You are the salt on the rim
of my first margarita, the burn
and the bite that follows the sweet
but I won’t be the one you call
in a whiskey daze when no one else
will take the bait in their pretty
crimson mouths. I want to be
your laughter at three o’clock,
head back, teeth showing,
can hardly see for the tears
and the me in your eyes.
I want to be the cup with breakfast
that sets your hands to shaking.
I am one of those girls who was
first to arrive at school dances
and last to leave, learned I look great
in mama-warned-you red.
Felt like a poppy flower,
get tilted on this nectar.
I make you mine in the glow
of a daydream, two happy
little hipsters causing mischief
at record stores, lining up
the first letter of each sleeve to read
“my love, the unriddleable.”
Every morning the ceiling
of my room is rose-tinted
and I throw an arm over my face
to save me from the dazzle, while you
bury the sun in your open mouth.
I stay in bed, refuse to quit dreaming;
in this time before waking
you are always how I want you,
rearranging records at a record store,
writing my name when no one
is looking, tenderly, on pricing signs –
buy one get one 3 Camerons off —
lips clamped shut over the light
between your teeth.
I did kind of a stream of consciousness for this one. Didn’t realize until the end that the poem had taken a complete turn in mood and message halfway through. Call it a two-for-one in honor of the last day of NaPoWriMo.
I felt inspired to write a kick-butt, read-me-aloud-to-a-room-full-of-feminists kind of poem after watching a video of April Ranger performing “South America Addresses Her Latest Conquistador.” It was extremely cathartic.
What nobody knows about ants
is how hard they are to get rid of. Set out vinegar
and sugar water and they’re gone for a day,
but then you’re buttering your toast and you find one
clinging stubbornly to the end of your knife.
Not unlike some men that I’ve known.
Why do guys think that texting you every – single – day
for a month will change your mind?
You, sir, are drunk, and no, I don’t want
to watch Netflix, I know it’s not Netflix
you have on your mind. But they keep coming back.
Like rashes like bruises under my knees
like boomerang don’t you hear me saying no?
I don’t want your attention this is not
real affection — sir, this is disrespect.
But even now I’m still calling you sir.
What kind of a shell do I live in, when I feel
like I have no right to get angry?
I’ve been with men who sang
so many odes to the skin of my legs
I forgot I had a heart, too. Now listen up —
I am the queen of a tall and curly country
and you forgot to bow when you walked in here.
Go on, I’ll wait. And while you’re at it,
learn to compliment something other than my appearance.
I am a living constellation of lessons learned,
hope and all the things that make me laugh
until I cry, but you will never know me
if all you look at is what you can get from me.
What no woman’s body knows
is the dignity of never being degraded.
I passed through the fire
like gold was born again
I came out of the crucible
skin stripped raw
trusting as a newborn
no infection to haunt,
purified of all that made me afraid
to come before the holy one
I passed through the water
currents too strong to resist
I was sinking in grief
had drawn my final breath
but mercy saw fit
to reach down
and a way was opened
to the other shore
oh hallelujah, nothing
is more cleansing
than the fire of hardship,
the water that brings death
nothing is higher than the hand
that rescues and saves
You think you know what death is like because once
you let a mouse rot on the landing for three days
before you called your landlord, and now
on rainy days you image you can smell
that stink on yourself. Don’t you know
you only feel this way because you miss the sun?
There are too many things wrong with the world
for you to keep crying over holes in your dresses,
and those things you won’t forgive yourself for.
I think you’d be happier if you just drank less,
pretended less; if you walked more.
You’ve spent so much time on buses staring
at the fake friends inside your cell phone
I’m not sure you even know what this city looks like.
And you never remember to look where you’re going.
When you walk down the street, you spend so much time
staring at the ground that your body is covered
in bruises shaped like lampposts, and what
does that say about you?
For once in your myopic little life, look up.
For a friend.
I find you alone in the graveyard. There are
no words for the slump in your spine, only
heavy breathing – sweat – and the shovel
hanging limply from your hands, as we stand
together over the grave that you’ve dug.
You can’t take your eyes off the six-foot
hole in the ground so I grab you around the waist,
drag you away from it. There are no words
for the devastation in your lungs when you tell me,
I’m sorry, I did it again. We keep coming back
to the place of your destruction, but I’ve seen
what’s waiting for those who press on —
and I am not afraid of the struggle.
