only two days ago
your hands circled my throat
to toss me on the bed.
still dutiful,
merely dotted with color,
I am on my way
to pick up a bag of cutlery and dishes
for our house from the front porch
of a stranger’s
when I stop to admire the cracks
in the side of the building.
the wall is coral, faded but
garish,  still stands out.
it’s brick and

this building has no doors and
one broken window.
each time I run an errand,
these defects catch my eye
and I pay my respects in
photographs.
I’m trying to get my memory back:
      stopping at each one,
trying to remember how the boulders
haunted too      how the ocean felt
on my wasted ankles at dusk when I guzzled
vodka Big Gulps and watched the
white crabs roam the bay.
watched myself dissolve into
the bits of me and can I remember
how the sunset looked draped over both
tide and flatirons,
hold two things at once
without favor?
how it feels to lose several
small countries you claimed.


the way men have held me:
(invaded)
all claws of resplendent mortar
and cracking at the edges
even with the scrape of thumb.
I snap a picture of the broken
glass pane and the beginning of
the first layer peeling into
white; the fissure.
trace my finger
over a chip and watch
it flake onto the sidewalk.
snap a picture of
that with my boot
in the corner of the frame.
things to remember us
by: namely,

the way
things have
left me after once
holding me inside;
cracked, split,

unable to safely hold someone
inside
but repainted a bright shade
for the pleasant gazes of
unknowing passersby.

“doors (#3)”

ah, a whole day of cravings
curbed. feeling lighter,
drinking coffee out of
gifted blue and white porcelain cups,
enjoying as it sustains and suppresses
an appetite.
I am cataloging
food as it relates to money.
the less I eat.
the more I save for
other things.
I do not tell my partner
this; merely produce
cash for electricity,
merely thin myself
like I’ve always earned
to be a paper waif.
just kind of
feather away.

realize that my bank account has
nothing in it for the third time in
my life.
the way I cradle the welcome
gifts from his mother,
these dishes, these pots:
all bright tangerine or
carnation yellow, and
red bowls.
red plates.
orange sequined quilt
across the bed.
care for them like they are
children.

she decorated the place while we were out
“making meetings.”
hung a portrait of a pineapple
in the kitchen.
he reminds me
none of this is yours.


I hated the stairs that cut through the center
and the backyard, too small
now lined with green safety fence,
chicken wire, he held up to show
me.  ways to keep the cat
safe inside.
months later, I will
take it down,
pluck out all of
the crabgrass in the tiny
backyard by hand, no gloves,
appreciating how quickly
my skin calluses,
the encasement for my
straws but utilitarian today,
productive today,
making things happen today.
the way I threw away the
windchime and its broken shells
littering the ground like it
meant nothing to me:
a childhood emblem I’d
had since I was eight,
tossed in a large black
carpenter bag.

none of this is mine.


all the ways I’ve entered
contracts on a whim,
the things I’ve collected
and the interminable slam
of a door or my body
as I show my thorns.
I’m remembering
every step I’ve ever
taken; steep,
knees fractured,
ribs protruding,
crippled by both indecision
and unabating pacing.

and don’t forget
the time he slammed you
on the bed.

“doors #1”

I spent years
counting the silhouette
lines of my cell
on the wall
and twirling,
perfecting a
curtsy, repeating myself to
the bricks daily. 


wear a bullseye–
sheer blouse, the outline
of the areola glinting
from their truculent marks–
tongue-tip spit and a bite.
I’m invisible in doses

           when the maiden turns mother
but before that, I’m followed.


a car the other night and
the others on foot
yelling something about my legs.
           when the mother is hungry
tiny shorts cuz it’s August.
my massage therapist placed
his dick on my hand
(again).
tiny breaths.

                   any complaint from the woman

being forced to touch a cock
while im bent over puking;
that memory always comes back
second, and so does
being fucked without
“literally any consent.”
is the way I say it to him.
drunk.
tiny ruffle in covers
passed out in his bed.

