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).
This is what happened.
I’m going to tell you again.
This is what happened.
[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
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
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.
to keep herself
away from how he says our name.
In my sleep,
know is please.
And he is always coming.
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]
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]
Water baby curls inward
her imperial quickness
between cotton sheets
turns the consistency of
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
in her hands.
[This Is The Writing Wall]
Since when did the unspoken
(soft paper clouds
and liberation in their
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
It looks a lot like someone I have loved.
This is when the mind holds nothing
but a fleck of ash from the
the salt crusted along a coral wound
and the threaded
stains on the nursery walls.
This is when we suppress
what happens here.
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
in the cloud of it
turning to a pink pinprick
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
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.
into the afghan of pulled
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
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
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
the swallows that the light left.
Particles of burning hydrangeas slip past
that familiar bitter
snap on your tongue
while the blond and black go at it.
the tiny writhing creature
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
coils the old straw snake.
Your eyesight will adjust time.
My stomach settles
Don’t neglect your senses
A sapling of grime
was here in the dark
the door is unlocked.
mur·mur·ing (adolescent hallway)
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
“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]
around their memory
in carpal tunnel focus.
these ruptured digits
would let the dust
The air turns cement
and set lungs stretch under
the weight. Throat
coils jump off breath like
And someone smiles,
sitting on your chest
and stealing all
the beauty into their
dark matter. Because
except remembering how
Erupting inside our overcoats,
for the panoramic death of
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
But you want to wear no clothes and bleed
next to the beautiful white dress.
[Self-Portrait with a Fake Plant]
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
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
(adolescent hallway, bathroom)
and I am sitting in my bathtub,
mermadic, mercurial, water coming
fully clothed. The paper
in my hand crumbles in the drain,
the cut on my lip is fresh,
dropping carnations in the water.
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.
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,
The dark floral wallpaper of the church laughs while your childhood priest reads Lamentations 3:22 instead of the fingerprints you left on me.
I wash you stolid gone.
The truth finds us in our sleeping
I dream in lavender
today’s secrets I cannot keep.
She is dead.
I am coming.
(intro to adulthood, on a door)
So let me instead remember lineage
and the call for a rare lover’s scent
to fall in love
miss our mothers
all while dancing and it could be
enough to feed
I will only feed you.
I will teach you
the language I’ve studied in dark
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
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.
(on a door)
We built this place on a conditional.
White things white things I see tar wings and
What if the baby was on fire?
No, no, the baby has to live.
To be the unimaginable.
(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.
(wallpaper of adult bedroom)
be kind to me.
This skin is tainted.
This youth is youth dirtied
by cracking bones.
I am too young.
She is so small.
(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.
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
“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.
(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]
Saying your name feels like walking on
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
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
“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?
[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
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.
[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.
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
muscle and malnourished membrane
that you’re discovering.
but not altogether ashamed.
I found an open wound
creased in an old newspaper.
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.
Did you name the ache that slept with you? ]
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
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
and nightly cigarettes.
I could have been any of their wives
at home, filling different rooms in
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
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.
the walls covered in my faces.
I am ready to crawl
behind it all and
[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.
(garden behind the house)
If you put me in a place
you could scrape away the dirt
beneath the wash basin.
(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.