seducing the writer
he'll seduce himself
if you're silent.
a string drawn tautthere are so many
blue stars in your skin
but i can't believe
each neuron is a universe
alight with planets,
gaunt aliens signing god
in the absence of your name,
dim cars on the street,
beneath an awning
like a glowing orange womb
you shudder saying,
i just had a chill,
is this room cold
or are we in the gut
of a giant
who's strung out
seven days lifeless,
biting the apple,
wishing for his mother,
the earth is spinning
in the eyes
of a turtle
with a red shell
who swims in the flowers
who swallows supernovas
and they pass through his kidneys,
we could burst any minute,
a fly's nerves twitch,
a city laid,
between microscope lenses,
clutching wife to child,
do you know my name?
do you know you're shivering?
do you know i'm the son
of your nucleus?
i live in your cheek
and die at your
To His Coy Mistress[es]i. earl and lady grey
you have often graced me with your soft-spoken company, bergamot blossoms adorning your dark hair, fragrant as your steamy exhalations. you remind me of simple home and something untouchably elegant, pale and supple when i dress your skin with pallid cream and soften your thin, graceful hands. on a bleak winter evening, snow glittering by lamplight, you are a royal pleasure: a warm complement.
i will lay you on the finest saris, those embroidered with gold threads and flawless diamonds that shimmer like your black eyes. you are the champagne of my harem, floral yet astringent, fine-boned cheeks seeking nothing less than perfection. your tiger soul knows your worth, seductive and mysterious; in the autumn, you remind me of leaves ripe with color, falling from my desperate touch: a distant lover.
you are the sun's daughter birthed by soil, a celestial soothing who blooms
I have your number, SeabirdHis bathroom is small and bleak. The mirror
shows your reflection in seven colors which
haven't been named on the red-blue-yellow
spectrum. Your eyes are shaking like eggs
and he hasn't said your name in a year. You
think of everything he calls you: Jay, Jaybird,
Rose if he's playful. He told you particles of
every man he's slept with are in the carpet
when he pulled your head back to look into
your pupils. Your eyes are black. They run,
raw and rotten from fluorescence overhead.
He told you the shrooms weren't the same.
If you don't like LSD, you might feel better
trying something more natural. It grows
like marijuana: from the ground. But so does
every poison you can think of. You're natural,
bare with shades you can't begin to fathom.
Something like sulfur is in your nostrils. You
touch the furry rug and think of Vishnu. He
has so many arms to carry you. Jesus only has
two. The church was broad and heavy. It sleeps
in Chicago, beside a park that smells like piss.
He opens the door,
You left for work,and I walked into a kitchen
lit by liquor store fluorescence,
all the windows shut and curtained
by red fleece blankets. I made coffee,
had that fantasy about your hands
framing the white edges of morning,
then took a shower and dressed
for an early shift at work:
pacing from door for my jacket,
looking for pennies in the carpet,
drinking a second breakfast,
crushing pill dust into mucus,
pushing dots into equations,
sleeping on the couch until
my manager called and asked
how it's been.
She's hiring her niece
maybe for good.
Eschatological Relapseone. My addictions include
or have included: cocaine, cigarettes,
happiness, sex, that feeling everyone gets
when someone you never loved confesses
his infatuation. Alcohol, humor, pornography,
browsing the internet for poetry, politics,
and photographs of crime scenes. Adrenaline,
caffeine, dopamine, or anything that makes me
desperately horny. Gum-picking, small shocks,
attention, anonymity, but only if they
at least know my name.
two. And it felt like God's arms
in a gentle apocalypse.
we landed in oklahoma
and drank cheap martinis in the terminal;
you carried my guitar and fell in love
with my voice but not my tongue,
not my hands.
there's a man with a garage
that looks like a plane because nothing
meant more to him. will you make a model
of that bar? will you make a model
of my red cheeks? or will you live in a townhome
with her and three children?
the problem was you're not gay.
the problem was there was feeling
but it wasn't for us. i had you but
it wasn't for us.
i'm not sure if i resent you,
but i remember that bar and every pockmark
on the stool you sat on while i played
the song that parted your lips;
you remember every pockmark in oklahoma
like they were ours.
On Wanting Everything to Be RightYou got too comfortable,
forgot he could make mistakes,
and set your consciousness aside
so he could mend the thoughts
which have remained disordered
in your fumbling sobriety,
despite the years of learning to cope
with the pace of regularity:
scraping the mailbox with his key,
dining out every Sunday,
setting the thermostat to sixty degrees,
and changing despite every effort
to remain apathetic about his plans,
how your name became a constant
in his living equations,
the variable which defined the function.
On the morning you leave,
only your luggage and body will move
through the summer shadows
of oak leaves shaking in a breeze,
and only your barest senses
will know the satisfaction of hearing
his footsteps behind yours,
cicadas composing another song,
a car door slamming shut,
the engine firing up,
though your muscle memory isn't enough
to bring you peace or independence,
money or place or dignity.
