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

Once at the Lake

IMAG3189

Mountain rock breathes cool on nape of neck,
where I’ve pulled hairs in fits of nerves.
Boulders varnished white and gray bounce back
a marmot screech across the lake. A late call
to flee, or hide. My howling feet beg for rest
on perfect granite slabs. Like ivory cut
by rain and time. I think mastodons roamed
lakes like this, dipping trunks in ice.
Ghosts might rove this meadow now.
I count clouds that traipse along the peaks
where climbers cling; I am not one of them
today. Bruised feet in grass, I dream.

Your Bones

All that happened was on a bright blue day
I saw you bent over your bike in the heat
your bronze back arched with knobs of spine
as if the knuckles of some creature were
trying to press their way out of your ribcage
stretching your bones like hungry claws

All that happened was I fell in love
with the delicate curve of your skeleton
wrapped in freckles and blonde

All that happened was I returned home with
a sheen of sweat on my forehead
and a hunger for your heart

Lilac

I could sleep the day away,
awash in medicated dreams
just clinging to reality.

I could drink the dusk to sleep,
the scent of lilac calling me
like a siren to the brink.

I’m hardly here,
barely attached to the dream
in which I sink.

Rusty Poem

It’s been a while since I wrote.
It’s been a while since I felt safe in this body,
and curled into my thoughts for a rest,
without learning each breath by rote.

It’s been a month since Hell grabbed me by the ankle.
I was laid out on a hospital table.
When the man asked me what happened I couldn’t recall,
but my body tells the tale when it’s able.

This body shows the story I wrote.
I did it to myself. I put the pen to skin and it broke;
The Hell, I wrote into my fable.

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

no reason

it is no one’s business what i do to my body
with my body
or with knives
if smothering my wrists in bruises keeps me alive

how many times will the hospital take me in?

my sister is on another continent
humming with jungle creatures
and i am tempted to go to sleep in the snow
they say the body feels warm again
at the end of hypothermia

please don’t ask why
i hate trying to explain that i’m sad for
no reason
some things can’t be explained
there’s no reason

one best friend is in portland
one best friend is on another continent
buzzing with rickshaws, i guess
i am tempted to fall asleep in a bottle of wine
they say you feel very tired
in the final stage of cirrhosis

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.

Apology to My Sister

I called you.
A month ago
I left you a voicemail, cordial
with a tinge of plaintive.
Could you tell?
You were drifting on the Hudson,
teaching schoolchildren about tides
or sailing or algae.
Were you cold there, at night?
I think of you when I can’t sleep,
and want to apologize
for pointing that knife at you
when we were kids.
Being a kid
doesn’t excuse that.
I am also sorry
for using my hands and words on you,
or not using them at all.
My silence might have been
the most painful tool.
Tomorrow I fly away
to another home, missing you
by hours.
We’ll share the sky,
gazing at the same fleecy clouds
and patchwork fields,
absorbed in our own respective storylines.

Sixteen

Mom always wanting to know
are those new? And where
did you get those pants, where are you
going tonight, when will you be back,
what did you two do and how is she and
have you dealt with what we discussed?

Mom always watching, me stepping
on eggshells all over the house.
Me creeping on tiptoe midday. Me
disappearing into my room where
I stashed the champagne.
With nothing to celebrate
I toast to blurriness.
I am sixteen.

Mom always nice, but not nice.
Mom comforting, staying up with me.
Mom slapping, brushing me off, Mom
with sharp blades in her voice.
Dad leaving the room, leaving, leaving.
Me asking for love and shrinking.

Me alone in my room.
Me in bed swallowing aspirin after aspirin.
I just turned sixteen, today. Me alone in bed.