To nanny ghosts or just baby them
chill children, subtracted adults I hold a ghost in the bassinet
of my mouth a cherry tomato without a crown
Things I’ve learned: an AMBER alert is a bacronym,
created to honor the kidnapped and murdered girl
who inspired it all-capped and angry ghost in a letter
behind which is a hidden room a whole word a harnessed sound
the bacronym and acronym a kind of camping chair making cartable
the broader seat of a phrase a kind of bacon
that’s an ode to the pig a fatty filmstrip preserving its narrative
Things I’ve learned: if a drop of water hits you
while you’re in a cave it’s called a cave’s kiss—what else when it hits you
is rewritten as a type of affection? plenty you expected
a riddle but instead the bull of your expectation is ridden
the whole eight seconds in the American tradition
we rid, we right mistakes, high stakes we take stakes to the garden
and know the dirt has something to do with the harvest
and know the soil must be some part witch and martyr
all whom are returned to it like a shirt that didn’t quite fit
—for whose bodies were we each made beyond
our own to be made and thus to lose the one you tailed
perhaps each of us is each docked from the tail of god
and discarded ostensibly to protect god
though upon scrutiny the practice is deemed
barbaric and mostly banned it’s too late for us
bloody wands cast off when the cast comes off
we know that signifies healing the ghost of pain
griming up the plaster our hallways webby, but repaired
Things I’ve learned: the webbing is mostly fat the body
a tender spider a double-yolked egg plated,
photographed, circulated, devoured
A tarot card wears a gown, which is to say, a gown
is printed on it. The sleeve of the gown bends
in an embodied way though the only body is blue
background, cradling an unfashionable cloud.
And though I do not read Tarot, the card comes out
of my own deck, an Emily Dickinson artist pack
from which it separated itself during a recent move
and came to be propped on the nightstand,
though, only today, six weeks after arriving,
do I look up its meaning (see “The Hermit,” see
her mitt reaching into the oven of her thought—
see also the information page for the new teal
robe on its way to me and which I will wear
to prepare coffee to take to the porch
on which I will, good hermit, introspect,
reconnoitering the rim for specter or scepter,
for a kingly speech to overthrow). In my new home,
fleurs-de-lis appear like conspicuous Waldos,
the city named after King Louis XVI, thus
making it, according to the Unofficial Louisville
Fan Site, “one of the few cities in the world
named for an executed criminal” (I’ll be heading
to a different source soon, away from the season
of sore sons, revolution reduced to a commemorative
red string, thin and pinned tight enough to the neck
to pass as blood rushing to a life’s closing sale
where, yes, all inventory must go, though it is not
prices that are slashed). After Katrina,
enough New Orleans residents tattooed a fleur-de-lis
on their wrist to call it a trend, city annexing
the suburb of a body in which the soul for once
is not priced out. The dualism is outdated
and the binary false, but our fictions are real, in terms
of their effects, which one gathers and turns
into a platform for solidarity. The fake mayonnaise
on my plate has turned into a miniature of a transparent
mountain unexplored by my hunger and now
doomed to encounter an impossible storm—
is it metaphors that are corrupted by the world,
or metaphors that corrupt? I hold my tongue
like a seat someone is coming back for,
but another takes it, and I don’t protest, because,
ultimately, the practice of saving seats annoys me,
and what one claims, one may be forced to keep.
I intuit myself a clumsy shepherd, an inauthentic crab
with a meddling softness, a statue on loan to the state.
