it’s in front of the Christmas tree
one week before you die,
alone and panicked by the
thought of mustering;
both mettle & words,
staring at white-frosted plastic;
pine dotted with uniform red balls
when I feel it.

it’s like cracking cement.

the tree only has two colors–
silver and red.
the ornaments of my childhood
gone; the plastic reindeer
that draped  like garland,
the candy cane painted with my
gold-glitter name down the center,
the felt snowman;
kind of gray,
stained by my cinnamon
bun fingers and cigarette smoke,
all lost with my yearbooks
and the oil painting of my mom.
the first and only letter
you ever wrote me
taken by the asbestos garage.
by the moisture from the dripping
ceiling,  by the mold.
by poverty: my enslaver.

I’ve been writing this for you
for about ten years
waiting for the day I’d be
by your bed to read the ending.
when my bargaining starts.
    (it’s just one breath)

this is where the poem begins. 

  1. (dad)

 i’ll remember you distant.
back turned save
the way you had to face
me momentarily
(when I was actually pleading),
your fingers laced
with blade to turn.
“I told you to…”

I’ll remember you as quietly
despotic and into yourself.

you’ll remember me as panic
unpassing, bleeding; a 

frenetic champion of unfurling
without witness,
your rival Phoeniix,
more quiet than you think
but less likely to withhold
my secret passion,
years practiced and likely earned.


got the agrimony and
ague root to prove it.
got the mirror laid.
old Hellebore & Belladonna
drawn in menstrual blood.
got a stone of yours,
your new name written clearly.
got a real belly laugh going.
got something that only gets
better with tantrum,
pain unbalanced,
time and space
(and pressure)

 to ruminate on ways unheard.

got something fixated;
an impulse
dressed with hearty
vengeance,dash of
cayenne pepper and
fresh dried herb.

“black magic”

but i’m a martyr for this,
I crave
repercussion;

even self-abnegation
needs an audience
or else it’s just plain masochism
                  lonely and caustic
without the gentle recompense,
the moist poultice,
the final amends:
the touch of her
sadist’s fingertips
after she laid her.

all cathedrals use pain as payment
and my crucifixion,
while self inflicted;
is just as spilling brook,
and baneful.
my bloodletters will wash
the splashes from my feet,
take their time
with each laceration;

stitch
my gashes
into temples.

“Lilith”

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.

deep breath.

I carry tempest in my
lungs,  a cold black murmur
that hooks it hums
in earthworms and writhes
to surface after rains
winding street lamps to
devour them like dirt cake.
I hit the corner as
you are walking up.


the light goes out
and somewhere near
a tire screeches drowned
by the sharp inhale
you take when
a cyclist scrapes his tire
on a criss-crossed track
and spins into a tumble
that splits his helmet
on a bumper and someone
screams: are you ok?
(this city is full of
accident lately).
I stand still on
the flashing yellow,
not afraid but respectful.
your hands are clenched
in pockets waiting for
the red, face turned away.


I’d been walking slowly,
wearing cotton sundress and
consenting saunter.
a practice.
my hips are wide,
lips are pursed and
I am quiet, light and
diffusive but lucky for this
place mostly mired in
my own insides.
there are twelve dogs
with meat in their eye
nearby choking on their
collars.

I am wearing a blue alyssum
in my hair but
you will know me either
by my touch
if in enough of a rush and
close proximity to brush
an elbow with a thumb,
or the sudden sun I permit:
open laughter near your
chin, grabbing you
with force,
inordinate apology
for the accidental brush
and really everything,
moist I’m sorry spills over
my freshly-done, pink
velvet lips as we collide.
wait for green or
similar direction.
there are sirens in the distance.
I open my mouth
to say this city is full
of accident lately,
isn’t it?

you?
you will know me by
my fang-toothed smile.

“morphic resonance”

I think at some point
you have earned the right to say
I know already because you lived it
without acquiescing to
objective authority. 

I asked to see it first:

the river’s mouth,
the sky bordered in torrent and
my envisaged pout,
my omniscient frown.
even though they said
I’d never make it,
it’s been a lot this far.
two fucked knees but
a back strong from bundle
an
d

I never said I didn’t
deserve it,
just that I could outrun it
if they gave it.

“the flood”

this was years ago.
the first time I told them about it.
sitting on the edge of the bay
on a borrowed blanket, 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.
taken by the dirt under my thumbnail,
the coil of a plastic straw and
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 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,
nails in my skin,
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,
budding inability to swallow (we’re there)
blood. blood. a girl that follows me
and only me, everywhere.
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,
(despite your fear of frozen lakes,
we advise you when the time comes–
between Australia and Alaska,
Alaska will be more safe):

do you like warnings or do you
like to drown?

“warnings”


get some rest,
girl,
it’s the
Four of Swords.
they say I must be
heedless to dabble in the
dark like that
and unarmed.

more unthinking;
a fiery capricious
tantrum,
stabbed in the fucking back
and fingers naturally
pointy and
webbed as things
develop into theory,
into pentacles,
into air.
time is a sequence of
cracking joints, more
misfortune and now 

I blend into the wall
when I want and you will
know me by
eyes popping open,
or my purr of a
low growl,
low to the ground,
undaunted in my
new soft black
steps.

you just hang there.

“Arachne”

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”

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