before I moved to Boulder,
I developed a very good working
relationship with the Harris Teeter
in Ghent. I would do my local grocery shopping there,
pretty regularly, dividing my cart into half:
stealing that half and paying for the rest.
this is how people who have fifteen dollars
and a drinking problem live.
they neatly divide what is worth
paying for and what is worth ignoring,
letting go, stealing or conning.
when I moved to Boulder,
I developed a good working
relationship with the Whole Foods
but I cut my teeth stealing bike lights from
Target so that my partner and I
could go places at night.


I showed him how to pocket
toothpaste as mine was homemade
of bentonite clay and I am doting,
if not simply peacocking
about my bold chase of everything.
I showed him how to pocket the
Kombucha and show up to
meetings with it in hand like
it had no alcohol,
like I didn’t pocket the lip
gloss either.
when I moved to Philly,
I developed a good working
relationship with every Whole Foods
in the area.

I want to be remembered for the
ways I never died,
not for the ways my mouth
looked shut in meetings
every time an old white man
repeated an aphorism I have yet
to swallow: you are only as
sick as your secrets.

I want to be remembered as a
passing silhouette in your
night or the arms that
held you finally
so long as you know
my pockets are heavy
like chests.
so long as you
like little gifts
now and then.

in Colorado,
his name was (redacted).
I am passing 3rd street unaware
of my hands withering,
clutching my phone.
another bad habit of mine,
not wearing gloves and never
placing my hands in
my jeans or coat pocket
or any warmth.
I’m always fiddling or
adjusting the volume.


he was very young and
wide eyed and used to doodle
through meetings,
watching the layers of people
shift in their seats, gathering
outlines with his pencil.
I would try to peek
to see how he made them and
who he most favored
knowing my cheekbones were perfect
but some things are more discreet and I
said hi to him only if I passed
him but mostly enjoyed the thrill
of picking a home group full
of freshman in college,
the perversion of me
unfolding like that,
so uninhibited in my quest
for sobriety and undivided
attention

spreading my
legs in the chair
in my turtleneck dress and
brown tights betting they could
smell my fever from here.
three children catch me muttering
and smile.      they watch
my fingers curve around an object,
then divide as I tap each tip
with my thumb like
I’m counting.
they are thinking
I have secrets,
not that I am crazy
because children see parallel
lines.

one time,
he kept his eyes closed as everyone
in the circle shared.
when it was my turn, he popped
them back open and stared
the length of my story
like he had come here for this.
I was too confused to make
direct contact with him;
this being so flagrant
and sudden, I fluster
with bold advances
preferring to be the aggressor
not the pursued;
not the doe in the reticle
but the bear from behind.
I spent one whole year fantasizing
about him.

not lured by his youth
which makes him easy to command
but the way he was clearly taken
by me, his obvious insouciance,
and his right to be that way,
being only eighteen and
forced here to survive
among such alphas.
such witches with prowess
and skill and eight years
of drowning, emerging.

the children notice my
mouth moving as I walk down the
street, reviewing.
they all think I am writing about
them. I am writing about a cloud
I passed once.
cry cry cry and then
just start fucking laughing,
I say out loud
so the ten year old widens
her eyes
as she passes
not alarmed at the way
I keep touching things,
but the way I say fuck
in front of them so
unabashedly and in the
middle of the story like
we’d been talking this
whole time.

“xxx #1”

I learned to drift
young and
listened to my Papa’s
stories, my aunt’s stories,
the whole family telling stories
and I learned to joke
too. it’s about knowing
what people respond to
but also a dauntlessness.
everyone in my family
laughed big and loud,
smoking cigarettes sitting around
the picnic table,
a pretty red wood covered
with some tawdry pear-slathered
yellow and cream plastic cloth
made to absorb ketchup
and beer cans everywhere.
the empty ones there for butts.
and bottles of Coke in giant
two liters   their tan slender fingers
and the confidence of lighting up.
I perfected the flick of an ash
off the end of a burning cigarette
long before I held one.

it’s ninety percent the way
your neck looks when you’re listening
and ten percent what you say
when you finally move to
enter the game.
I learned to grift too.
there were many ways.
more about fun then–
just how to sneak out
at night to grab cigarettes
from the bowling alley cigarette
machine; a preposterous
thing but came in handy.
I would sometimes crawl out of
my bedroom window,
my bed right beneath it and
able to slide the screen right open
without breaking it,

it was easier then the back door.
I had to tiptoe.
we had thin walls.
I slept with my door shut,
pitch black and covered with
pillows scared of my closet.

sometimes we took beer from my friend’s
parents cooler,
or candy pocketed from 7-11
or lip gloss from Eckerd’s
or something from a man’s house,
anything really.
I liked to take photographs of them
and items of clothing to smell
before they leave me.
sometimes I would stare at the pictures
he left out on his dresser
suddenly. not sure if they were planted
or just forgotten as he
offered me a shot of tequila on
his barracks colored carpet;
that off-white every sailor had;
stained with Friday nights
and teenage vomit.
movie ticket stubs falling
out of my coat pocket.
I always took my shoes off
out of politeness even though
I could see the scrape of dirt
from welcome mat to
cot and today:


a picture of him and his wife
on the rocks on the coast
of San Diego,
a card she left him,
something in spanish.
I would listen to the CDs he played
on repeat to get over her, later
alone, more holding the sting
and the shattering way
it felt forced to be fucked
to music like that.
fascinated that grief can transcend
between two people, same song,
two different ways.
two different meanings.

where are you running to now?

I’m at Lehigh and 2nd
giving a man directions
to the 15 stop and he is asking
me where I am going.
I have no job or friends,.
but tons of antique wood
furniture and I kind of nod
to myself without answering him,
just keeping that buoyancy of
knowing that

acquiring objects is half the battle.
the other half is unearthing.