Night with Dill, Lemon
By my mattress topper on a borrowed mattress
in a rented frame, a night stand and Stand,
the American Civil Liberties Union
magazine, also not mine
though made mine by mine eyes’
word habits, each word a habit they put on
like good nuns or, at the very least, recognizable
ones. A cutting from a Christmas cactus from my
grandmother’s yard in Florida where I
have not returned since a rented yellow convert-
ible Mustang carted me
from airport to dirt road
for her funeral in a year two airlines
still supplied grievance flight prices to those who could prove their
grief with doctor’s call or obituary thrives
on a yellow table, also not mine,
with hearts cut into the sides of it and a paint
job that suggests craft project
over boutique purchase
and that someone poured their heart into it like
a cold tea brought into the yard in a glass where a tarp
would have been laid to protect the grass from the ex-
cesses of art. My sister, who, when
visiting, once watered the cactus and wrote a
note in its voice urging more
attention and thus bet-
ter care, would be glad to see it, perky as
a pom-pom. Rah-rah. Given my 21st century
marriage, you will not be surprised to learn my hus-
band and I do not own each other
either, though we owe each other a great deal, a
fact we celebrated last
night with dill, lemon,
garlic, salt, and oil dressing a fish dressed in
an aluminum onesie that kept it warm after ex-
iting the oven’s womb into which we together
had inserted it like a type of
euphemistic seed. We are not the first to eat
our young. Still, I am more meat-
less than heartless, the food
I prefer to eat having never had a
heart, with the exception of artichoke and romaine, which
remained last night in the crisper, which is to say
I am among those with choices and new-
ly less in debt, having received my first tenure-
track paycheck and having paid
off two of three credit
cards and having selected a restaurant
to try for brunch and having made a list to aid me in
the grocery store a five-minute walk from “my” house.
I see already how all this having
could lead to hating, self-directed or project-
ed onto me and so I
lift the tv out from
inside hating and having and turn it on
to distract myself while I finish a poem as if it
were a nightcap meant to appease the infant
anxiety determined to spoil the
milk of sleep.
And the Dollars, Too
Among the irreconcilable things: the way pollution
amps up the beauty of a sunset soupy neon
toxic pink as if the sun were airbrushed onto the sky
waiting to be eclipsed by a couple’s ornate names
and the symbol for love which the sun must regret
despite the magic of photosynthesis
of any synthesis
is not itself or that we might regret we’ve made
internal to ourselves
somewhere a sleeve of cloud
rolled up to compensate for the heat—
the A/C kicks on and kicks the curtain
from the pane letting light find its way in
and light sips from the flimsy lid covering the cup of your eye
it is not light that is liquid here
in an ocean a turtle is lured with indistinguishable meat
we distinguish as meat because it bleeds has blood
that loosens into a red jellyfish and so via metaphor
gets a second life as a second animal a second before
it’s taken into the turtle’s mouth a guide’s trick
to ensure one sees what one’s hoping to see
because though one has paid one has yet to tip
and the dollars too have a metamorphosis to fulfill
Rename me the quiet execution of a nail
Rename me mouthwork and guesswork
Gethsemane, a Sunday in France
Rename me no widow
Rename me no whited-out error
or whittled branch, no wood debris
Rename me concussion, cocoon, ca-caw,
a series of useless birdsong, bird-sound,
the brain’s own birth-pain, delivering a thought
Rename me coddler or god
witness or withness
an unforgiveable act, an ax or an ask
Rename me afraid
but do not name me without
Do not name me without
Do not name me bait or beaten or deterred
Rename me turd, but not porcelain, not flesh
Rename me commotion
Rename me the proximity of salt and sugar
as the distance between assault and assure
Rename me sugar-assured, rename me
ushered, rename me hush
do not rename me hush
do not take us out of the world
Rename me a series of pills
but not swallow
but not even a swallow’s wingspan
Rename me prayer or drawer into which
one folds her desperation
but do not name me opened
and do not open me
Rename me father, further, pelt,
trade, treason, logic, and lube
Rename me bunny-tail of moon on the wide ass of night
Rename me after accumulation, after the fact
Rename me after after
Rename me then
Rename me any, rename me anon, avast,
a Kevlar vest never needed
Rename me sinew
Rename me insinuation
Rename me remain but not remains
Do not rename me tooth-sized or canine
blasted or blessed
Rename me have, rename me as having
Rename me sleep, but not sleeper, sleep
I’m sorry I hope you get the pleasure
To be sorry to hope To be sorry for
pleasure a tube of sorrow-cream squeezed dry
my main squeeze a feather fallen
from the lovebird’s wing into the road and
picked up like an accent To use the pillow
of one’s voice to throw
like a ventriloquist onto the couch of one’s thought
thus “bringing the room together” like those
of different minds coming to an unlikely consensus
coming to after passing out how the sound comes
into focus the brain’s radio dial turned slowly up
but whose fingers do the turning
whose ears hear the erring holding court
courtship’s held hand handheld divisiveness
One conjures a god who can handle the blame
who can be a lake when swimming’s in order
who can be the hand’s heel when the vending machine of one’s self
needs a good thwack
who can be a fork which itself conjures food
who can be an ellipses allowing an abbreviated passage
to pass as the whole
There was a moment I wanted to remember.
