Intro


[xiii]

(front door)

They say, “Give us proof,” so I give them my body (this house).

They say, “Give us stories,” so I give them my body (this house).

[xiv]

(back door)

This is what happened.

I’m going to tell you again.

This is what happened.

Childhood


[For the Woman I Am Becoming In My Sleep]

(child bedroom, sometimes on the stairs leading up)

My girl is the cadence of rosary beads

dressed all in white,

crawling in and out of being.

In my closet, the gospel

of her silence

sleeps.

I have loved her roughed skin,

the way she follows me barefoot

around the house

turning the lights on and off.

The sound of tides folding themselves

in the dark.

She can’t even dress herself.

I leave her alone for days,

a tiny heaving creature

caught in my sheets.

Her hips are prone to paralysis

from here down.

She’s wallpapered my room in epilogues,

watching me with charcoal

glasses.

When she dreams, she finds

a temple floating

in the middle of a lake.

A god with no hands

in a room filled with dry-brushed relics.

She tries

to keep herself

away from how he says our name.

In my sleep,

know is please.

And he is always coming.

[x]

(front sidewalk)

Put your ear against the sidewalk & listen

to the human commotion of

fits & hearts:

“It’s not your fault.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“It’s not your fault.”

[Lies My Mother Told Me]

(living room)

Trees talk to each other at night.

All fish are named either Lorna or Jack.

Before your eyeballs fall out from watching too much TV, they get             very loose.

Tiny bears live in drainpipes.

If you are very quiet, you can hear the clouds rub against the sky.

Everyone knows at least one secret language.

We are all held together by invisible threads.

Books get lonely too.

I will always be there.

The lock will keep him out.

Daddy loves you.

[In a Precious Tangle of Teeth]

(baby room)

Water baby curls inward

while

her imperial quickness

between cotton sheets

turns the consistency of

undergrowth.

In the quicksand beneath the doorjamb

I curve into a ball and pretend to not see.

He is why

he is why I leave

her to fight for me.

This baby in a little baby hat

has splendor

in her hands.

[This Is The Writing Wall]

(baby room)

Since when did the unspoken

(soft paper clouds

and liberation in their

swaying

fall)

roll rancid down my throat,

stink while I hold her breath

and harden into a wall I crash against.

A wall with skin and bones and lips

mouthing,         “run.”

It looks a lot like someone I have loved.

This is when the mind holds nothing

but a fleck of ash from the

arsonist’s puffing

the salt crusted along a coral wound

and the threaded

stains on the nursery walls.

This is when we suppress

what happens here.

[Grave (I)]

(living room)

Your daughter’s purpose

is to raise the skin on your arms,

purple pinched mountains

with vein valleys,

as you watch her spin

away in the gravel, like worn tires do,

kicking up debris only because

it’s such a pretty word

for such a dusty thing.

Her laugh forces you to see

glitter

in the cloud of it

and her

turning to a pink pinprick

miles off.

Your daughter’s purpose

is to be sure

you don’t sleep too soundly.

She’ll keep you

on the edge of the bed, grabbing handfuls

of printed sheets,

the ones still stained. That time

when she was three

scraped knees from the parking lot

(gravel again, ground deep into yellow

kiss-bruises).

That time when she was fourteen,

her sudden period

that fell clumsily

on the day of new sheets.

Your daughter’s purpose

is to land

on her feet, almost every time

and take the fall like a fairy

tale giant, bumbling,

stuttering drunk when she doesn’t.

Curl yourself

into the afghan of pulled

picked

bargain-store thread

that’s so thin it does no good,

so small it covers nothing

but your soft middle.

Call out to an echo of a house

for someone

to turn up the heat,

settle in for the Winter

that is here for you.

Count the tiles on the ceiling.

Imagine all the times

you

told her to swallow.

[Who Would Want You Now]

(baby room, stuck in a corner)

She wants to put a small crime

in your no body

to replace

the swallows that the light left.

Particles of burning hydrangeas slip past

and leave

that familiar bitter

snap on your tongue

while the blond and black go at it.

There there

the tiny writhing creature

is tar.

[Camillea]

(child bedroom)

How do you call, to leave and leave. Come

to flesh and flesh.

I didn’t sleep just to hear the storms hit. All the wild abandon pounding blinds against the windows and nothing to show come morning but a few overturned flowerpots. Tempests with tea kettles set jam out to tempt the dormouse.

Stay quiet, girl, and whatever you do don’t remind him that you’re here. There’s only pieces of the Tar Towns that thunder drowns out and only so much that the rain can wash down.