                        any affirmation that doesn’t start with yes
                                      can no be an affirmation?
                                  yes,
                                        when it affirms your rejection of men

I have persistent, swallowed panic.
stomach problems.
the words histrionic
when I show any emotion.
inward disorder and
grief, heavy like 

my dad is dead.
my brother is dead.

my house is lined with crickets, asbestos
and mold so the pets all had
tumors.   squishy walls, broken trim
and no one will touch
the pipes.
my mom doesn’t remember the time we
watched the moon dance,
or the word for channel.

he wants to know I’m not faking it.
my first memory was me
being forced to try on outfits
for some guy 

until  he patted my day bed,
bent me over.
raped me.
he waves his hand
curtly and interrupts:
that’s why you’re so sexual.
as if I have never existed
without the shadow outline
of men surrounding me,
stone, corralling
and unresponsive
like bars to a cell. 

and don’t overthink
my outfits because
sometimes I wear head
to toe sweats,
bare face,
hair freshly bladed
so there’s nothing
to grab, to hold
to bend.

“Rage”

January 5, 2014 and we
have arrived in
North Philadelphia.
the first thing I notice
isn’t the black plastic bags
lining the blocks or the
Auspicious Coin Laundry Service
sign boxed in blue lights
but the way you don’t
seem to look at
me and the way I seem
to blend in with the
tan upholstery of the
passenger seat
even though I am
wearing a bright red
turtleneck,
coughing, asking
if this is where we are
going to live and practicing
pronouncing
K e n s i n g t o n.

mired in the habit
of saying everything I think
aloud without
expectation.
of tapping a finger on
my thigh. of checking
time, twisting a plastic
straw in my hand and
fading.

something building
in my chest;
emergent waves
pounding at the
sternum like
irate knocks
when they want to
be sobs then
fading.

“hypothymia”

they say I talk too much
and I’m inclined to agree.
perhaps I’ll
sew my chapped lips shut,
show them the scorpion etched
on my shoulder
first and no one
has ever seen my childhood home.

but I’m compromised
by the simple fact I think
I might be a ghost so I’m
always checking mirrors
and calling 911, waiting for
the fireman to touch my arm.
they say
“your leg is not numb, ma’am.”

but I can’t be sure so I make
him touch it again.

one trick is never tell them
anything. I like my men
to think I wait in lonely
cave: ache
and pray for them.
palms clasped and reverent,
sort of rocking like that.
real southern too.
just sort of worshiping
the idolatry of shadow.
please.
they make me repeat it:
please. and thanks
for everything.


my men remember me
incessantly and always
cut out of starry dough:
soft, head half-cocked
looking up at them
with servitude but
sideways like I’m
about to laugh,
then me in my day skirt,
hair covered and
muttering.
candle lit or twenty seven
if I’m out of time.
devout.
pocket full of them.

what a violent question.

you’re sunburned,
gone for weeks without
inquiry and now
a wash of here:
forehead fervid,
a humid wind clasping
the back of the choker
while your left hand lifts
my skirt.
thighs are soft,
reminiscent,
it’s the skin that brought
you back, isn’t it?
what’s that?
you say,
looking at the blue and
black ring of shadow mouth
above my  birthmark.

it’s the way your jaw
bulges as you bite your
ocean tongue
that was just kept safe
and wet under me
before you begin to
pull the clasp rope
til the emerald center
pushes hard against  the
front of my throat
almost as if you are going to
bring the stone inside me
that proves it.
and please,

what a violent question,
love. 


“Five of Wands”

My entire life has been informed by the space between us. 

There is the distance of my language and there is the distance of my touch.  Across the room but glowing. The warmest I’ll get is further away. 

They’ve memorized the muscles of my back

my pout and the echo of my cry-filling cavern
carved by the sound of my heels tapping;
retreating. Longing, and the way I succumb to holding, or allowing touch; recrudescent and poxed by them after a period of silence. Tarred by them after a period of respite. Not long enough. A period of cavern. Them, memorizing the color of my shoulder blades in the sun: tall and olive and taut from tension. Desperate for the light of distance. Spoked.  Tall, and wrought with tension.

 I am strolling. I am even sauntering.  Til I see them, I am strolling, then nothing, then tunnel vision. Emptied, but not quite that: automatic. Spurred by instinct. The pervading eyes and I am (smiling) seeing the space close in around me again. Lifeless, watching the move of my hip go from enriched by dance to torpid.  Dragged by shell. 

I am a shell.

Clench your jaw. Tighten your shoulders.Hip goes from bouncing to dead frozen in nervous. (That means it might shake).  The way there was once twenty feet between us. Suck in and walk straight. Swaying til I saw them.  Don’t trip. Ticking from nerves, looked gaily upwards til I saw them. Don’t look.  A pleasant thought crossed me right before I saw them.  My most pleasant thoughts are false memories.
Reverie.
That means I imagined the most pleasant experience of my life. 

