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.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

What I Mean When I Say Ageless

When we met for the first time—
not as friends—the first time as possibility,
you were aging in reverse past twenty years,
some fresh-faced boy fumbling for admiration.
You brushed my arm. Shoulders press and retreat.
I secretly hoped we’d never find our way home.

But your father face returned—I met this man
many months before. We were friends
but so much older. Eyes heavy with marriage
and house and family and work responsibility.

When we met again for the first time—
past possibility, in the space of immediate now
where time is irrelevant and skin speaks
all our words, your face became child.
When I counted the spokes in your irises,
I looked down at the escaping years
dissolving through your teeth.

Let’s be children in some night parking lot
without the weight of older lives.
We’ll climb into ours beds as all time—
as delinquency—as heavy sage—
as eager limbs—as singing rosies round
and round, spinning into the music.

First published in Four Seasons Anthology.

17 Poems Not About a Lover · 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 push myself back into desert shade
live 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 · Poetry · The Unnamed Algorithm

Not Sleeping

I can't keep
not sleeping at night
I can't keep
letting all those
        open cupboard doors
pull my shoulder blades
I can't keep
hoping for that miracle
        change black tea
        into coffee and cream
I can't keep 
recycling those words
        said and unsaid
replies and responses
never meet resolution
I can't keep
my head full of bees
whispering why
        it doesn't matter
        it never matters
I can't keep
eating the edges of my cuticles
it won't grow flat
I can't keep
my ear to my gut
it's holding on to a secret
        I'm listening
        it's not telling
I can't keep
waiting by the phone
waiting for that email
        to make it right
it will never be right
I can't keep
saying I don't mind
I get it-I understand
        I don't
I can't keep
not surrendering to anything
since the switch flipped
        it got broke
        I can't switch it back
I can't keep
a single person as ideal
as I have loved them
        stop idealizing
I can't keep
all the names off my lips
they push out daily
        hourly I form them
        my mouth aches
I can't keep
this pencil moving
        its eraser is shrinking
there's more mistakes to make
I can't keep
presuming the road's closed
my feet are swelling
        until it hurts to walk
        but I walk anyway
I can't keep
listening to the air in my lungs
rub against my nostrils
        I hear myself living
        I need to be sleeping
 
4-16-13
First Published in Something’s Brewing, Kind of a Hurricane Press (April 2014)