My sleeves are an open tin.
I mean it like it is — like it sounds.
You wouldn’t even recognize me:
quellazaire held like a spear
held like a periscope.
No matter how hard one tries to expel nomenclature, the minor keys linger in all-night gas stations.
Elsewhere I was a daughter, I was a mother, I was either/or.
The doctor asks, were you blue as death
or infancy? Metal on flame
and bearing it or mad, embracing it,
I say. Without praise.
you are a brush of calligraphy
sweeping designs across my belly
ink splattering circles and symbols
like a string of black lipped oyster pearls
strewn between my thighs
She holds it out for me to touch, and as if I’m unsure that the death is fully removed from that chain, I touch it briefly, ready to wash my hands. The metal is cold like a body.
Thickened calluses. One finger crippled to quarter moon,
and the index, childhood impaled, bearing jagged scars.
You should ask yourself: do you really want to get a woman like this? Do you really want to get/win her? Do you really want to get/understand her? If you are the type of person who likes the status quo, she will soon frustrate you. If you like dainty and domestic, you’d best look elsewhere. Hers is a wild spirit—any attempts to help/control/change her will end in a mess. If you are a fan of Pygmalion, do not mistake her for Eliza Doolittle.
There are no I’s in these poems / there are only eyes in these poems. My gaze is exact, though my reliance is on another layer, another fold—I take these stories from the evening news, from the digital newspaper reports. My images come through a glass lens, the distance of mechanics complete: camera’s wandering eye, the flattened landscape of a monitor. I think, over and over: This isn’t my story to tell.
Immediately, I knew I had made the wrong choice. My own need for transparency and truthfulness had not taken into consideration their potential for horror, shock, disgust, and confusion. My younger daughter cried and wanted to snuggle her head in my lap. My older daughter looked absently around the room. There was a long silence, punctuated only by my younger daughter’s whimpers. This was beyond their comprehension, beyond their level of understanding. I had crossed the line, shown them a monster.
Did you think your hand
could rearrange the world
with no consequence?
That I’m just some damn doll,
some pupa, sold
on not eating?
How must she have felt, their second child thrashing
inside of her—did she already agree with him
that her happiness lay in sleep? In dreaming
of lying in some other room, of a less fickle moon?
Later that Crayola morning, Wonder Woman coloring
book and a stack of DC Comics spread across the
black soapstone counter in her lab, her fascination
with cells never quite translated when I preferred
story, a woman who deflected bullets with her wrists,
an Amazon island forbidden to men, a goddess
The men know the truth of twine, cut and tie, chaff and straw, the bundles shat and separated. In the yellow air visions mingle. Animal and plant. Who does the workhorse see with his broad eyes? What stops the sky from slipping off earth’s yolk?
I only asked my mother about the war once.
Matchbox triptych: a parrot with human
teeth, a man with a mouthful of blue
rubies, and a faceless child drinking
from a river running backwards.
I look at the names of boats —
a misplaced list.
Only remember the word, naught.
Selections of digital photography from the installation “Transmutation”—Stephen Skowron (with Stephanie Booth).
Every day is a Friday we say before the aftermath and chocolate kisses on her thighs,
The rotting lemons pimped out suns that don’t orbit.
your mouth was
the town i grew up in,
my adolescent experiences
wedged between your teeth.
Slowly and deliberately, her lips began to move. Soft words fell from her mouth and were cast out to sea by the deafening sound of the ocean’s lullaby. Her eyes steadfastly held their gaze. Her strong, tanned shoulders squared off in defiance with the immensity before her.
Don’t just stand there in the doorway. Come in! I told Suzanne you could visit because I’d like to talk to you about something. Please,
Ten minutes before the program was scheduled to begin, the Mikado rested on its side—black, sleek, and quiet. The technician stood on a stool, leaning