“walls #1”

what will you hold
in your old age?
me in the dark, feeling
the railing as I crawl
up the steps to my
king-sized bed
and the dogs that lie
there peacefully.

and feeling lucky:
the memory of a
southern thunderstorm;
it’s bristles of electricity
that made the hair stand up on
my forearms.

listen to the rain.
this house has no trinkets
but there are journals buried under
the floorboards and one
framed picture on the wall:
the four of us,
young  and laughing
like we had

promise.

“dementia #1”

ah, a whole day of cravings
I curbed. feeling lighter
here.  drinking coffee out of
blue and yellow porcelain cups,
how it sustains and suppresses
an appetite: drinking a beverage
out of a beautiful mug as if
that’s all you’re right to hold;
a burst of anxiety.

I am cataloging
food as it relates to money.
the less I consume,
the more I save for
other things.
I do not tell my partner
how little I am eating;
merely thin myself
like I’ve always earned
to be a paper waif.
and just kind of
feather.

I realize that my bank account has
nothing in it for the third time in
my life. these are things that haunt
you as they stand,
not later.
the way you cradle the welcome
gift from his mother,
these dishes, these pots:
tangerine and carnation
yellow, and red bowls.
red plates.
you felt the edges of the sink and saw
something else in the townhouse.

you hated the stairs that cut through the center
but when he left
you loved the space,
and the backyard lined with
green safety fence,
chicken wire he held up to show
me, ways to keep the cat safe
inside.
these are things that haunt
as they stand.
I began to pluck out all
the crabgrass in the tiny
backyard by hand, no gloves,
appreciating how quickly
my skin callouses,
the encasement for my
straws today holding utility,
the parable of clearing;
the way you threw away the
windchime and its broken shells
littering the ground like it
meant nothing to you now:
a childhood emblem.


all the ways I’ve entered
contracts on a whim,
the things I’ve collected
and the interminable slam
as I show my thorns,
me. I’m beginning again
to talk to ghosts
in the corridor.

“doors #1”

 

seventeenth set is most definitely
about you. I diverge
from any given task
when I am suddenly feeling

heartbroken
and really I do hope;
the crux of all disappointment
is the expectation and I want
(is an understatement)
to be seen without pressure.
I hope you find all this gaucherie
amusing.

I find it excruciating
to long and wait,
to even stand
near a thing I admire.
I like starting things,
putting them out.
penalty.
ree-per-cush-in,
the easiest thing I learned
was the alphabet and how to 

string sounds together
like narratives,
to read.
ree-purr-cusi-sion
is what I crave.
my mother rushed me to
the sink at five years
old; I laid my finger
flat on the side of
the metal barrel,
it was full of leaves
and burning.

as we removed evidence
of the crisp and
precipitous October,
my mother noticed
my gaze, said “Sarah,
do not touch it” and then
I touched my finger
to the flame.
it was the brilliant orange
that drew me and force,
contained like that
right here in our backyard.
shapeshifting to a final
face like
me, armed with words,
a hot knife
and all warmed up,
having sliced through
tendon before  and you just
suddenly
seeing me form the language
of concision,
the succinctness of
one scream:

crisp and precipitous,
and you just
suddenly
soft like warm butter.

“repercussion”

 

I want to believe that good
things happen to good people;
the missing garage,
the missing shed,
the missing money.
I want to wave my hands over
my ancestral nothing
to show them
they’re wrong.
I can’t shake the way a woman
abandoned my grandmother in a
Hungarian orphanage.
the way my mother told me
that was the way of the times,
the way I’ve been expected to thrive:
my grandma learning English as
she arrived,
my grandfather watching his mother committed
to a hospital, young,
signs of dementia,
his father running,
him only speaking Polish
upon arrival. I want to
believe that they knew
without language, simply
the first way they held each other
at night.

and I want to stop crying.
my friend says, they always come
back and I have evidence of it too.
I lost a hundred dollar bill
the other day and laughed.

it means nothing to me now.

 

“grief part 6”

I’ll remember you as a
long desire;
intangible, a
carnation sunset
leaking out of me.
And the keeling over
later, the aftershock:

cramp, the bite
in self preservation;
survival and the
slow repetition of
phrases cementing
the indelibility;
the dormant  rage in
prophecy.

you only get pregnant once.

then I become the squalling
daughter and you
become the thorn.

“Liliana” or “grief pt 8”

my interest was
social experimentation.
it’s why I went to college.
I  wanted to be educated on the ways
to manipulate small crowds
and because of my naivete,
I did not realize at first
that my interest in slightly
sociopathic
behavior was a reflection
and that I find,
truthfully,  serial killers
to be undeniably weak
in their compulsion.

they are artless megalomaniacs.
you could just as easily garden
with the same amount of torrid wonder.
learn to grow nightshade and then
plant it all over town
in places where people smell
flowers and pick weeds for each
other.
but these are men and
they have to be known.
I’ve always had to cross my
legs.


Mrs. Shepherd said you
cannot bet on things that talk,
Sarah, when I interjected to
share my observation that
the same formulas can be applied to people
when presenting with the same patterns over time.
they would be seen as a fixed event
because they have not wavered in
reliability yet.

another time I stated calmly to
my ethics class that the best way to enforce
a law to ensure it gets a message across
is to just begin enforcing it.
if you believe in the death penalty
the best way to slice it
is to make a black and a white clause;
no matter what the circumstances,
calculated homicide will put you
in the electric chair and then they
wouldn’t quibble so much with semantics.

 

the first girl to shoot her hand up
was the most riled by my
callous eyebrow lift and when
she presented to me a law and order episode
where the murderer was a child,
I said kill the child.
“events #1”

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