what does all of this
mean to you?
wave to no one, fixed
on the corner of
an antlered profile
in the corner of a
smudged mirror.

you say it’s important,
ask me to tell it in
“linear order”
but how can I get away with
things telling stories
with honesty?
I have survived time
and cage and aged
in linear order.
my proof:
          I flex a ripped tricep
endless strength and

 brimming veins
that have learned how to
whistle when your girl
walks by me.

‘the doe”

I just have to make rent.

I read a note out loud to myself,
something I had written in an urgency,
a mania and with its own
staggering precocity these little
messages keep me crawling
on the ledge:
    everything that is really hard
          is going to save your life

and a blackbird landed on the branch
outside my living room
window.
still, their eyes small and
sharp, waiting to dive,
waiting for the buzz of cicadas
to start again.
            that reminds me,

I say in my head
            i’m emaciating.
I take a sip of water.
starved, looking
without touching and
      I want too much
has many meanings.
I read the words aloud again
and pour myself a thimble
of almonds.

it is first that I craft the story,
not out of revenge but
of general idleness and
devilment, the two things
slated to go hand in hand.
I begin to charm him.
                do you believe everything I say?

and then you become the
braced masochist
and I become
the looming hit.

“maelstrom”

what does the word emotionally available mean to you?
my therapist asks me. 

 

it’s nonsense, I think,
no one is ready.
I know my problems.
have taken inventory.
taken a fourth step.
haven’t taken a drink in years.
seen this woman every two weeks
for four of them.
t’s amazing how mired in
a cloud you can be while constantly
checking yourself.
this is the cloud I live in:
of close but never ready.

“I have that effect on people,”
I accidentally say out loud.
what effect?
she asks scrupulously.

 

sometimes I just stop in the middle of things,
realize I am murmuring or gesturing
or five miles past where I need to be.
it’s happened.
my knees are weak.
i’m outside in front of a brick townhouse
with a white bunny on the window and in
light yellow letters it says
“Happy Easter!”
I have no idea what day it is and
I want to take the mask off.
no keep the mask on.
it’s dirty outside.
I used to stick my hands
squarely in mud and
pull up clumps to catch worms.
nothing is ever coming back.
I have that effect on people.
“I can’t believe im gonna fucking live
through this,”I say out loud and a woman
with a chihuahua
walks the other way.
of what?
I hear her say.
what effect?

 

I  really shouldn’t lie this much
I think to myself but I keep going,
keeping appointments,
keeping arrangements.
my thighs burn.
I don’t drink enough water.
I meet him at the corner of 12th and locust.
I keep my mask on.
I don’t extend my hand
but I turn on: a bright
bulb of sanguine excitement.

 

Hi!
I’m Ava Allinger,
the one who emailed you.
I am a nurse at Jefferson
looking for some extra disposable
scalpels.

 

I feel like I should tell my therapist
about the aliases,
and the lies but instead
I just say,

 

I dont know what I mean
and shrug.

 


“the aliases”

I’m obsessed with transition.
the form it takes
in movement and
thrown against a wall;
stalled in its pounce;
sudden landing
without intent.
the motion to freeze,
liquefy.
reabsorbed and to
precipitate or the moment
before, to reform.

and after all that patience
and miles of crouch
through the city,
admiring the syringe tops
and mortar and filling
the jacket lining
with bills and your ardor
growing big and bright
and pulling things towards you
like the moon
to be suddenly seized
by your habits again.

 

when I walked into the room
I saw you again.
you offered to show me upstairs
right away, ushering me with
your hand on my lower back
and I heard your voice
behind me, concerned:
  watch your step

it’s just one breath,
that’s all it takes.

 

“the men” or “the loop”

if you shrunk her to the
size of a pine needle
and try to remember her true
stature first: platformed boots,
four inches taller than she really
is and towering some men
not just in height but in
loquaciousness, abrasiveness
and hid her in the bunk of
a barn underneath the bales,
I don’t know,
he waves his hands,
for revenge.
you could even tape her mouth
shut, quell the squawking thing,

I bet
she would shine like a comet;
self immolate, ignite herself and
begin to set the barn on fire
so you could find her.
I bet;

I would bet yes every time
that even hidden like a penny
in a cornfield
she’d make sure you found her.

“how guys save me in their phone #8”

this is fresh.
like the last word
someone said
or you losing to find
old photographs
of you unsure of
yourself in a graveyard
set to the mountains
at sunset like you couldn’t
imagine not being there
or having that.
because it was there it was outside
and you were there.
the last time you look at a place.
the space between states,
the plane ride to your
brother’s coma
this is fresh.


this is the last time you’ve ever
seen or heard from someone.
my cool affect, my rehearsed
temperature that I am clutching,
I watched waves take things away.
do you know how close i stood to the water
that day?
the sky was black and full of lightning,
swollen with compulsion.
a tropical storm touched the
ocean and on instinct,
it swallowed itself.
my aunt screamed,
came to grab me and
carried us both up to the house.

i cried about a flip flop
drifting in the current on the shore,
begging her to go back.
you can’t tell anything
about a statue
except it’s resting form
but i have experienced forty,
maybe more,
deaths.

cool
but if you ever saw the contents of
my purse: the twisted straws,
the clutter, lists of
things to get or hold,
you would see
that peevish child
taunting the ocean’s
grip and dashing,
longing for her
endless swaddle,
invincible in
execution and
carried. 