When you turn onto Justamere Road,
you'll picture the nightstand
on your side of the
To Him, With Loveintimacy is airing out
those facts you have held
allowing someone else
to draw his own conclusions about
your vain pursuits of existence.
IntimacyI asked to be slapped—
and your palm met my cheek
with constraint, cupped to lessen
the ensuing redness, the responsive tears
that welled but only in my left eye.
There are things like tealights
and dinners after midnight that we agree
to be romantic: that we consume
through antique filters, lace
between our fingers, but your palms
sweat when we hold hands
and I've never liked skin webbing,
nor the catch of calluses—
So, I propose to rewrite
a definition: mostly for my sake,
but also for the sakes of others
who have found themselves wondering
if they might be a-something
because they don't like to be touched
softly on the skin
or loathe surprises of any sort,
who would like to make love
then smoke a cigarette,
go for a jog without meaning insult
to the man in their bed—
Because when I asked you to slap me—
I meant to say I trust you,
virginity is like an envelopemy mother said her mother knew.
i wonder if she stumbled home like i did,
fifteen and beer-loose
tied to the door like a thunderstorm with black lips
and i wrote a story about disaster,
a quiet two sleds long.
a box full of beads, i swallowed
fifteen needles, mommy. don’t
tell me i’m not sorry.
don’t call me a whore you bag of bones
you lock-loose suitcase do you even
recognize me look at my face my toothache skin
i am not the one with the knife.
my mother never slept with a boy
who didn’t love her never let a boy
sleep on her while she lay awake beneath
the shroud of his skin breathing only
when her voice-box gathered too much dust.
you have to know i didn’t do
it on purpose. he slid beers down my throat
till i felt like a landfill.
i was not yet a crescendo. maybe i was a polka-
you couldn’t tell. i got home
with my legs full of nightmare.
the doctor said xanax.
i said i am a ruin like the ones
we saw in peru.
a balloon in a funeral poem.
watercolour sky shrinking,
too late, teeth fall; pearls
from a broken string.
Blink and the moon ignites—
but the sheets are still
19:38-21:23i have not prayed since i was a child,
unless You count the times i disregarded formality
and addressed You coarsely or candidly.
that's not to say i don't believe in You
or have disavowed your Grace,
but i think everyone's noticed You don't pick up the phone
or maybe You just have a lousy secretary.
i'll make this very brief because
and i have work in a few hours;
when i thought i saw You on the horizon
somewhere beside the setting sun,
taking the shape of a cloud more violet than the others,
were You there or am i desperate? were You there
or was i reaching for nothing?
You don't need to respond,
but i'd appreciate it.
bad circulation"when you are dangling upside down
fifteen thousand feet in the air
and the clouds have their cold fingers
pressed against your throbbing neck
and your heart is about to fall out of your
throat, remember to breathe."
i am inhaling so deeply it burns my nose,
i have choked on my tears in a bubble
bath up to my cheekbones and i am
opening each new day languidly, scratching
at the corners and dropping eyelids
and thoughts in the middle of class.
i am biting the insides of my cheeks
and falling asleep inside my hood on
the bus, because dragging my feet along
the floor and grinding my teeth just
isn't cutting it anymore,
how can you feel so much and
then be told to feel so little?
i refuse to say sorry.
but i know that too often, i plant gardens
in places where desolation is desired,
i kiss people too late, or not at all,
and i know
that i am not enough
a streetcar to nowherei.
he must crack
when his hands are tulle:
rough and tearing,
bought by the yard
or cent-marked minute,
spin a skirt
that won't last a winter,
and snort ballerinas,
hope he's flexible
thin and shimmering,
don't stay another minute,
clear the aisles to say
so he must crack
when his hands are tulle:
by a craving spark
crisp and burning,
thin black ash
like your real name or
just something i can call you,
something that won't make me
feel like i'm talking down
to you. not because
i respect you, i never—
no i don't think i
respect you, but
something soft like i can
pretend i'm decent,
or normal maybe, don't
look at me, i didn't pay to—
where are you going after this?
and maybe i won't laugh."
ZemiThings having to be returned to their transparency:
/ green mist-earth / knit
atmosphere / fathomless
blue-lavender / lights
spun out from light
are recalcitrance / and you
& - a fingernail of summer
- a melting of rain
- a crown of flowers
- a priest of sunsets
(beautiful? I love you, because. Zemi.
Zemi. are you beautiful because I love
you? Zemi? )
I imagine this is what it's like to breathe sea foam
over the Cliffs of Moher: hydration. absolution.
To Rilke, it's a melody that floods over us
when we have forgotten how to listen for it.
I never could forget this: for how could I know
my hand as both well and chasm? and how could I know
time, a windstruck dimension, standing in her white street?
We go on morning walks and Zemi
laughs at everything I say.