A specific irritation. An impenetrable rind
of an orange. A kind of eyelash in the eye
and the eye is our love
and our love is our saturation.
An archaic Polaroid waved dry. I may commit more
unnecessary acts than necessary.
I may lend my support to a faulty reading.
The window in the pregnancy test
of the mind only dimly responsive
so we make a guess rather than a baby.
A magic stick. A matchstick. A lipstick. A dipshit.
I live in a house that is not my house
surrounded by things that are not my things
though aesthetically they could be
in the sense I would pick them out
and several of them could afford.
The camel saddle has been googled.
The delphinium-blue dishes from France.
A disposable cup not disposed of.
Being adorable is a fine if ephemeral protection,
little goat. My day is made of money
because I am preoccupied by debt.
The purchase of a mood. An unpacking.
The fear a parent will die and the fear a parent will soothe.
The fear I owe an apology I withheld
and that apology was
the soothing water and I have bracketed
a life that was not mine to punctuate
much less close. The fear my hand will be hung in a fence
I touch from the window of a moving car
and detached from the larger part
of my body like a vacuum attachment
one cannot reach a certain crevice without.
My husband is new. A benevolent virus.
There are bodies on the shower curtain,
I remind myself, so I don’t get confused and mistake them
for bodies outside the shower itself. Pulling the curtain back,
I crimp the bodies. I close my eyes and accordion fold
my desires into a manageable fan and cool myself.
There is no space in the recycling bin. There is
no space in the garbage. What’s to be done?
To be simultaneously empty and full.
To be put out or to put out. Turning our girls
into trash with our language. Upsets today
upset tomorrow. O, vacillation. O, metaphorical vaccine.
The ‘o’ is a prick but is this fairytale or slang.
From a mouth in which prayer and error rhyme
Where once was a pool in the backyard now a green yawn no
a closed mouth what field aspires to be a lawn a cow
a barrette in the field holding up an overgrown hill
a canoe a lake’s barrette but the water
is burn-slick hairless so the comparison will not do
no updo no occasion
a pewter hare is drilled to the wall
the head of a hare one imagines its body behind
the wall as if it there were a kink in materialization the coordinates just off
a jacket off a jacket rewriting the hare a jackrabbit
when I try to imagine myself a rabid dog I am nothing more
than the patio of a bar in a college town on foam night whose suds
easily brush off or dissolve a novelty
a set of flimsy dentures making slack the morning’s jowls
whose desire is not a clumsy eater
the very concept of the crumb keeps any of us from truly finishing
what we started here we are then undone
da da dum somewhere the mechanism holding closed the wall holding back the boulder
is tripped this is the part
where we run
We Don’t Understand What Our Lives Look Like Until They Look Like Our Lives
My friends are flakes. They disappear
under the watch of the sun.
Mostly white, my friends
are flakes—I catch
my tongue on them.
I am disappointed by my friends
whom I love like snow
which I love though it rarely comes
and, when it does, fails
if all but staying is failure.
The idea of failure may be useless
to me. My friends may be useless
to me, my friends. My friends,
I have already rejected
the valorization of usefulness.
Now, to rest, a flake among flakes, cold.
I call the forest murderous then think better of displacing the action from the agent.
I have not memorized enough of the Paul Celan
so repeat “Black milk of daybreak we drink you,” “black milk of daybreak we drink you,” “black milk of daybreak we drink you.”
I look into the forest
and it looks like a forest.
I look into the forest
surprised it looks like a forest, alive
and full of living things.
Trees and yellow flowers and purple flowers and white flowers and fuchsia.
A pinecone beside me.
Small pinecones. Significant and insignificant pinecones. The sound
of a train. Some people
sitting on benches.
A tour bus wobbles on the uneven path—a tour bus—coming in.
A tissue is passed from hand to hand to eye to nose to eye.
An imperfect system.
Black milk of daybreak, we drink you. Black milk of daybreak, we drink you.
My bowels are apparent. Shit. A bus passing. Flowers.
We circle the pits.
