17 Poems Not About a Lover · 2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

To myself in grief state

you don’t believe you know how to grieve. death loss feels different from heartbreak, sits wrong in you. you keep moving your mouth from hour to hour, minute to minute. you fear if your mouth isn’t full of sound the ache will surge up and slump off your tongue. you surround yourself with people and want desperately for them to see through you. both in the way you can be unseen and in the way they see below your skin. you don’t want them to ask because you hate the effort of simple answers. equally you hate the weight of darkening a party of light-faced people with your honest answers. you are a paradox of love and emptiness. you want sleep like submerging oceans. there will never be enough sleep. you forget and want to be forgotten. want to remember before when you were the light.

First published in Incandescent Mind: Issue Three, Selfish Work.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Your Dark Sunlight

You, carried by wind, fill my horizon
I am tangled in your kite strings
knees bloody from the drag
arms ache from wind yanking

I squeeze eyelids tight
can’t find sleep in your sunlight
eyes grow dark
circled by your high maybes

Your wild flight, soar and dive
I have no wings to carry
can’t pull to your height
you only rise, grow farther

Hand me your knife
cut me clean of you
Let my wrists bleed and clot
let me fall asleep

in the quiet dark

First published in Snorted the Moon and Doused the Sun.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Somatic

I can’t treat you like phobia
try to desensitize you out of my skin
so that my muscle fibers
won’t gather together
at the soft crease of your eyes

you are not a fear to faceat the height of a bridgeopen my eyes and gaze
at the depth of youlean forward and release

I cannot see you spider
across my arm and deep breathe the shiveryou raise in me

you are less like fear
more like heroin
a need I must starve
from myself
fast out the hunger
until the follicles
in my hair
have escaped
your scent

First published in Snorted the Moon and Doused the Sun.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

What To Do With Empty Hands

I don’t know what to do with my hands
I opened them up, I released my grip
the rope was ripped away
last strands tangled in my fingertips
so I cut one thread at a time
with the razor of my teeth

I still don’t know what to do with my hands
I washed off the blood, cleaned out the burn
they are bandaged and gauzed
but my fingers keep curling
around the ghost of your wrists
I press them out flat against the shower wall
against my bedroom wall, one hand
against the other, finger to finger

I still don’t know what to do with my hands
I’ve been writing you out of my heart for months
I run out of lead, I run out of paper
still my hands move around the ghost of your neck
your voice murmuring in the center of my palms
I try but I can’t suffocate your shadows

I don’t know what to do with my hands
so I press them to my mouth
let my lips surrender to your memory
I drag them everywhere you’ve been
across the back of my thighs
down the tip of my nose
they circle the round of my shoulder
(the last place you ever kissed me)

First published in Snorted the Moon and Doused the Sun.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Damsel

I will never be damsel enough
to be claimed victory by savior
the way he swoops down
in her destroyed
sword out and crowned
I am without tower
without step-mother plotting
I need lover like home
not savior
not prince
I need lover like foundation
under bare feet

First published in work to a calm.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

To the Men who told me my Love was not enough

1. They told me with their hands

the first man I loved used his hands to pull down
my panties without asking
I had loved him without question
his carpenter hands
rough against my abdomen
my five-year-old heart was
blackhole becoming

2. They told me with their mouths

the second man I loved used his mouth
—when I gave him my free forward,
my unrelenting, my wide-open
when his empty was filled
with the red vacuum of my sex
he mouthed “I still love her”
and the her of me was vacated

3. They told me with their silence

the third man I loved used his tornadoed
soul against my earth-bed body for landing
then he pulled his sleeve up to his wrist
and wiped my name from his eyes,
rubbed my wetness from his now-landed
—took his relit fire and left
my heart, soot-thin
and never

First published in work to a calm.
Nominated for a Push Cart Prize.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Crescendo or What I choose to remember

The last time was unremarkable.
The last time with him was ordinary
in its duration, its position, its intensity.
That is to say it was one more time before
he was off to work. One more time being
that it was the second time that morning.
The first-time being everything the last
should have been. The first time that morning
was consumed starvation. Being that he made
my body forget gravity. The first-time being laid
gasping off the side of the mattress.
It was the culmination of months abandoning.
The synchronicity of his chest against my shoulder
blades. The last time he set me alter high
and drowning in his sweat. The last time he’d fuck
anyone else on that mattress. He left me in love
with college boy sheets and summer fans
in November. The last time was a muted sigh.
The first time being crescendo. Arms tangled
in thighs. He refused to have me exhale
on his behalf. Being that he made my body
forget about gravity.

First published in work to a calm.

17 Poems Not About a Lover · 2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

I will not apologize

for not being
soft-lipped
doe-eyed
for not laughing
at all your jokes
and if I put my hand
on your shoulder
it will not be an invitation
if my fingers linger
which they will not
you will not have the rights to me
to my round parts
to my fullness
against your bare bones
I will not apologize
for not being
giggle-light
batted-lashes
but more
teeth barred
and fist clenched
my gaze always at the door
on the clock
holding breaths
waiting
for you to learn
my name is not prey

First published in Al-Kemia Poetica.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

What I Mean When I Say We Can Talk Without Poetry

When I dance for you and our knees brush at the bar, we begin to forget. The more I think about the space inside your coat, the more you learn the names of my favorite drinks, we stop saying them. Words like wife. Words like marriage. We become teenage-nervous where mouths cannot form words like separation. All I know is giggle and heart-dotted-i’s. We are back at the edge of unknowing. Where our grownup selves are strangers we might not want to meet. You use the word awkward when I give you a book on a poet’s divorce. You are a teenaged father all over again. Except your children are leaving now, one-by-one. You regress a decade for each one. If I am fifteen and you are seventeen, sitting in my living room listening to records, maybe we also forget the word husband. You are just a boy with grown man scars. I am only a girl biting my nails, chewing at the cuticles, wishing that boy would lean down and kiss me, but fearing. Fearing if he does, it means we need more words for you and me. And if you hold my hand, are we steady? If I wear your coat wrapped around me in the dark, what will be a word for that?

First published in Whiskey Fish Review.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Comfort of Cars at Night

Street lights pass one-two-three-four
light-dark, light-dark, one-two-three
white dim passing car windows three-four
left hand on the steering wheel two-three
right hand in mine one-two your night lit face
glows, flickers two-three-four dark calm
in your eyes caught tree shadows reaching
one-two across your face three-four
for days two-three I kissed you in the dark
one-two you turn the wheel slow three-four
my hips press towards you one-two
left arm against your right, you squeeze
two-three tighter between my fingers
three-four I see beauty in your shadows
one-two you whisper, “I’m lost” two-three
you slow brake one-two-three draw S.O.S.
on dirty glass three-four my feet press
against the floor two-three I whisper back
two-three-four I’m here one-two right here

First published in Spectrum 7: What’s Your Heaven?