I got a nine millimeter, I say,
casually, waving my hand over the wooden
board. hidden in this house.
I got this house lined with weapons
since the first warning.

I place the orange butcher knife
on the linoleum counter,
scraps of tomato still clinging so
I can
scoop the slug up from beneath the
dishwasher and put him
back in the shade.
he follows me out.
we are both easily distracted.

we were having vegan charcuterie
and he is drinking chardonnay.
with me it’s always
something, plentiful,
homemade.
he’s seen half my knife collection
now and every inked guard;
the other half tucked in various places.
I gestured to the antique table,
to the pepper spray,
the hammer by the door.
I point out the ants
lining the sink.

swathed with charms,
I can’t kill a thing
and half the town has figured it out.
I wear my arms in
muscle, others’ biceps.
keep them around cuz
I can’t kill a thing
and half the town has figured
it out. point to the baseball bat.
show him my pearly growl.
this is where the poem begins

we both eye the slug moving
through the garden
til he disappears.
I begin pointing out
webs.
it’s 7:42 pm,
88 degrees and
the sun is out,
my shoulders dark.
we are both tan,
hurt, a possible onslaught
if we were not otherwise
stuffed and I am practicing

silence,
sitting on my bench.
we are two inches from each
other and I can’t help but
melt when the cool breath
hits my left cheek.
I’m plucking at the hem.
he grabs my hand
to stop my ticking.
what’s that?
he says.

this is where the poem begins.

“doors #9”

carried little pieces of God
everywhere;
got a pint sized celestite
I broke off and now
twirled in my fingers.

I am surrounded by men
who are wolfish in detonation
but repenting for a lifetime
of substance abuse
so we nod when they say
things that are aptly
reflected instances in which
they felt a guilt greater
than themselves.
they usually begin with things
like
I took advantage of her
and I cross my legs.

I am wearing brown tights, brown
heeled boots and a cream turtleneck
sweater dress.  my hair is
short, uncombed and strange
and I am mostly plain.
I wear light blush, mascara and
chapstick but I don’t spend all
day about it.
it is important as a woman
to catalogue what you were wearing
and how you generally look
in any moment.
also I had gained some weight
first, before I  discovered that
counting beans will gain you
phone bill money.
when you tell the audience the story
they can gauge reaction better.
were you homely, girl?

I was neither homely nor
exceptional,
merely watching the blue chips
of nail polish flake onto
the floor as he spoke
about his trespasses
against women,
finding my hands to be urgent
suddenly.

 “doors #6”

and i think I may be
interminably detached from anyone
not blood,
but that ain’t the half of it.
y’all should know,
(so I’m writing it)

I don’t stand a chance against the curse
but I jump
once I hear the word
run.

to try.
I have never abandoned anyone.

“This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor
– then the letting go –”

–Emily Dickinson

IV. (home)

I tell them,
I am not writing about the men
you see unless it’s
my
dead dad

and
my
dead brother.

abandonment?
who me?
wearing my father’s knit
NY Giants cap and
bereaving, stripped,
replaying the final moment:
hand held, eye contact,
the knowing I had and decision
to forgo a flowery speech.
elision.
the last thing my father and I ever
said to each other was
I love you


before I left,
palms on the linoleum,
sobs held,
bargaining,
one more Christmas.

it’s brevity a poet seeks.

  1. (love)

and I think
I may be a masochist,
an undervalued trait of mine.

you are about five neighborhoods
away reading this and I
am heart felt, knee sunk
in one lost picture;
black and white snapshot
of the first rollercoaster I rode.
my father accompanied me,
and recalling when he went too
fast on the jet ski
knocking us both into the water,
two booming laughs,
it is the drugs that got us,
the suicide,
the dementia,
there’s nothing left.

but I held your hand in earnest
and exchanged a look.
I didn’t hug you during the
pandemic.
I try not to think
of these acts of
care as anything but that
but inconsolable,
bereft,
heavy cement cracked,
it comes for me as
failure.

II. (sadist)

I put my headphones in.

begin to spin the happy thought
into years; of us.
your brusqueness
  it’s just one breath
syncopated with whatever song
I assign it like I walked
into a film set; replay a scene
of you coming back and
behind me, your mouth
hot with acrimony.
your hands rough in
both touch from the ungloved carpentry,
spackled with white paint
and the way
you take my waist.
I hum out loud.
the loop is what I have to
worry about.
the way you press your teeth
to me.
        it’s just one breath.

“the men”

 you never ask about my mornings
or daydreams; just
twirl the edge of your Merit
between your thumb
and pointer and
years of pleasurable
silence, 
  it’s just one breath
look at me with such
masked inconsequence,
cold front and
lick whatever sugar is stuck to
my teeth,

go back to your lighter.
go back to your preoccupations.
go back to your opinion
that my anarchy is the danger of the
couple, not your ability
to wrap your fist around a throat
without a safety word.

it’s rent I have to worry about.

III.

i’m counting tokens in a
donated tank top and barely
fitting jean shorts, everything about me
awkward and also sort of heavy in
the impassable space between states
I learned to love,
between beds I’ve been thrown on
and various seasons of us;
theorized or touched
whether it’s real or not,
irrelevant to the curve that’s forming
in my back as I hunch over the weight
of things I stuff in my bookbag
that I find on my walks out:
China set, forks, two new mini
skirts, pot holders neatly placed in
cardboard boxes on people’s
front porches and  I am,

crammed with charity,
stretched to my limit
and timorous.
I’m two miles to the El
with enough tokens to get me there
and back and enough money to pay
exactly
one phone bill,

one internet bill,
power and gas but we are still
working the rest out and
I feel drops forming at
the base of my
sweaty and salt-lined,
un-licked neck.
thats’s what I miss most.
the way a man curls behind you.
the way his curtness catches you.
it’s just one breath.

II.

I just have to make rent.

this is how thoughts start
and then ten years go by
and you’re still spiraling
like you hadn’t found the answer
but really I just
had to make rent.
that was my first priority

and I think I may be a masochist
which could wait just
keep everything in some sort of order.
focus on the task.
the one thought as I open
the door to the mid-August heat,
89 degrees which is nothing compared to
the south that can swallow you whole
in one boiling breeze and I’m out of
my now near empty row home
that you cleaned almost all the way
out before you left
except the dirty armchair, old couch–
all the furniture found.
all the dishes donated.
everything I left come back,
everything kind of circuitous 

like my anfractuous spine
that stood straight once but
fractured under the weight
of this constant need to materialize
public ovation and actual groceries and
the ability to discern between a happy
thought and an actual hand to hold,
I become the reed reaching deep
but bent,
sinuous,
cracked.

I.

I used to
leave class
in high school,
go to the bathroom stall
and masturbate whenever
I let dirty thoughts
build too long.
usually it wasn’t
the subject of the class
but the way a boy
brushed my sleeve
on the way to pick up
the beakers.

I used to ask men
to reach under blankets
at house parties
and touch me.
my shorts not so
tight they couldn’t
be pushed to one side.
I used to pay their
way in when there
was a cover,
crawl up
their stomachs,
my mouth smelling
of Bud Light and
cigarettes and smiling
bright asking them
if they were still seeing
Mariel and if they wanted
to reach under the
blankets.

I always had a spare
five dollars on hand,
at least three cigarettes
and a way to materialize
fire, a way to morph
into lap cat
for whomever I
craved.  my name
is a whispered name.
a baleful sweep
of syllable in halls.

“the rooms”

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