“the bay”

 

seventeenth set is most definitely
about you.
i hope you find my gaucherie
amusing.

i find it excruciating
to even stand
near a thing I admire.
i like starting things,
putting them out,
my parents rushed me to
the sink at five years
old; i laid my finger
flat to feel
what leaves feel
right before they fall.
right as they hit the
burning metal trashcan
in my backyard
as we removed evidence
of debris and a precipitous
October,
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, a hot knife
and warmed up,
having sliced through
tendon and you just
suddenly
soft like warm butter.

 

she talked to me all day
in riddles and I welcomed
her gentle incursion,
the way she enunciated certain
things and said y’all
and quite frankly charmed
while armed    broke men with a
chain or a flash of knee
or surreptitious motive
and I held steady
with one open eye
and crossed arms
and no plan to move
in either direction
when she asked if I still
favored her.

not a single person in this town
knew her and not many
elsewhere.
if it were up to her,
she said,
she’d disappear without a trace
into the ocean
or a foreign life
leaving a legacy of
riddles and ghosts that
favored her but not one
in a bed, or
several chained in a
yard not able
to break through the
bushes to door.
yes, I still favor you.

wore a veil,
wore a shrouded smirk and
moved wide but
never wanted anyone to
recognize her face.
in the sun,
became a mist
wafting wearily
through rows of houses,
blocks and noting
trash, and noting straws,
noting needles,
and a penchant for
heart.
in the dark,
a trace of flame
from distant candle but
never here.
still,

ok, howl.
if you placed her in a cage
full of rocks and
sunk her to the bottom of
the mariana trench with enough oxygen
to last her the swim back up,
she’d find every school,
hold the middle,
let the sides be eaten in
her disguise,
ride their backs back up,
wash up on a dolphin
at your feet, half dead,
blue, freezing and with an unctuous
grin just to prove
you still favor her.

“Saturn in Scorpio” or “how guys save me in their phone, reversed”

all day long I do mathematical equations
      they say I’m calculating. 

in my head.
as I walk to the laundromat
shifting the hamper beneath me,
I think,

    that’s an understatement.

 

I think a lot.

I think.
I think.
I love probability
like
what’s the likelihood I’ll see you again
believing I both convinced myself in this reality
and believe I convinced you it was true
so imbued in my delusion
but then God came to my defense,
I watched some things begin
to sprout  like little poison flowers
growing out of the cracks
like refuge?
or the analysis like

 

what is it going to take to hypnotize
a small crowd and at what cost to my
well being and I was practical so
how much money will I  make?
and statistically speaking,
we have to look at patterns,
not just equations but
trends so then here comes
the past.

 

I turn the headphones up.

 

you gave me a bouquet of
weeds as I was drinking
my third cup of coffee.
you had picked them from
our backyard when I wasn’t
looking. 

you were smiling with teeth;
big, and I thought I loved
you.
I had gone upstairs to
change into a sundress
and tore something near my spine,
suddenly, like a rip inside.
I mustered up enough breath
to walk down the stairs,
back to you,
where you had been standing with the weeds,
where you had been telling jokes,
where you had been laughing and I said:
it feels like I pinched a nerve
and am having trouble breathing.
what should I do?


you looked up the staircase
on your way out
the front door and tossed a
I don’t believe you
as you were rushing.
someone else drove me to
the doctor and that doctor
confirmed it,
prescribed me Flexeril
for the pain and wrote me
a note explaining to my internship
why I wouldn’t be in that day.
I laid in bed, waiting for the
drugs to subside.

you came home
and attempted to justify
why you always felt
deceived by me.
I lay numb,
relieved of feeling anything as you recited
everything I’d ever done
that bothered you.
you weren’t sorry,
it’s Thursday and I feel
nothing for you
now.

I drop a pair of panties
on the sidewalk
on the way out and
someone calls me from
the corner.
I turn my headphones up

I feel nothing for you now.

“Thursday”

I drove through ghosts and all of middle Earth
to get here;
to lean into the sharp points
of middle hurts.
the difference between you and I
are only a couple stealth instruments
but we both murder with force;
with words that creep down the esophagus
in the middle of the night,
rupture guts and my stomach turns in half
like a huge, hungry mouth just
folding from the pressure,
investigating old sutures with
her incisors and voraciously
eating itself.

i’m trying self-immolation since the recovery
stopped working.
stalking your shadow,
waiting for high noon,
marauding around the Conoco station with
two kinds of Plan B in my pocket:
one for the inevitable fetus to follow and
one for you and I to cut in half and swallow
when you make your decision
and I’m the one that gets to record the way
it felt to watch you dragged to the altar
that foreboding day.

I wish had more words for
everything hurts.
i’m the paper bell you inspected,
glued glitter hearts all over,
licked like an envelope being set somewhere else
and ultimately flung from the shelf
before she had time to prosper.
in true poet’s parlance
i’m nothing but death: soot palms, a trash can full of
worst thoughts,
one pen, colossal regret,
charcoal-colored romance with the
murdered children to accentuate my
growing malaise.
kamikazes are lazy, cowardly fighters.

                                           (give him the truth)
you have to stand in your wreckage,
own your slaughter.
makes more sense to avoid the fumes and
blood-orange sting that the flashy
hara-kiri brings.
              (give him the teeth)
i’m your match.
                 (give him that spark)

there’s nothing left of me
to burn so I become
the portending light
and you become
the ashes.

“urns”

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