I thought about writing you a belated
love letter, but then remembered the time that,
after two glasses of wine, you started crying
about your dead dog and I, all elbows and
armor, shifted over on the couch. So instead
I will try to put the pieces of you back together
six years past due. Even though I kissed
the Irishman behind my car when I should have been
waiting for you, even though I never took you
to my bed and let you sleep until the morning,
even though, when you told me it was over,
I did not grab your sleeve just in time
to pull you back in: your sweetness is a sugar
I still taste whenever I drive past your mother’s house,
and sometimes as I’m turning the key to an apartment
lifetimes from you, I wonder about the softness of your hands.
You take into your body, like a deadbolt,
the very weapon used in the thousand-year
war against yourself. The war which
taught you to carry your keys like a fist
of butchery at night. Which taught you
any jackal can look just like a man:
your grandfather, your cousin, your friend,
your uncle. Really, what else can become
and unbecome a weapon so quickly?
Guns do not melt after firing. A dagger
will not go limp as a snipped lily in your hand.
But, now, here, it is only a bayonet in theory.
Only a threat on paper. Now, your body
is all yes and open windows. It is summer.
It isn’t actually summer but inside your body,
it is all July, no mosquitos. All itch, no scratch.
Your body charms the snake from the basket.
Your body takes in the homeless and bathes them
with your tongue. You are the socket.
The shock. The source. Forever, it seems,
the act of being entered has been compared to
the act of being broken into. To be the swallower
and not the sword. But what takes more strength?
Tell me, what takes more mercy?
- Sierra DeMulder
YES. YES. YES.
snow makes me afraid of dying,
not for the obvious reasons— slipping,
sliding, careening, the stark end
of a sudden guiderail—
but because i never want
to not be alive
to see it fall.
I remember using a sharp edge
to carve the date into a soft stone:
6/12. Everything was lit
in a dizzying happiness, dripping
with it, the honey of indecision
pooling at the bottom
of each eddy in the river.
Now I turn over my sadness in my hand,
thumbing its ache. A word can change the world.
You wondered aloud whether I was enough
and now the bees have all vanished,
in their place empty white boxes
and the tracks still humming
from a train just gone.
All I know is that she would be
That she still would have gone,
still would have flown helter-skelter
across a country mowed flat into squares.
But that when, upon her return, you vanished
(no letters, no calls, no messages),
she wouldn’t have been smart about it.
She wouldn’t have kept her mouth shut.
She wouldn’t have bothered.
She would have called you every night for a year
and railed tin-can ragged at the new cold of her sheets.
She would have gone back just to trip, drunk and wild,
up the twenty-four steps to your apartment door, and slept
curled against it, listening for the thudding proof of your heart.
She would have followed you to work, screaming out
epithets for all the ways your touch cut her to the bone.
(Because, of course, that is what your absence
did to me. Your Houdini escape from the life
we were building in my brain was a void
I couldn’t fill for months.)
And even though now you’ve been made largely
irrelevant by a boy with browner eyes and kinder hands,
sometimes that woman prowls out of me, vodka
riding on her tongue, feeling murderous.
And sometimes, even as I’m sipping tea and reading
the novel whose quiet joys you almost stole from me,
she’s howling down those city streets with a megaphone
and some choice adjectives. And it’s only when I whisper
my four-word mantra across the miles
that she finally, finally, finally lets it go.
With your back to the window you won’t notice
the trash blowing around the project yard,
the tattered curtains, the woman whose piece of shit man
without so much as a check for utilities
for the fucking last goddamn time.
With your back to the window, you won’t hear
the taxis’ arrogant braying, the bubbling oil beneath
the cuchifritos sign, the trash trucks moving through:
the dull thud of this city’s sinewed, tired heart.
With your back to the window, you can focus
on all those things that drag you out of bed:
the checkbook in need of balance,
the full calendar,
the notice from your landlord,
but you’ll never notice
the miracle of daffodils softly springing from parched earth,
the fact that a spring breeze is still sweet— yes,
the galaxies of oil-slicked pavement
If it had been another woman,
I could understand:
a warm bed, beating heart,
soft cheek, sure,
but a mirror?
I’m older, now, older than you were
on the night the car hit the tree, crumpled, left skids
on the road and you, lifeless.
Cousin, I confess, on the morning my mother
told me you were gone,
I only cried because I did not understand her tears. Loss
took longer to arrive. (When it came, it felt
like waiting for lights in the driveway, a phantom limb,
dinner getting cold.)
Too young, too, for the funeral,
but the reception guaranteed that quiche would always taste
Your dad still cries at grace and your brother’s hand
never quite recovered after he smashed that window
the year he out-aged you, too. And I still count milestones
as I pass them, all the things I’m living