounce back before it’s time to go back out. and still, halfheartedly explaining to people that it’s better than having a boss.
There is some sort of party going to happen, S, in a tuxedo, asks if I’m going to change. “Into a ballgown? I think it’s not casual, but not black tie.” He shrugs. Aunt V has arrived, I see the back of her in a rocking chair but nothing else, I say “Hi” anyway—high, strange voice—and go back upstairs. I want a nap. I go to B’s room—he’s not home—and climb into his bunk bed. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived there, but this was once my room. Someone has written a phrase with string, spiderweb-style, above the door. The cat climbs into bed with me and I sleep.
Second dream (inception-style): the party, in a second-floor treehouse-art-space. I see M—it’s not M, but his face—, an old friend from school. Politely chat. I found a beer in a box—some old roommate’s—and crack it, but they’re selling beer at the counter. Some girls. They’re making a dessert with apples they’re giving away, piling them with brown sugar on top of pancake batter and broiling them. I order a beer in a mug, in French, brown beer. One of the girls struggles to say it in English. No worries. She’s cleaning the tap when someone comes up behind me, wraps their arms around me. “A tango?” It’s a woman, in pink heels. We do a few steps. “You forgot I don’t know how to tango,” I say. “Don’t ever say that,” she says, angry. I stop worrying, lead her, eventually into a sort of contact improv, finishing with some twirls. I see it’s A and am embarrassed I danced so sexually, thinking she’ll think I’m coming on to her. Concerned she’ll read too much into it. She’s wearing an elephant costume. “No one wants to dance like that anymore,” she says.
I go to find my beer but it’s gone. “Shouldn’t have left it on the counter.” “C’était-tu la première?” asks a tall man, curly hair. “Ouin.” “Ouash. Prends-la mienne, bois-la.” “Non, c’est gentil de ta part, mais non.” An old man by the door is grousing at his beer. “I ordered a Michelob and this is what they give me!” I explain that the beer is homemade, artisinal. He’s known to be a problem, the organizers tried to refuse him a few times. He leaves.
I find F and a gaggle of girls in a basement room. She’s showing off her line before a show. Some pieces are beautiful but some not. Lots of detail, innovative shapes. I finger a top and notice it’s not hemmed. “Who doesn’t hem a top?” I ask another girl. A girl asks F another judgmental question about the line, people laugh. I leave, I need to find work.
There’s a potato factory not far—you put potatoes through a metal cylinder for shipping. Others you cut with another metal piece. I do a few until I feel like leaving. I know I’ll lose my job; I’m not sure I care. It’s a job for drug addicts.
I walk around. It’s not that late, people are still moving. In front of one building, a hippopotamus is chained. Its chain is long. It sees me and screams, begins to unhinge its jaw around enormous teeth. A car rides past pressed up against the opposite building to avoid it. Its chain retracts for a delivery to the building and I run top-speed past it as the chain starts to lengthen again. Blood on the chain. Stop on a porch to catch my breath, and I bump into a familiar face. I’ve seen him in dreams before. He’s smoking, or preparing to smoke a joint.
"Hi." We smile.
"I just saw something outrageous on that building." It’s a restaurant, I can see now, with—vines?—twining around its sign. It’s dusk, or early morning, I can’t see well.
"He doesn’t miss them."
"The antlers. It’s gross, yeah, but the stag’s long gone." The sign is covered with antlers.
"No, the hippo! There’s a hippo chained up outside."
He doesn’t seem surprised, just like he forgot. “Yeah, Hochelag.”
I tell him about the party, the potato factory. “You’ll find a job. It’ll work out.”
"Remind me of your name?"
He snorts. “No.”
"Why not? Because I forgot?"
"Because you know my name."
I think for a minute. “I don’t, I’m sorry. I forgot.”
He looks at me, knowingly. “Eric.” Holds a roach towards me. “Here, smoke this.”
Lots of noise starts happening, music, cars, his phone going off. He picks up and in a choked voice says, “Sara je ne pensais qu’à toi toute la journée.” I turn my head to try and give him privacy, can’t tell where the noise is coming from. He’s crying now, loudly, goes around the side of the building, still on the phone. I feel terrible. I wake up with drymouth.