“Why don’t you go to mass anymore?” they ask,

and the doorcreaks open girls’ bedrooms

and, “Why do you love your things broken?” they ask,

and the belt buckle whispers shh honey hush

and why did you come

and why did you touch

please

just

clean me.

[the attic]

(attic)

Nausea

coils the old straw snake.

Your eyesight will adjust time.

My stomach settles

the whispers

begin again.

Don’t neglect your senses

child.

A sapling of grime

was here in the dark

hush-

the door is unlocked.

Adolescence


mur·mur·ing              (adolescent hallway)

/ˈmərməriNG/

The walls are hums, disembodied

voices send staccato vibrations through my pillows.

Desperation permeates these walls with the

indistinguishable mummery of four a.m.

I pull the sheets up to my ears and

bury my head in the softness

in no quiet way.

Four morning conversations fill my bowels

with echoes.

“Last Friday we were supposed to make love.”

The consonants find their way

unmangled by the concrete

and slip hush into my ears.

It is the last sentence I hear her say.

I do not hear the door close

but dream that the walls grow tall and

cancerous through the house.

They cover windows and seal off corridors

until the whole house is solid.

“We were supposed to make love.”

The door may have slammed but I did not

hear it and I am gone

running through rough tunnels.

[There Are Only Fragments Left]

(adolescent hallway)

Fingers splinter

around their memory

in carpal tunnel focus.

Unfurling,

these ruptured digits

would let the dust

of us

go.

The air turns cement

and set lungs stretch under

the weight. Throat

coils jump off breath like

suicide.

And someone smiles,

sitting on your chest

and stealing all

the beauty into their

dark matter. Because

nothing matters

now nothing

except remembering how

to breathe.

[Fourteen]

(adolescent hallway)

Erupting inside our overcoats,

we plead

for the panoramic death of

tools

that dangerous and perpetually

come                       late to parties.

For voices unhurt

by our totalitarian adventures.

That little wild bouquet in your heart

is a volatile lover.

He is cold and dispensable.

You think that he is what you

want.

But you want to wear no clothes and bleed

profusely

next to the beautiful white dress.

[Self-Portrait with a Fake Plant]

(adolescent hallway)

I am not very aware of where I end.

My limbs try to get away.

Somewhere between the sky and my

flailing elbows cower a hundred small

Happiness. I am too busy

floundering.

I am a gangly thing. I feel strangled on my elbows

so I shrink them.

A thousand ballet lessons fail

my spiny feet.

I am not very aware of what I am

until I land

and feel the fullness of

my loud and fumbling

ubiety.

[It’s July]

(adolescent hallway, bathroom)

and I am sitting in my bathtub,

mermadic, mercurial, water coming

cold,

fully clothed. The paper

in my hand crumbles in the drain,

the cut on my lip is fresh,

dropping carnations in the water.

 I am

         I is

         I crept through solid white.

I bare my teeth at the

reflections and filling stark pews

in the bathwater.

I want to crawl inside the faucet.

 I was

         I will

         Take back my ashen sheets.

I am never there when my mother breaks

down the bathroom door.

 Touching all my limbs.

Open fire hydrants spray across

my face in July

and children, real children,

dance.

The dark floral wallpaper of the church laughs while your childhood priest reads Lamentations 3:22 instead of the fingerprints you left on me.

 But now

                  Yes now

                  I wash you stolid gone.

[xii]

(adolescent hallway)

The truth finds us in our sleeping

clothes.

I dream in lavender

today’s secrets I cannot keep.

She is dead.

I am coming.

Adulthood


[Hiraeth]

(intro to adulthood, on a door)

So let me instead remember lineage

and the call for a rare lover’s scent

to fail

to fall in love

miss our mothers

all while dancing and it could be

enough to feed

everyone.

I will only feed you.

I will teach you

the language I’ve studied in dark

crowded parties,

trying to show a soft neck

my justice. Underneath all that easy skin.

So give me a rounded shoulder,

matted hair, anonymity in a uniform

body.

Of course we’ve learned how to sing while falling. How to build a home in one song and watch it burn in the next.

[If]

(on a door)

We built this place on a conditional.

White things white things I see tar wings and

water baby.

What if the baby was on fire?

No, no, the baby has to live.

To be the unimaginable.

[vii]

(attic if lover, basement if father)

I hid the idea of you

in a glass box.

Whenever I lift the lid,

the smoke smells like Pompeii.

[The Eucharist]

(wallpaper of adult bedroom)

Please God,

be kind to me.

This skin is tainted.

This youth is youth dirtied

by cracking bones.

Please God,

I am too young.

She is so small.

[Anecdoche]

(behind the staircase)

It’s 5:38 and she is not alone

in a complex crying with Spanish babies.

