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.

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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

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.

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?

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Slow Skinning

Unlike car crash, our death was slow—peeled first nippled-breasts
and what you once called the art of my body. Tendons carved
from feet, keeping me put. Each muscle fibers layered in fat stretched
out all dance and joy. Yanked next nails from fingers, sliced entire tips
down to knuckles, every part that ever knew any part of you. Hooked
knives dug into ears, scraped out song, scraped out music. Same hooks
dove down throat, twisted cords of my own speak, tangled in steel,
snapped from neck. Sawed each hair from scalp, sawed lashes from lids,
sawed between thighs where your hands once reached. Eyes pinned
open, I watch you crawl out from under us, watch you wrap your arms
around Night. I watch Night curl her blood lips. Can’t hear singing,
can’t speak you down to me, can’t reach can’t touch can’t fight can’t
walk the other way. This is how we die with nobody watching.

First published in Black Napkin Press.

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

Keansburg Park, 2012

After a hurricane, you must sift through the rubble. Be it car or house or theme park ride, all loss is for grieving. For months you will bloody and purple searching for what’s worth saving. On the news, there is always a small child who’s managed to hide between the gaps. Keep searching for her. Or, if you’re the one buried, make yourself heard. At some point they will begin to haul away the wreckage. They will want to clear land for rebuilding. But if you’re still searching, be louder. Keep kicking through splintered wood and twisted metal. You cannot and will not find every savable piece, but remember that small child. She could under the Ferris wheel. At some point, you will also call off the search. You will also want to clear land. But be prepared. When you stand on the edge of the sifted soil, a new loss will settle in. As heavy as roller coaster. If you stare into the ache of what was never found, the weight may collapse you. The name of that child may trouble your sleep. You must find her. Use the old wood or the old metal, but build a new park to welcome her home.

First published in Angel City Review.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Unanswered

She sees how he ruins his own beauty
how before he can leave for the bar
he follows can after can
to cool the fevers in his mind
How he leaves out food
for the fullness of cheap beer
thinks it makes him a tragic man
worthy of writing an elegy
He curses his drunken father
between swigs from cold aluminum
asks about her birthday
He wants her to teach him
about how to clean the shower stall
She is nobody’s mother
though she wants to say
it begins with the need to be clean
but he asks again about her birthday
repeats back her answers
like he’s committing it to memory
She refuses to be his fixer
only drags her nail-bitten fingers
through his unwashed hair
his mouth disappearing at her breast

First published in Hobo Camp Review.

2010s · Conversations with Gravel · Poetry

Diamond

you gave me glimmer
in my hands
I called it diamond
for six weeks
I was wealthy
you called me beauty
you called me art
I was sultan
for six weeks
I held your jewel in my teeth
until it shattered
you called it glass
broken shards you swept
into piles in the trash

then you left me seed
in tiny green shells
for six weeks
I was fertile
you said not over, not ready
you said maybe
every dark morning
a new one dropped
onto my tongue
for six weeks
I waited for green
to break from black earth
until you called it gravel
kicked them like stones
across puddles
into the sewer

I tried to smooth the edges
tongue to teeth
teeth to tongue
for months
I held your pieces
tried to make you mosaic
turn the art of you
into mural across my chest
I dug up your empty shells
ground them into sand
crushed them
into diamond

First published in Spectrum 3: Love Poems.