Four Poems

Medina Street

I touched bone each time I held you,
measured the soft space between ribs.
On your left hip, a scar whispered
under my fingers. You never told its story.

 

You were always sick or broken, a man
waiting for death, said you wouldn’t —
didn’t want to live past thirty.
Your breath was laced with bleach.

 

I didn’t want your empty bottles
or glass pipes, just someone else’s life
to tuck mine into, the way I tucked my back
against your belly on the couch

 

when everyone else had gone. We drove
home in wet clothes, separate cars,
left grease-stained aprons on the carpet,
our cigarettes smashed in back pockets.

 

You always won at Scrabble. The first
time we fought, you said something
about love like tree roots, only
there weren’t any left for me. I said

 

we had more roots than you knew,
not just smoke breaks by the dumpster.
Remember a school bus and black ice?
It had been years since I decided

 

I would walk inside this house as my own.
I would find you on the bathroom floor
after too many Jack and Cokes. You would
find me in the kitchen, taking off my shoes

The Opposite of Magic
after Kate Greenstreet

I am alone when you dance,
when you say my name
like it is rough against the roof
of your mouth. Take it back.

 

Lick the salt off your lips
before you speak.

 

You will not return. I know
every muzzled footstep,
every boarded window. There
is space for only one ghost,
one October each year.

 

We couldn’t stand to see
the colors change more often,
wouldn’t be able to sleep
under two hunter’s moons.

 

This kind of dark has feathers.

Stella Gives Up

She will remember how each tendon
jumped beneath skin, breath trickling
from lips like so much saliva and hunger,
how each nerve ending twirled
over muscle, tiny flamencos
in the guitar strum of heartbeat
and downbeat, the moment between
pulses when she imagines what death
feels like, what happens to the world
when she is no longer in it. Who
will find his letters? Who will
sift through these boxes
trying to piece together a moment
when they were breathing
the same air, tasting the same sweet
something they couldn’t define
or hold on to? They never gave
it a name, that throb of gut and loin.
Love some would say, but no,
that word is too pretty, too soft
for the knotted thrush of hope
they carried. Possession.
Wanting to own each word
whispered, to keep
each downward glance in a safe
place, locked and fireproof. No,
they never tried to keep each other,
never made a promise not to leave —
but if he had said wait, she would have
stood in one place until
the grass died beneath her.

 

 

 

Donny, on his Seventeenth Birthday

Spider-cracked windshield, dented
fender, chicken-legged boy
leaning on the bumper. He holds
keys in his right hand, smiles
a mouth full of teeth in need
of braces, too proud of his rust-bitten
truck to remember he usually grins
with tight lips and quiet eyes.
Later, he will lay a girl across
the Naugahyde seat cover, try
not to bump the steering wheel
when he fumbles for her panties.
But now, he is a boy whose mother
has just given him a gift, a second-hand,
hand-me-down, I’ll pay you to get it off
my lawn gift, and he is still a child,
cake and candles waiting inside,
his mother snapping photos
on a CVS disposable camera
she bought with her employee discount,
and in the glove box, twelve condoms
she pretends he’ll never need to use.

 

 

 

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