Smokers

I swiped
the MasterCard through and through
The receipt waved in the air
of the beat up air conditioner
Flew out of my hand

Slipped out like
velvet skin of a wild thing
looking for a small space
to squeeze into

On the wall opposite
was an upside down crucifix
At the register a woman
who looked like she smelled
like Shepherd’s pie
I trusted her

She gave me my room key
Led me to my motel room
Opened the door for me
and switched on the lights

On the orange carpet
Were abandoned painting frames
And the walls covered
in rectangular stains
lighter than the walls

The woman made a tisk sound
as she edged away:
“Smokers.”

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What should I do

When I was born
My father bought my mother
A single red rose
With a long stem
For which he was charged extra
And it lays pressed
After all these years
In a book by their bedside

What should I do now
With the white rose
You gave me
That I pressed,
in an empty journal,
whose brown stem sticks out
Like a prodding finger
In the sunlight
On this never used writer’s desk
Facing to guard all the light
of the high windows
Like a ship’s bow

White is for sick people, I said.

Home

The specter of the fat, black, woman medium
Voice high pitched
Serving thoughts back to you
on a beat

As though the history of a people
Survives in the belly
Of a woman
Safely protected by the walls of her house
Her intuition
Worthy of currency

Threesome

I am in power
because I am the one
walking behind the woman in front of me
on this side walk
I would be uncomfortable if I was her
I would be wondering if the person behind me
is staring at my ass
And I am
staring at her ass

The similarities between us
are ridiculous
We both have long, wavy, brown hair
We both have long legs
We are both skinny
We both have an average ass

In the slow traffic beside us
A guy in a black truck leans across
his steering wheel
He looks over his sunglasses
like he just saw a flamingo
walking the streets

I wonder which one of us
he’s checking out

Or is our double presence the miracle?

 

White Matter

This is the washboard
where you laid out my brain
like a Persian rug

You unrolled it
like your tongue
A long, slender thing
Large enough to wrap a body in
and carry, hostage lover, away

This here is the grey matter
If you spread your hands across further:
My brain–warm jelly you delight to grasp,
in your right hand the soap,
You will reach the white matter
Distressed into the flower pattern
The center piece
where my almost dead body was housed
The edges
are small, square repetitions
of this pattern

Like my thoughts
Multiplied
All paths firing together
Connected to one pulsing picture in the middle
They call out:
Are you lying to me?

Are you?
Are you lying to me?

Though you have tried
to render me
immobile through time
I exist still in memories
Where you did not occupy my every hour
Poke here, with a blunt scalpel
and I’ll remember

And here, I’d like to think
Although I can never assume to know
is the brain stem
A small bouquet
of daisies
Like hope, finding me carefree
On a Sunday

Where I wrote poems to myself
When I lost both pen and paper to you
Almost understood desperation to mean
using my skin and nails

In this part of my brain I knew
Every time I wrote a poem
Saying these are my deepest desires
These are the words I thought
I was launching
out of a tree house like a paper-cup telephone
to a friend’s house next door
sometime in the thick of July

Only to find the distance
was across a land-mark bridge
with a sunken middle
in a mist of the century

This is where I knew
We do not have a common enemy
You, with a mouth that yawns at tears
Are the enemy

His Name

I could not speak his name
The name that must not be spoken
in the act of love
I counted the letters of his name
with my fingers
Could not say it in full
until I was set free

I resent you not for throwing me
like a gumball
across these four walls
But for making me witness a reality
in which all men are the same

She called me
to reveal you
His fiancé of two years, she said
Girlfriend of seven

In that moment I was not just myself
I was also her
The other woman
Or in actuality the first woman
If rank ever mattered
In laughing lies

And in my funniest moments
I was her
as I dressed for the day
I did not feel my own pain
but imagined hers
Like a drunk vaudeville
Flew around my apartment
Mimicking her grief
Shame
Dissapointment
The words she would practice
for her parents

I have a family too,
I said to you
I too
have a mother
whose heart breaks
each time
more than mine

I’m left
Holding onto memories
As though they will prolong my life
The deeper I can trace them

Divorced from their own desires
In a universe
where one is
impossibly altruistic

 

B.A.B.Y.

How does an immortal heart bleed?

Every day
Slowly
Like my mother’s
And her mother’s before her

The thing is
My love
I do not need
A particular set of eyes
To see I am beautiful
Wise
Intuitive
Different

I am already these things
To be seen by you is not simply
For you to see me

It is one thing to know me
It is a a blanket of time
incompressible by a vacuum
To feel me

And they want to feel me
Why wouldn’t they? This body?
These eyes?
These elegant hands
They all say how much they like it when
the light hits my eyes
They catch it mid-conversation
And suddenly my words take a back seat

Is that romance?

Dear wolves,

I know you travel in packs
Moving unseen
And wander away sometimes
To groom me

But every wolf is sometimes a dog
Is that why you are afraid of me
Because you were loyal for a day?

I am sitting here again
Under a lampshade
in my lonely, new apartment
Trying to deny the urge
To act like a god
To be a person
A person is a body with boundaries
And yet what else is left
But forgiveness?