Poem for boy with all his baby teeth in a ring box under his bed. Poem for boy with bee stingers in his palm, for broken neck birds, too many pink scars on his shoulders. Poem for boy nailing our scarecrow to the tree out back. Poem for boy, bloodless hands, dead father, weighed down branches, steady. Poem for riverbank eulogy, poem for the house on fire, for the empty bedrooms, for the baby teeth, for his scratched out face, for the wheat I pulled to make that scarecrow whole. Poem for boy, for husk, for knotted rope, and a white bird, all quiet, all burned.
God called me Fish Heart. Lily Mouth. I was an evening sort of girl. He liked me better ripped up, bar bathrooms, bar peanuts, skip the small talk. We’re both Adam. We’re both Eve. In the mornings, swallowing bait, swallowing nails, pulling apart the microwave, two forks and an empty socket. Baby, there is always a limit. Hours spent rubbing my belly, waiting for watermelon trees, or orange bushes, or flowers heavy with green apples. And now, this is what I can dissect: his fingers in the gut of the fish, his fingers in the core of the flower, always pulling. Like it wasn’t enough to feel, like He had to see, to know.
poem for syrup dreams, brush fire smoke, the forest gutted, two miles westward. poem for pink tongues and the broken headboard and how you slept in jeans nights we got home late and scared, our knuckles bruised, noses bleeding. poem for glasses off, blind. poem for cups of sugar on the front porch, salt in our bed. poem for empty fridge, empty pockets, all the vases broken, flowers peeking through. empty bowls of porridge, this house too big for the both of us. poem for my name, rebirth, and how you look at me in the dark, our silhouettes the lightest parts of us.
jesus called he said he’s sick / of the distance
sunday afternoons at the theater, passing bags of pills like licorice sticks, kissing roach faced ushers and watching the moon lay her thigh, her palm across the man in the back seat. i told him to stop bitching, just enjoy crescent while she lasts, and he opened his mouth, let a hundred thousand moths fly out, i said god dammit, and maybe two vultures, maybe a dove. i said wait, he blinked. i said lung or liver or kidney stone, he licked the side of my face, pushed crescent to the floor. now, twelve trailers, a reprise.
After Kristina Hayes
In the mornings, mouthing prayers,
picking up the pants and collared shirts
of boys who won’t stay. Boys who will
drink my coffee, shower quickly, kiss
me lightly, and leave the wrong phone
number on a scrap of paper in the kitchen.
They’ll be off by a number or two, guilt
like a brick in their stomachs. They’ll take
the stairs, recycle, put a dollar in a homeless
man’s cup. Later, I’ll take cabs to made-up
addresses, cut my palm in the backseat,
bleed on fake leather. When they find
my number in their pants pockets, they’ll
crumple the paper, turn on the news.
Fox and Marie in the pizza parlor two towns over, loose change, an upturned table, pointed guns, steady. The boy at the counter is the cute one Fox used to hit on years ago, when she was bubblegum and belly rings. Earlier, Fox french braided Angie’s hair, fried tostodas in corn oil, kissed Olive on the cheek. Now, Marie’s face is a black scarf, her voice rust. She came in every day for a week, knew they left the back entrance open, knew they had insurance, knew which day they emptied the safe, knew what time they closed. The boy’s hands are shaking as he pulls hundreds from the bottom of the register. Fox wants to grab a slice of pizza, but Marie wouldn’t like it. it’s too cocky, too cruel, she’d say on the car ride back, eyes tired, rent money in the backseat. Fox looks at the boy, and points her gun at his face as she and Marie back away. He might almost recognize her.
I’m on my knees while Olive plaits my curls, a dozen candles flirting with the air in this small bedroom. Angie is leaning against the wall, pupils like eight balls, smiling at her fingertips. my mother called me last night or last week or last year she told me god came to her in a dream. The fridge is humming, inconsistent and Olive’s hands are quick. she told me that our dog ran away that my father cries in my room whenever he’s sober We shouldn’t be here, the sun dripping down the window, pyramids of light on Olive’s thighs. Someone patters in the other room, no choked sobs, no sacrifice for dewy mornings. Olive says my name soft and worn, like an old boot she isn’t sure fits. Angie knocks over a candle and her shirt catches on fire. For a moment, none of us move.
After Julia Faulkner who wrote a poem after Matthew Olzmann
A beginning of wolves chasing, nipping at our calves,
licking the blood from our ankles. Your sweaty hand in mine,
waiting for the doors to swing open in a French kitchen
like a movie scene, and the waiters to topple their platters
and spill red wine onto a heiress’ dress. A beginning
of stone bridges, of green-bellied crickets. We steal tubs
of ice cream and shaved chocolate,pull splinters from our palms
for weeks. Bears and squirrels and crows in the backyard,
pecking at the rows and rows of corn. Hiding in the wheat,
waiting for god like a dinner date, praying that dusk won’t find us
this deep in the mid-west. Later, it is Seattle or San Diego,
something slippery and wet on our tongues, ice cubes
made of Kool Aid or sugar water, mosquitoes forever
swarming my neck and your wrists, and we push down the seats
in the car and pull smooth marbles from our mouths
and say things like Cuisses de Grenouille and Blanquette de Veau,
imagining these things, dancing frog legs and blankets of
veal, creamy white sauce ribboned over like silk. A beginning
of toothpicks, of a thousand cut mouths, of silence canyon deep,
clouds of gold dust, burnt skin pink as lemonade.
I could never tell if you were smiling
or baring your teeth.
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