In the small crook

behind the staircase

she hides her mother.

And if your own children begged                  “benevolence,”

why not so too the daughters.

[Moonburnt Thighs]

(bathroom)

i.          The first time I tried to drown the moon, it got caught in my drain and the      bathwater couldn’t escape and neither could I and it mouthed,

“Do you understand now.”

ii.         I kept finding the moon under my fingernails until I ripped them off.

iii.        You know when you put glue on your hand and let it dry and then you peel it off and it feels like snow on a roof? My skin came off.

iv.         The second time I tried to drown the moon, I took it to the ocean and let it laugh at me. The waves pulled it in, held it just above my head, and I screamed.

v.          The moon got caught in my eyelash once.

vi.         The sky doesn’t believe in locked doors or open windows.

vii.        The moon isn’t having me anymore.

viii.       The moon is a fucking rock.

ix.          The moon is a fucking rock.

x.            I told you it was lighter than I expected.

xi.          The last time I tried to drown the moon, it slipped under my grasp and into my blood and built a house from the platelets.

xii.         The last time I tried to drown the moon, I took it to the pool and put it in the shallow end and it sat at the bottom smiling up at me.

xiii.        The last time I tried to drown the moon, I swallowed it. That time, she screamed.

xiv.        Every time I cry now, I can hear the moon singing her revenge song and she clutches my salt to herself.

xv.         This is the time I give birth to the moon. I make her drink my mother blood.

xvi.        My rest is rust.                 xvi. I rest                       xvi. The rest is salt (and sea)   xvi.

xvii.        My rest is rust.                xvii. I rest/rust

[Honey, Honey – E]

(around the corner)

Next to me, someone’s throat swallows

mine

“Can I tell you some secrets?”

“Britain banned snails.

I smuggled 100 in.

Fifty under each breast.”

He doesn’t even have breasts.

I’m trying to work

but the snails are all over the floor,

and they make noise.

And that’s the story of how you and I met.

[thumb]

(bedroom, watching from the bookshelf)

He says goodbye in litany,

in crescent moons

that mark the flesh below my bra where

the skin raises red

from lace-wrapped wire.

His thumbnails grace the creased skin,

leaving their curved prints

in the shadow of my breast.

He rolls me over, not gently.

His attention is an unwieldy thing. I

struggle to carry it.

I do not know how

to be passive and

I do not know how

to keep men in my bed.

[Rogue Vogue Pt. I]

(staircase)

Saying your name feels like walking on

blacktop.

For the longest time I’ve been muttering it

under my chin,

repeating the motions silently

as to not disrupt

the indifference I built.

I wonder if your name has the

opposite reaction inside of me as

“fuck”.

If I said your name,

would a pit

at the bottom of the stairs open.

If I put your name into the sea, would I

find heels half buried in sand

and rotting crab shells

in my pocket.

Your name is too scared to speak haphazardly.

It opens and exposes calmly

so many physical opportunities.

[There Are Currently No Floors]

(crashing around the hallways)

“Why did you leave?” I had no reason.

“Why did you lie?”      I had no reason.

Because you were accidental. Suicidal.

How very convenient that you never move your mouth but the guile still looms in every

hallway.

“But you said.” I never said.

“But you were.” I never was.

These are daffodil seeds – waiting.

“I thought…”     You thought wrong.

“I meant…”        Nothing.

The tears outside her eyes were seeds. They planted yellow.

Because there was no room for romance here in his skull. Just empty violins tuning. We came down from euphoria with limbless minds. Disillusioned. And wasted. We cracked.

“You were never one to deny.”     What?

“Anything.”

[This is for you, jackass]

(under the bed)

The shame falls out of my ears through

its own means.

The algorithms for letting go were not

simply put.

I know there is God in my grandmother’s

garden. I just don’t know where.

This is where I tell myself-

“You’ll make it as a human, somewhere.”

I am calling this part of my life a

reaction. The effect of having had.

(kitchen)

[year one]                                                                                       [year two]

Where you find flesh                                                                  You told me on a Sunday

and salty bone.                                                                             that you wanted children.

I couldn’t prepare for this,                                                       I told you I wanted to die

the metallic curl of your lip,                                                    slowly

rolling, where you see for the first time                              and with an audience.

my innards

swollen with alcohol.

I stand back

and watch you peel away my skin

with a standard aluminum key

so basic in design

that it could open the sky.

And I think about touching

the polish on my toes,

the calculated rows

of ribcage,

muscle and malnourished membrane

that you’re discovering.

Suddenly,

but not altogether ashamed.

[year three]

(adult, kitchen)

I found an open wound

creased in an old newspaper.

It fell

luminous

on our kitchen floor

where you tried

and I didn’t

set out the good china.