Suddenly there was ten feet (I am smiling), then five feet (in reverie), then one foot. Suddenly the hand on my shoulder, on my middle back, the ubiquitous trail
towards my coccyx.  He towers,

“you’re too pretty.”

  I am smiling. They are a huddled mass.. So many of them with their fingers out
filling the space between us. I am smiling. Smile. They are reaching for me–
trailing their scummy fingernails down my tucked in blouse
and there is nothing underneath or inside of me.
I am vacant but I can hear the chorus, from
my safe distance.

“You are too pretty to frown.”

“the men”

sparkling explosion of
cellophane and
champagne nails
down the
back.
fallen glitter
dances
on a throat:
roving crescent moons
from everywhere a lip hit
and pieces of gold dust
rolled off my eyelids
down my nose.
painted like a porcelain cup;
delicately, glass heart,
handle.

bare mattress,
ripped each corner of
sheet off and
me licking a cheek.
I’m telling him
ghost stories and
eating berries in bed,
mouth filled with laughs.
I’m in an afghan
sinking my teeth into
a very soft and bronzed
shoulder,
straddled with bare feet
and bravado drips from every
inch of me.
and what else?

I’m somewhere else.

I remove the rest of my top
and close my eyes deliberately
to show you the length
of each thorn.
wear my eyes like a hooked rose.
tongue pressed
against your chin,
my lips trace
your jaw       I am softer.
having been tempered
and forced close:
you know,
darling,
let my teeth hit your lip

I have never
become divine without first
becoming storm.

 been learning
performative emotion
to keep the ones I’m fettered
to warm, and to feel their
slippery manacles tease
the tops of my feet
like feathers as they pull
me back.
paint my lashes black


and they’re wet 
and
shaped like little
bolts.

1.

this was years ago.
the first time I told them about it.
sitting on the edge of the bay
on a borrowed blanket,

I was vomiting up
an Everclear Slurpee
and peeling back the bottom
of his parent’s quilt realizing
I had covered the entrance of the
ghost crab’s home.
embroiled in my own
deafening philosophy
about the closing of the day;\
the way it moved–
death,
like an itinerant wave
that followed me
and only me,
everywhere.

I coughed that up second
to tell him
the rituals (pinch the
straw, doll) were there to
keep me safe.

the tide crept back
and I heard him light a cigarette,
felt myself starting to drown again
and then his hand on my thigh,
then nothing at all.
pain subsides in very
miniscule amounts
of time
if  you don’t
repeat the
story.
(do not repeat the story)

my head is eighteen visions a second:
someone getting their face smashed
with a brick, someone getting into
a plane, slicing the skin of my fingers,
blood. blood. blood. blood.
and matching the numbers to the proper
order.    reorganizing mantles.
bleaching my teeth and
every inch of my house.
first, you have to feel safe.
I begin to build the glass
around me.

and turning to you again, I
implore you to pick a title and
stick with it.   for me, I say
cupping your baby soft chin,
(Alaska is safer than Australia):
do you like warnings or do you
like to drown?

“warnings”

Saturdays and the 1 pm
alarm clockon snooze,
the bare-faced evenings
in throw blankets;
languid, but there is still
a rabid tongue
between fits of sudden inspiration.
moved
from sheets to
cushions to sheets
to type it down,
to shower
once a week
if you’ll allow yourself to feel warmth.

graze your chin, scalp,
untouched thighs.
open your chapped lips to the sky.
feel the water rush your neck and
trickle down your navel
to soak your unseen toenails.
do not question anything
for those three whole seconds;
it is the closest thing to orgasm
you can manage.
it has been a tough change in seasons:
costuming yourself with
sincerity, (you’re vulnerable)
tights and boots
and an expansive blankness
that still drives your body around
to pick up soy milk.

finish something you started.

there you are.
some cooing cobra.
the chills that almost ate
me: winter.   several
in a row.
the darkness and
introspection of how
I’ve chosen to succeed,
lone and the two of swords.
thanking my institutions
for showing me how to carve
pure copper into
green or sharp to hold,
the likelihood that two things
look identical enough
to both be chosen,
that I will learn the
ways of mask
and holster. 

there you are.

“rage” or “the fifth wave”

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