I know this feels like dying again and again
with every pill, every swallow, every time
the skeletons of the past take hold,
but under the dirt of the grave on your arms
there’s a man I think is worth fighting for.
in my dreams there are seas
of yellow grass;and the dirt of the road
is red like the blood
of unconquered Guaranis
we scrub nuestros trapos;the giant sapos
croak, no predator
to make them afraid;and the stars
are spilled across the canopies
of avocado trees
a streak of existence — galaxies
like arroz con leche, cold
under dapples of guayaba leaves
and all is humanity, all is tranquilo,
ch’amigo, vení y sentate
un rato, come drink with me
the tereré of solidarity
holá, come share mbaracuyá–
it’s as sweet as my name on his lips;
and the fruit of passion will always recall
clear nights on land in the yellow-grass sea
Listen to the recording:
A rough draft, recycling some lines from an earlier poem (which was also a rough draft). Putting words to thoughts is hard, guys.
Regret is a thing that gets stuck in your shoe;
tastes like a sour plum, bursts
when you least expect it to.
It follows you on the street for three and a half blocks,
shouting, “Hey beautiful, come back!”
Sits on low brick walls with its hand out,
staring at you accusingly.
It corners you in back alleys —
“Hands up! Give me everything you have” —
and sits rotting in piles in the corners
of gardens that would be beautiful,
were it not for the pitiful stench.
You can chant all the mantras you want,
ohm’s and ah’s and bows to the earth;
you can change your name, cut your hair,
run all over the city,
but then you turn a corner and regret is there,
at the end of the block,
leaning in a doorway.
Regret smokes a cigarette.
Looks like someone you know.
His mouth was a flashbulb and I wanted
to be blinded, on those heavy summer nights
of rum and Coke, while I touched
his tattooed chest, smoke falling
from his mouth into mine.
His mouth was a pen and I wanted
to be rewritten. Softened in the dark
we peeled back inhibitions and
our winter layers, curve to curve
swaying in the blue of the TV.
And when I most wanted to be fooled,
his lips dripped hallucinogenics,
visions of romance that tasted like wine.
But the morning burned the mist
of our sighs and suspended disbelief.
My mouth was a bruise and I wanted
to rewind. In the crystalline morning,
the holes in my dress were not lovely
and this was not love. So I turned back,
washed the perfume from my hair;
and I traded in my black lace for cotton.
is beautiful, though I know you don’t believe it.
A writer told me once
that beauty is in the balance
between the transcendent and mundane.
I thought of your messy hair still sleeping
and your crane-thin fingers resting
on the lip of your cereal bowl.
You hate to be seen this way,
but it’s in those moments,
while the morning glories unfold
and in the yard the dew
burns into nothingness,
that your smiles are most sincere.
Tonight you will cha-cha
wearing too much makeup
and a pair of thirteen-dollar heels;
beauty is cradled there, too,
in the curve of your dancer’s foot.
I really struggled to pull anything together today. I’ve got a head cold and all the congestion in my sinuses leaves no space for my muse.
When you began eating again your body rebelled
against you and you gained twenty pounds.
All that year you spent more money
on makeup than textbooks, and more time
arranging your hair than speaking in class.
You removed your full-length mirror
from its hooks, hid it in the basement
with the diet pills and the gun you never used.
All that year you walked to the laundry room
with your eyes closed, one hand on the wall
to guide you there because everything was a monster
in the shadows waiting to drag you back to that time.
Dust bunnies. The smell of mold. Size zero jeans.
There are certain people you’ve avoided for months.
All that year you were obsessive about the sweeping.
The skin of your hands was always wrinkled
from washing every dish slowly, twice, exhaustively.
You touched the doorway to your bedroom
in the same spot halfway up every time that you entered
until it was sooty with the grease of your fingers,
and then you kept on touching it, over and over,
wide eyes in wonder, smearing and smudging
and feeling and crying, and leaving fingerprints
as proof of your own tangibility.
Every morning you woke up and as you dashed
a line of black across your eyelids you repeated it to yourself:
It is a Tuesday. This is real. I am here. I am here.