creeps into my poems lately
(check the last one)
I’m still young, I still write poetry, still
compel hands to hover over the keys,
fingers to tap out some muddled sentiment
on this hot whirring box of wires
missing my older poems written
at 19 when I was a little more wild
maybe more unaffected
I still have time (we all think this way)
to do something with my life
I do still get that strange thoracic ache
of childhood, which I used to call “homesick”
in order to make sense of the sudden lump in my throat and
the furtive thought YOU’RE NOT ALRIGHT!
At 28, I am still unclear why these pangs plague me,
catching me especially
as I drive through Granite weekday mornings
while I curse the clocks forever ticking forward, forward
when I haven’t yet figured out age 10 — so complicated
a thing to dissect. Still I have no name for this melancholy sense
that elbows against my stomach and lungs
shoving for space inside my very skin.
I’ve been feeling a bit like a racehorse missing a leg
asked to run the most laps in my life
I’m a stupid fuck, trying to race when I can’t even walk
and dredging up words is such a chore when
I know there’s been something dark and creeping
nested under my ribs since birth
that I have failed to name
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 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
chai tea burns my palms as i wait
for the sun to break the morning chill
i light sandalwood incense, one stick after another
as if i am a chain-smoker
funneling my craving into this cane of resin
and i am hoping the spirals of smoke and
harsh words and scalding water
scour me inside-out, scrub me raw
from the bad things i have done and continue to do
because i do want to live
but there must be mud and mold and tangles of plaque
growing inside my chest and skull
for i talk about feeling dirty and
not knowing how to clean
to forgive myself
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
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.
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
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.