A Careful Measurement

It’s all I can do since you stopped writing to me
to recreate your image in a story
in which you are as tall as you ever were
and as sleek with the same bushy hair
but I’ve added some embarrassing skin afflictions

you are trotting across a country road in the rain
and to my credit, I don’t let any cars hit you
there is nothing but thunder and lightning
striking through the gravy of a sky
with the consistency of porridge
I have surrounded you with this setting
as a suffocating, lonely blanket
the mud staining the bottom of your skirts
and all the cows and horses in hiding
somewhere warmer than you will be able to find
until several chapters later
the scene is lumpy gray with mud and clouds
both splashing and infuriated
then, as you are running, your heel breaks

that is exactly how much I hate you today

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Yes, Miss

After my house burnt down a lot of people said the same thing
“My god-well, at least you weren’t in it,” but I was, albeit in hiding
I had pretended to be out of town for Thanksgiving
but hightailed it home early to enjoy the quiet

And hightailed myself and my dog
out of the smoking wreck at five in the morning
and watched the fiery flames burst out of my window
until around noon when the Red Cross showed up
and clothed my shivering, wet feet with socks

I didn’t have a wallet or keys
the Red Cross lady added that I also
wouldn’t have a place to sleep
I couldn’t stay with my boyfriend
and my aunt had gone south for the winter already
so my dog and I did a lot of hiking
while I petitioned to be allowed
a temporary respite on my old college campus

I was thirty and the other students
weren’t old enough to drink
Although that’s never stopped anyone
As evidenced by the loud music
constantly blaring from my neighbors’ apartments
but at least I got to hear people having fun
rather than, say, domestic violence
or people getting shot

charities donated to heavy garbage bags of supplies to me
and I remembered that young men on campuses
were always happy to help girls with these types of errands
I spotted two of them, Erik and Edionis, while I was moving in
used a little finesse, and they helped my carry
all my bags up without breaking anything

I saw Erik again two weeks later and greeted him
with the best news-I had found permanent housing
we hugged, and as I apologized for hugging him
I peered into his eyes and saw my favorite color
A velvety brown, maroon in a certain light
and he explained to me that he hadn’t had the best life
couldn’t really afford to live on campus
didn’t have nice parents, and seemed disturbed
so much so that I was reminded of myself as a youth
he reassured me that he understood homelessness
and was just relieved that I found housing

another week passed and I came home to hear yelling
not the type that could be confused with the Patriot’s game
but endless, one sided, and filled with obscenities
very clearly in my living room coming from another building
I remembered someone saying they had heard a fight
two hours earlier, and that’s why my dog was barking
but it was still happening and then I heard what sounded like
furniture crashing

I called the police. Only after the yelling quieted
did I wonder if it was Erik doing acid in his apartment
as I had done when I was younger or fighting with his girlfriend on the phone
or worse, his mother, and if now because of me he was arrested

later still and deep into the night a knock on my door
startled me out of sleep, I was sure it was Erik
either coming for vengeance or a place to hide
the officer asked me for a witness statement
and said the student had been arrested
I felt slimy. I asked what the charge was
and he said drunk and disorderly
the student wasn’t alone
there was another student
passed out on the floor
during the whole thing

and what else? Did he have a weapon?
Yes, Miss. He had guns. A lot of them.

I was absolutely right, but she doesn’t need to know that

When an old friend says Fuck you
and Go fuck yourself in quick succession
I tell her the conversation has ended
and it was completely inappropriate
and uncalled for to use that kind of language
that I just won’t stand for it

then I have to dust off
my internal Rolodex of all the times
i have used these phrases
against the patriarchy, mostly
or those who have tried to impose it on me
in my poetry and drunkenly
but never to a friend
just, you know, every lover
I’ve ever had

I have other friends, I started thinking
who still actually live in this country
and are vying to see me
too many, actually
I could use the gap of one less
to my advantage
I could use that time
to read or pick up a language

it is my ambition to never be sworn at again
and i could do it — for the most part
over the past few years, i have
but wouldn’t I miss her?

I pull over to the side of the road
on my way home, put the hazards on
and email her a question
are you ok? and then i add
a totally unwarranted apology
for both of our benefits

The Real Danger

You might say that I’m playing a dangerous game

when I ask him to show me his dick

but that’s just for fun – the real danger is

when his eyes gleam and a mischievous

smile forms on his lips, and he says

“Ok, you can see it so long as this

is purely for scientific purposes.”

 

The real danger in men

isn’t in their dicks, their eyes

or their smiles -unless

they’re that particular brand

of mischievous

but most of their danger comes in

when they can make you laugh

and leave you blushing

 

because that is exactly

when you’ll agree to go

to the carnival with them

and soon enough

you’ll be forfeiting all

your upcoming weekends

no matter what

you had going on

before you met him

 

This is how people get hurt

Those strobe lights shouldn’t be allowed

in such a small room

because it replaces the calm wave

that I rode in on

and we shouldnt be allowed to drink

three skullcaps worth of soju

but we always do

 

and you shouldnt have said

that I couldn’t leave the room

however grinningly

with whatever intentions

nevermind

our longstanding friendship

 

But the next morning,

when i asked if I broke the skin

you lied, pull your sleeve down

and said that I didn’t, just because

you didn’t want to hurt

my feelings

But Here I Am

I could’ve done a better job

at everything

I’ve ever written

but I didn’t

its been said

that I lack focus

need special education

and medication

am a shitty poet

that i steal things

and do drugs

and sleep with men

for money

 

well, who doesn’t?

and it’s July,

the wind shouldn’t be

this biting

my shirt is long-sleeved

but transparent

the kind of top

you wouldnt want me

to meet your mother in

but here i am

Guacamole Dip

There are times that I miss the swirling iridescent

rain puddles of my mental illness

when compared with the blank expanses

that I worked so hard to flood my vision with

 

whittling down the sharp edges of desperation

in my voice when i would call someone

who i truly hated (though I didn’t realize it then),

at two in the morning to beg for a redemption

they were in no position to give

 

to kisses and gentle acceptances

on my cheeks, rounded and stuffed with

different guacamole recipes someone

I consider my friend ( who I also detest

and don’t realize it yet) is testing

 

because god knows, no matter how well i get

i’ll never get well like that-I’ll never get

that recipe from a magazine excitement.

The nightmares gave me a reason

to get out of bed. I can’t get that

from guacamole dip.