Late Monet in a Boy's Bedroomyou have mourned for a childhood spent
siphoning color's touch from men with your eyes
unshut, begging at the heels of lovers who
wanted to know your shadows. you accepted them
into your bed, reminding yourself of such moments when
you lay back: powerless, aroused. his hands knew you
in wide spectrums they shouldn't have, but you lusted
and lust for another whose brush is careless, whose teeth
will paint your neck without praying to consequence,
who will have you jealously, selfishly: who will let you
call him by that paternal name that rots your liver, that
makes your tongue soft for affectations. he was a liar,
but a charming, intelligent man: an artist, blending his
poetry for non-poetsI guess he was wrong when he said
'you are poetry'
because all you were made up of
were line breaks and phrases
that never, ever went together.
The disharmony between your heart and lungs
was something he liked listening to,
just thinking there was a thunderstorm in your chest
but never considering that maybe
you were hungry or drunk or hurting.
No. These were all so beautiful
and worth writing about in the dark.
But I guess the best decision he ever made
was to pull his head away from your shoulders,
take a good long look at your shaking form
and run farther than he ever thought
those bent knees could take him.
scraps and sacramentsyou,
beautiful siren girl with melodies
entangled in her hair: you are
shell-shocked and sea-struck
even though you cannot stand
the sensation of sand beneath
you have fingers for prying, picking,
pulling at your skin and nesting
in that hollow space between
your bones. and if anyone asks,
you will swear there are monsters
sleeping in the concaves of your ribs;
there are ghosts beneath your tongue,
embittered, and you are not the words
they say there is an answer, little girl
(sometimes you begin to believe you are
a scarecrow on the border of reality
begging people to turn the other way;
and the mirror will agree)
how far have you gone? a feather in
the breeze who won’t promise to return
again; there is a wandering warmth in
the hesitation of your harbored fear.
where will you be in six months when
the future has become itself and you
are still astray? little one, no one is like you
in the way you sway to the cadence of a
dissonant night. no one knows your
astronomerswhen we're together
dusk is containable; the moon in my palms
and the stars on your ceiling.
we lull the city to sleep
with our theories of life; my tongue curling
do you remember,
when Jupiter was a silver wick, lighting its countless moons?
you balanced a cigarette off your lips,
and I watched the vermillion flame burn life
as a newborn sun;
planets moulding and constellations snaked
above our eyes.
what it would be like to be curled
inside the embers creator and destroyer
so close to your lips.
i would never number the poems
i wrote about myself because that
would be like ticking off the days
until my breakdown;
i was a moth, unapologetically throwing myself
at any gleam of hope; wasting my wings
on industrial promises
colors always felt much more
appropriate for the purple boiling
beneath my heart and the pallid
purposelessness of my head,
but i was born into a colorless world--
no one sees me behind the metallic scars
of my skin and iron grating of my voice against
the grain; no one sees me as more than
gray regret or monochrome mistakes,
no one sees me but
all i ever wanted was for a
fallen god with feathered heels
to believe in me: to pray upon
the monuments i built for
broken dreams and to baptize me
in his tainted tears,
i just want him to be real. more
than anything, i want to be real, i want
to be more than an imaginary friend
to various mental limitations; i want
to trade my liquid skin [evaporating]
for a chance to be
i am a moth and you are the lighthouse
i’d tell you I hated you
if you had a voice or a face,
or any sense of tangibility aside
from the spider fingers you use
to crawl through my brain
you are not beautiful, like
all the other poets protest. you
are the red in my eye, like
a pen bled; the ragged to
my fingernails, the hitch of my breath
when it catches in my throat.
before i go, i’ll write a million letters (a million
pennies for my thoughts, bitter, embedded
under my tongue) and send them to people
i’ve never met, telling them how my eyes were blue
when i was little but now are the same gray
i’m choking on, how i am maddie and how that’s short
for a name i was never graceful enough for, how
i tell myself stories of lives i’ll never live so i
can go to sleep
because when i’m really gone, that’s all that’ll be left
(it’s funny what people
try to justify with words)
you never loved me,
you selfish thing, i wonder why
i wasted so many nights relivin
SurrealismThree a.m., and
God is in my bathtub
a freshwater moon
in the mother-of-pearl sky.
effortI have tried and tried
to love you,
to pluck my feelings
into a riotous swell of emotion
like plucking a song
from a superfluity of strings.
but my heart is not a harp.
I have tried and tried
to draw out something sonorous,
from its chambers, but all I can manage
is a desperate clanking,
an occasional mechanical groan.
I have no aria to show
for my efforts,
no concerto or orchestral score
all I have is a blinding headache
and a hopeless exhaustion.
I was not built for this.
I lost my voice one day. I woke up to a hollow echo in the base my throat and knew I’d lost something special before I’d ever had a chance to say anything worthwhile. I checked under the bed and tried the lost and found, but couldn’t even ask if anyone had heard it lately.
I found my voice one day. I took long walks with silent friends, made travel plans and came home tired but fulfilled. I pulled a pen from the junk drawer, or sat down at a keyboard, or bought a journal on a whim and found it curled up around my fingers, sleeping, rusty, but alive.