2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Love Letter No. 4: To the Nail Biter

You will remember again
lying on a dry sunny beach
warm skin against rested bones.
This swim is not endless—
these swells you fight,
this constant coughing up water
will eventually subside.
Even the bleeding
edges of your cuticles
deserve your tenderness.
Because his hands will never
work that soothing magic again,
you must hold them away
from the sharpness of your teeth,
purse your lips,
and tell them they are as worthy
of your protection as your breasts,
as your pit-bull heart. As all of you
is worthy, so is the clear line
of your fingernails curving.
Cut them clean.
Even you, Olympic-storm swimmer,
can drag yourself up
on some long shore, wash the salt
from your skin, hold your hands up
to the sun and say it.
Say even your cuticles are worthy
of being loved.

First published in Elementary My Dears.

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2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Oceans Once Receded

I was a desert woman
who learned to live on cactus boys
learned to run at night and sleep all day
knowing the burn of sky and sand

Then you came with your oceans
rivers, lakes, and waterfalls
I dove in, eyes closed
hoping you’d teach me to swim
hoping to learn your whale songs

I threw away my land shoes
swam under the stars
let my skin pucker in your waves
my desert plants were drowning
I let them bloat and drift away

Then your tsunami receded
first sudden, then steady and slow
I stood naked in your mud bed
for weeks with dripping hair
dripping hands refused to dry

I learned to pray to wet earth
give thanks for saltwater baths
learned to hear your voice
in the night bird songs

Until even the mud left
took its soft clay from between my toes
the caked earth in my hair
began to dry and crumble
desert wind wiped all traces
of salt from my cheeks

I pulled myself back into desert shade
live now in the evening light
I can never return to cactus fruit
when I’ve fed on fields of phytoplankton
I’ve lost the taste for prickly boys
so I may wither for a while

Until at the edge of some moment
in the pale space between sun and moon
I might hear the sound
of water rushing

First published in Element(ary) My Dears.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · How to Unexist · Poetry

Mouth of Fireflies

What God there was in me saw
the God there was in him,
and it was beautiful.
-Amélie Frank

he speaks floating sparks of light
and lights a thousand eyes around him
he won’t follow their leaving paths
throws them out and lets them land
like seeds he’ll never see grow

I chase the fireflies of his mouth
the ones that miss their mark
I want to catch them in jars
drink them to kill my own night-growing
they sky-float beyond my reach
past the dim canopy of city light

I once drank him like a fountain
my wet lips glowed for days
my eyes shone too bright for sleeping
maybe I only dreamt him at my mouth
since the universe won’t return him
it steals his beauty for dreamers
and says, light your own fire

first you must crack your ribs
break them into brittle shards
cut your palms in your own grasp
next you must rub the sticks
of your rib bones fast
do this all on the inside
then sing out to the dark unknowing

your sparks aren’t made for eyes
your sparks are made to burn hunger
burn the ache in their bellies
throw them out like seeds
don’t wait for them to grow

First published in Cadence Collective.

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

Black, the Consumption of Song

It’s still the music—
how is replaces the pulse in your veins
how it stops all the other voices,
your own cut-throat deafening.
You still swallow volume
guzzle it down like hard cider.
In that way, songs can sing from the inside out.
They balloon inside your heart
pressing up against limping muscle
until its ache rests in them.
You will always have it—
when love after love after love leaves
it still gets darker. Still you
wrap your skin in minor chords
mummy-tight until you can only move
in the way the rhythm sways.
You don’t fight that.
For a while you are carried by it.
You rest in black—
how it still comforts you.
Sometimes and eventually music moves you forward.
Slow beats for slow steps
when you are ready to hit the ground
on your own swollen feet.
For the rest of your days, you will—
as you always have—exhale melody.

First published in Cadence Collective.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Dead Song

I wait no more for your polite
I run no longer to your cordial
I let no wind carry
let no night star
I fight not for your uncertain
for your wander, for your lost
not for your stroke, not your soothe
No more gray ink
photograph gaze
No collar bone
valley of skin
I set fire to your words
I drown your colors
all swirl of rainbow
I lie in your grave of kindness
I cough out your breath
I spit you out
wipe the taste of you
from my mouth

First published in Ekphrastic California.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Unnamed Color

If I were a painter, I’d find the darkest
blue paint—thick as gravy—
push it slow across a powder-white
canvas, diagonal edge to edge,
let the ridges and valleys of the stroke
seep into a settled mass. I’d drag
the brush saturated in blue past
the easel, over my window pane
across my pale green wall
and onto my bed frame. I’d shape
the prints of my hands where I held
myself above you. Where I saw
you under me like a child, like one
who never married, never had children,
never worked twenty years in the same
company, never had to harden his heart
like police armor. I’d paint
the color of your eyes—
if they could ever be captured
in a shade made by man.

First published in Ekphrastic California.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

When I’ve said all the words I can say

I can only sound.
I dissonance.
I shutter volume.

I scrape metal to metal
–skyscraper groans
–car alarm until it backgrounds.

I tree crack from roots
–siren ambulance, fire truck.
I bone crush
–violin in a cold, dark alley.

I canyon scream
behind double pane windows.
You, inside, sit soundless.

First published in Ekphrastic California.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

How to Go Backwards

Remove hands. Remove tongue. Remove legs.
Leave heart. Leave eyes. Leave voice.
Remove say.
Leave said.
Remove fuck. Remove kiss and dark car.
Leave ache and story.
Remove naked.
Leave cold.
Remove knowing.
Leave knowing.
Remove lover and want.
Leave honest and cordial.
Remove betray. Remove conflict. Remove open.
Leave close. Leave accept.
Remove complicated. Remove layers. Remove hold.
Leave alone. Leave alone. Leave alone.

First published in Cultural Weekly.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

If you ask me what I want,

I want you unraveled
I want you edge-frayed
I want you seam-busted
threads dragging
I want you broken glass
and rusted gears
tornado torn
tsunami choking
I want you black-eyed
swollen-lipped
nose-bloodied
I want you raw
I want you singed
I want you fat pulled
off the bone
I want you diary-read
secrets on billboards
I want you spit out
I want you dried-up
dead flowers hanging
I want you burnt forest
and dry savannah
I want you limb-splayed
arms tied and hands nailed
I want you teeth-cracked
you feet-blistered
and back broken
I want you heart-dead
voice-cracked
lost-souled
I want you motherless
and child-lost
I want you loveless
and ugly
I want you cheap
and fucked

First published in Cultural Weekly.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · How to Unexist · Poetry

How to Unexist

Go from friend to flirt to lover. Do it fast and without remorse. Stay lover for days or weeks until you become mistress. Be a good mistress until you become secret. Stay secret until you lose the key to his car. Then become lie, not a lie you’ve told but be a lie. Stay lie until your fingers break and you can no longer touch. Then become weight around a neck. One to be carried as heavy as regret. Stay weight until you become formality. Then, become cordial. Become a multiple choice response of hello, how are you, I’m fine, you’re fine, we’re fine, everyone is fine until your fineness becomes echo. Stay echo while you begin to scrape your insides out. Pull out blood vessels. Pull out gut, fat, and muscle. Pull out bone. Lick it clean. Save your heart for last. Let it feel every ounce emptying. Then become translucent. Become as clear as ice so when he looks at you he sees nothing. Hears nothing. Feels nothing. Stay clear until you become forget. Become forget until all previous days dissolve. Stay forget until it never was. Until you are not even ghost. You are just not. Just no.

First published in Cultural Weekly.