a million triangles

i didn’t want to lie
but i also didn’t tell you
as he was on me breathing
horrible decay on my cheek
i easily dissociated

to the mexican restaurant on main st.
where you told me you were adopted
and i folded my napkin into a million triangles

we studied each other with smiles
to communicate what words lacked
my throat choked with-love??
but it was much too early to say that

The Pebble

I do need to keep some bitterness wrapped in my heart,
lest I spend too long staring at your jawline and cheekbones
and begin to forgive you.

There will always be a hard pebble of resentment lodged in my stomach
so I do not begin to fall in love with you.

You protected yourself by pretending to want me
when you still loved someone else.

I will protect myself by swallowing a few seeds of hatred
that will grow into a creeping tangled vine.

200 years ago

200 years ago I would have been biding my time
in a heavy wool dress gathered around my legs
hem growing dirty from the fire’s dust and ash
feet raw on an icy stone floor

Watching for the arrival of a stagecoach
or maybe a wiry boy on horseback
exhausted as he thrusts a tattered envelope
before my eager and nervous face

Maybe I would brew a cup of tea for the occasion
and sink into the old patterned armchair
or I would flee to a lonely field thick with snow
to slide that precious paper into my hands

But likely I would already be long-married
pressing a damp child to one shoulder
stacking wood on the fire as ice decorated the window
rushing to check on the rising bread for my husband

200 years ago I would have been more patient
less desperate to hear from you within the day
instead of indulging the itch to check
my texts, my emails, over and over

love gone sour

when i wanted to know everything you’d ever wished for
my heart was thick with hope
and desire visited me as i slept; she sent me
dreams of your legs churning on the dike
kicking up gravel in your wake

now i turn if i see you on the street, pretend
to become very interested
in the hollyhocks as i ready myself to return
to the ocean with fresh wounds, i am silent
because sharks smell blood
and i am hurt

it is almost worse
that you greet me so cheerfully, your smile
burrowing deep into my chest and nestling there

when i wanted to know everything you’d ever feared
my mouth numb with fondness for you
everyone could see it when they peered into my face
and commented on the warm glow of my skin, the deep
healthy shine of my cheeks

now i turn if i catch my reflection in the mirror, for
bitterness is still clenched in my teeth
and love has gone sour in my mouth
yet i cannot stop chewing it over and over
hoping the sweetness will return

Sick Day

Dawn sun streaks through the blinds and I would rather be sleeping
But I am reading, sipping echinacea lemon tea with honey
And remembering when I was ill as a child, terrified of the flu
I prayed Mom would stay home with me because
When I was sick she would be there there. And if she wasn’t
All I had to do was get a little sicker. I could call her
And she would let me watch TV on weekdays in a sleeping bag
While she ran to the store for popsicles and Saltines
Knowing she would return to pore over paperwork at the table
Or chat with her sister on the phone, hushing Kari’s sick
Checking on me when I didn’t get out of bed
One time she was still at work when I threw up and I cleaned
My own vomit off the sink. And cried because I wanted her there
To sit on the edge of my bed and smooth my hair
When she got home she said You didn’t have to do that, but I did
And I sank into her arms because breathing finally came easy again
Today I lie in a sleeping bag alone, writing poems and papers
Today I am an adult, taking care of myself
And missing my mother

Under New Ownership

People see my body and stare.
Then look away,
look away,
look away.
Don’t look.

Drawn towards me. They want to envelop me,
cover me, save me, protect me.
Shelter me like a roof. Catch the raindrops
from hitting my face.

My face is open to pain.
My face is a book of betrayal.
My face was painted with dying hope.

I am in love with being loved.
Having love forced on me- making love-
of having it shoved in me, twisted and jabbed
and my voice smothered and stifled,
hands ensnared, throat crushed.
Am I in love with this?

Drawn towards me, they want to envelop me,
smother me, wreck me, infect me.
Scatter me like ashes, spread me thin in a windstorm
so my body will never be connected
or whole
again.

They tell me I am in love with being broken.
They stare, and they know my body is theirs.
It has never been mine.
There are cracks where past lovers shine through.
We will do that for you
so they tell me.

I Didn’t Know Your Love

I didn’t know, Mom
How gently you held me to your chest
The hours invested in my nourishment
The nights you were the only one awake with me
The days you forfeited to make me
A little bit of a better person
Years slipped by like baby steps
Trips to Safeway for licorice
At every piano recital and gymnastics meet
Every haircut, heartbreak, and injury

The love you poured into me and you got nothing
The love you poured around me when I closed myself up
As I dug at my arms with a switchblade and
Wrote notes on how to tie a noose and
Pushed away my birthday cake and
Shut myself in my room to get high
Spent nights crawling out my window to
Lie to you
Thinking I wanted to die
So I refused you
And everything you offered

And I’m sorry, Mom
When I was younger, I didn’t know
Your love is vast like the ocean
Your love still sheds light in early hours
Your love comes back like the tide on the shore
Your love is an unmoving mountain I tried to destroy
Your love is the sun I see each morning and forget to acknowledge

And I’m sorry it took me so long to discover
When I was younger, Mom
I didn’t know

Fickle Heart

My fickle heart, a poison apple
I dare not hand away
Lodged inside me like a sickness
I can’t wash down the drain
I want to cleanse myself of thoughts
Of you, your touch
How I imagine your breath to tickle
Hot on my bare neck
My greedy fingertips, going after
The poison apple every time
And I can never settle down
Never be satisfied
Cheating in my genes
Chasing in my design
Conquering and scoring
And losing every time

Snowy Morning/For Emily

The snow falling this morning reminds me of you
Tree limbs so crisp and the world is new

I sit at my window, watching the street
To reminisce and envision the next time we meet

My heart knows I likely won’t see you again
So my imagination must fill that void in

Are you building a snowman, or tunneling deep
To a whole different world where wild wolves sleep?

Are you sipping hot cocoa and playing a game
Of witches and fairies and dragons to tame?

Are you running through snowdrifts, wild and free
Knowing all of the good things you’ll be?

I sit at my window, not crying, not really
Recalling the serious times and the silly

Thinking back to our jokes, our games, and our smiles
The frustration and anger every once in a while

When you love someone, see, each memory sticks
So you carry them always in your bag of tricks

And when I start to miss you, I’ll think of those days
We acted like sloths creeping down the hallways

The students and teachers all looked so confused
When we said, “We’re just slothing around, how ‘bout you?”

I wish you goodbye as snow creates a fresh place
And hope wherever you are, you’re smiling and safe

Comfort

I say, Can you use the word comfort in a sentence?
She is leaning into me, shoulder pressing,
bright blonde hair sweeping into my lap
She thinks hard, crafting the perfect image

I comfort with my dog
she says simply

And all their freckles and sweet little hands
And their big wide dreams and pale faces
noses and cheeks cherry red from the winter air
Bring hot tears to my eyes in a tender rush

She continues to ponder
I go to sleep and wake up
and I still comfort with my dog