 Honey, honey, this wrecked us

and dead fish

are filling up the house.

[Sojourn,

Did you name the ache that slept with you? ]

(wallpaper)

I’m still sorry about it all.

I hope the walls don’t talk about me.

Words can only apologize for my lightning rod spine, but I swear

I never did get your letters. The ones where you explain your silence when I asked about your nightmares. It’s been so long, and now I don’t know what Everest’s are catching your breath, but I’ll take this feeling and drop it. This is to say I still want you, but now I just do it quietly.

There is a place in Istanbul where the light pours in through the mosques and everyone there becomes holy at once. I meet you in the beams every time. When I check my messages, I listen for the catch of your voice first.

[In an Open Ended Letter to All the Ones I Regret Fucking]

(bedroom, somewhere forgotten)

The one who didn’t like the noises I made during sex so I learned to curl my lips around my teeth and swallow my pleasure until it burned in my chest and curdled into something else entirely. The one who never came and blamed me for it. The one who didn’t like to kiss on the mouth. The one who told me he didn’t like girls in leggings so I stored all mine at my mom’s house. The one who begged me to take out my nipple ring, who grinned up at me from where his head rested on my navel, my hand stroking the top of his head and he said, “I’ll rip it out with my teeth.” The one who laughed while he said this. The one who never chased me when I left. The one who made me walk home alone in a snowstorm while he slept. The one whose condom broke. The one who shivered on top of me like a wilted leaf, the fear dropping in salty beads from his chest. The one whose last words to me were, “Just get the fuck out okay?” as he stood with one hand holding the door, the other his already deflating erection. The one who cried a lot. The one who said he loved me and meant it.

The one who said he loved me and didn’t.

The one who said they were broken up but weren’t.

The one who ended it on Christmas Day. The one who begged me to shave all over and then laughed at how I looked when I did. The one who still has pictures of me, though he promised he’d delete them. The one who could shrink my whole world, hold it between his thumb and forefinger and squeeze it into nothingness if he wanted to. The one who wanted to. The one who was my first but refused to believe me. The one who hurt so badly I thought that I could never do it again. The one who lied. The one who told me to be quiet. The one who told me to use my words. The one who told me to come over. The one who called me at midnight and left the remnants of the dinner he cooked for his date on the counter. The ones who stayed when I puked. The one who took a scalpel to my sense of being, who carved out every cavernous quake of me, whose voice is my voice on the answering machine. The one who makes me question the veracity of mirrors. The one that’s in every photo from my twenty-first birthday with his arm around my friend. The one who left a fibrous thread that runs down my throat and winds its way around my guts, out to the tips of my fingernails, to the edges of my eyelashes, stringing me up, cocooning me from the inside out. The one who doesn’t remember my name.

[Dear Vagabond, Bury Me in Boxcars]

(back of the house)

I took a break from writing about the dead

and drinking from writing about the dead

to walk around my childhood neighborhood.

Everything’s for rent.

Or for sale. Three times its worth.

Someone planted pine trees in front of a mural

of pine trees under Washington Bridge.

In paint, fat horses

are breaking

free and running into Clear Creek.

Why didn’t I leave

My initials in cement,

in front of my parents’ apartment in the nineties?

Taylor K. had the right idea in ‘99.

I pass a basketball court where men play

under the florescent butt

of streetlights

and nightly cigarettes.

I could have been any of their wives

at home, filling different rooms in

different houses

with hopeful cribs.

I will be the wives that let the cats out

to hunt at night

like premonitions of future sons

who bring home bad news

like some head of a black

rat.

This says nothing of the man who’s been here for years.

   I hear him

when I’m collecting the pieces of death

I’ve admired. He’s here when the clothed

me no longer recognizes the naked.

He’s here while I’m writing and sleeping.

He’s here in my house.

He touches

the walls covered in my faces.

I am ready to crawl

behind it all and

stop.

[The Glassy Death of Gibson Williams]

(adult, back door)

I was in the middle of a silent film. The stars were overhead. Blonde, and mostly on fire. There was opium too. It was the Golden Age of Hollywood and we poured champagne back and forth through the bones of the first fish. Pushing the warm rain in our pockets. There we lie, entranced by the starlit water, with a bullet for both our tender eyes.

[viii]

(garden behind the house)

If you put me in a place

with daffodils

and time,

you could scrape away the dirt

beneath the wash basin.

[ix]

(backyard, adult and child)

My girl, 9 years old, jumps off the swing

and breaks her ankle.

I say, “What did it feel like on the way down?

Did it feel good; did it feel soft and brutal?”

She says it felt good.

It felt soft and brutal.