When a bug lands on my finger, I take caution not to kill it.
Now there are several bugs around me. (Black milk of daybreak.)
Some of them noisy, others silent.
I repeat Inger Christensen: “Apricot trees exist, apricot trees exist.”
Bark and pinecones and the serrated green leaves of a plant I can’t name.
Yellow flowers and white flowers and fuchsia.
Flowers in the shape of bells.
Plaques with Yiddish I cannot read.
The forest is warm.
A small bug shines.
A beer can in a ditch.
I am overwhelmed by the live forest.
The pink flowers, the yellow.
The milk of trees.
The soft seat of the forest itself.
The invitingness of forests.
My bowels are disappearing.
Flowers and bark.
something suggesting bark is the soul of trees.
A glimpse of a girl on a pink bike—and why not,
it is a beautiful day (beautiful days exist),
the kind of day one bikes on,
one desires to bike on,
the kind of day during which one desires.
The kind of day for desire.
Death and bark.
Flowers of yellow and fuchsia, of purple.
My own yellow sweater, a gross flower.
That which refuses naming.
A questionable legibility.
Flowers of yellow, of fuchsia.
The red flowers one imagines
would have bloomed
from the body’s own field.
The betrayal of flowers.
Nausea and bark.
It’s like the awkwardness of having ‘Jeggings’ stamped on the inside of one’s pants. Do I flinch? Does your husband flinch? Our fingers are turning green, giving in to interactions with quiet metal bands. Suddenly it felt very violent to have a flower in my drink. It felt suddenly very violent to separate liquid from liquid with the insufficient tower of a straw. We hold less than we’d like to hold. Though your question disinterests me, I’ll entertain it, I’ll play host and slide the hosiery of my mind up over its cold thigh. The pot of clouds finally unscrewed. We have less than we owe. The birds of late morning are eating the barfed-up ramen of the early morning.
Don’t judge the slutty buildings on the streets tonight. I’ve only cried 6,008 times! I’ve only cried 4,330,093 times. My crying is nothing. Compared to beautiful girls in dresses on bicycles with tattoos of bicycles on the most strategic parts of them. Homemade girls! Compared to a helmet’s good job. I had forgotten how we used to sit with a chessboard, just one slice of blueberry pie, and wine between us. I have forgotten so much between us. It was obvious when the regular pastry chef was out of town. If we commit to move to Istanbul, let’s move to Istanbul!
My epiphany is neither crocus nor bruise nor bros boiling hotdogs in the parking lot where I expect to find them. I am neither addressed as bro nor bra. What may at first appear gender-inflected is an accident of vowels or vows. Brouhaha. The epiphany is not where I expect to find it. Last night’s clothes—and, in the face of them, in the very seam it seems, last night closes, a non-redundant bloom. I miss the epiphany only because I’ve given it your name and, after, taken your name away from it.
The balcony is an exercise in light, and the light works out my waking—a boot camp of light! I sweat light, which is to say I wake, which is to say the light, as usual, moves me. I sit, moved by light dressing the walls that husband the courtyard. Sweet linen, light clothes. Bring the lighter material toward me. We sit inside a word like it might be light. A mutt of light taken in by a vocabulary of meat. To meat, light is bone. Petrified worms of light bone me.
All the women are trees, & the trees are fashioned into men. It is not disturbing. Disturbing is the autocorrect of flightlessness. A large stock photo of slices of garlic bread looks like an unfortunate snowman. I, myself, snow’s regret, boozy with heat. Perhaps snow is winter at its most bourgeois, entitled in its encompassing whiteness. A light flashes so haphazardly it seems urgent—when I try to imagine a message, I fail.
Reading is not necessarily supported by words. You are my second or third language. My tongue feels good on your topic. I imagine the first water to dress up as boats. I imagine the first water to realize its own murderous impulse. What laps like dogs & seas & athletic bodies lacquered with sweat? I would like you to make a list of my best attributes but please never show it to me. A good enough visitor uses landmarks to condition the hair her movement is on the land-scalp. -Scape. To orient the self in the soul of the city the sign points out—locatable soul, your own essence once pinpointed and to me believable. A triumphant ‘thus’ travels in the last sentence to comfort me. And thus she spake! A dreamy spatula turns our sleep over and serves us.