The Only Song for L.V.
I’m so sorry that when I loved you, my grow lamps had already burnt out
and that everything in the greenhouse cracked, the slow fracture, the sound
of glass as it shatters and falls; that none of my garden had come back in,
that there was no poetry left in me to make you a flower crown.
I loved you the best I could, the way a rose bush loves
blood and water, the way an apartment loves a bolt lock,
the way a lighthouse loves a thunderstorm
You said you took to lighthousekeeping;
You loved me coming into your storm’s eye,
quiet, but for my wild honey whiskey dancing
or when you would go rural backroads driving
and I would sing you a country mile sounding
too much like a stray dog’s forever home
I’m sorry I don’t have more specifics, like that time I took a sharp palm knife
and scarred your hip until you were happy. Later, you were still happy, gave me
a sailor’s knot promise ring, saying, No matter how tight you pull, the knot
gets stronger. Later, you were happy in our kitchen, scallops seared Iron Chef,
sweet potato purée smeared the plate—Well, maybe it wasn’t sweet potato then,
but it was a burnt orange color. I don’t have better specifics, I don’t remember.
It’s the crash heap of me, you know. It’s the cracked conservatory
that conserves nothing
I loved you whole orchards and spring offerings, struggled
to bring back blossoms, wilted
in the summer heat;
I don’t blame you for my drought. We were always going to be flood or famine.
Did I starve you into silence? Or was there another reason for the increasing distance
between the lightning and the thunder? You were barely home by then, anyway.
Of course you left your keys behind,
of course you opened the door
and took the rain with you.
Mother May I
Mother, can I have a cookie? Mother, may I have a cookie? Mother, may I have a glass of milk? Mother, may I skin my knee? Mother, may I have my blanket and stuffed lamb? May I have a bedtime story, too?
Mother, may I be the president? Mother, may I be a teacher or a nurse? May I make a house a home? Or marry god? Mother, may I own a bra? May I buy tampons instead? And may I shear my wooly legs?
May I wear this tartan skirt? May I wear this red lipstick? Mother, may I not obey? Mother, may I dye my hair aqua blue and Sharpie Hole lyrics onto my jeans and sew my own clothes and rip the arms off of my shirts? Mother, may I not be pretty? May I buy this pepper spray? May I have a sharp switchblade?
Mother, may my friends not make me a punchline? May we find common ground in mall hallways and on movie theater screens? May we talk on the phone for hours and tie up the line? Mother, may I sleep over? Mother, may I go to the dance and not worry about looking away from the drink in my hand?
Mother, may I be touched only when I want to be? May he be simply a kind escort home? May his words of defense really be those of a gentleman not seeking moral dessert between my legs? If he does help, may he not be hunted himself and punished worse than the predators?
Mother, may I have children? And may I choose not to? Mother, may I share childraising and housework with a spouse? And may I not have a spouse? May I be a lover or a partner or alone or diffuse my love like roots to so many different trees, connecting us all under one safe canopy?
Mother, may I dare to love my difficult body? May I dare to love my difficult heart?
Mother, may I have photos of me I shared with my lover not used as revenge against me? Mother, may I not be deemed “slutty” or “whorish” or “asking for it” or “desperate” or “indecent” or “shameful” or “a shrew” or “unfuckable” or “a dime” or “a trophy” or “a manic pixie” or “a bitch” just for existing?
May I find a job that doesn’t check my cheekbones as references? May I speak up without “dominating”? May I lead without being “aggressive”? May I be angry without “overreacting”? May I be straightforward without being “abrasive”? May I be heartbroken without being “pathetic”?
Mother, may I grow gray hairs? Mother, may I live long enough to have gray hairs? May I have a full and overwhelmed and tiring and lovely and sweet life? May I have fine lines and age spots and sagging neck skin and dark under eye circles and gravity kissed breasts? Mother, may I have a face?
Mother, may I ever do anything
I don’t ask permission for?
Disappearing is an Observer’s Issue
After Rachel Wiley
Listen, there are worse things
than living alone with cat hair,
going ghost in an apartment
Folks have their reasons, but
unless you can live with someone
you love well, you may as well
live with yourself.
This ottoman guilt?
This coffee table shame?
This Chesterfield couch?
This unnecessary brass mirror hosting
amber scented candles and crystals?
I bought them, I like that shit,
didn’t have to ask anyone
about it, except
maybe the cat: he despises
the smell of citrus
So if it happens that I slip in the bathroom,
skull cracked open and blood on the tile,
at least I will have died feeling at home
with fresh cut carnations and cat toys,
shrouded in dead lines of my own poetry,
surrounded by the world I created—
and if my cat later fancy feasts
my eyeballs as I’m on the floor,
then the last thing I’ll have done
in this scenario is feed him,
which is exactly what
we both would have wanted.
Femme King Realness
Behind closed doors, we lean against mirrors
and mimic smoking expensive, fat cigars,
our bold sexproof lipstick blowing nothing.
In our own good time and no one else’s,
we leave our locker room man cave
with tonight’s game faces painted on
We walk one by one down the hallway
that feels like a runway, each catwalk
leads us to the top of the stairs where
we gaze long into the bar patrons;
the bar also gazes back into us.
The men exhale beers and bourbons,
sitting in pairs and groups to gossip
the way they learned from women
As I stand in Bordello heels and lace
at the top of the stairs, I take my time
to look twice at the American Dream
Once for what they’re wearing: cuts
of shirts, brands of shoes, watches, and if
their cash stacks beside top-shelf liquor,
overcost liquor in glass swimming pools,
cash flashing like the aftermath of gunfire,
signals of ambitious, disposable income—
and once again with eyes closed, inhaling
the mix of sweat, old money, smoke, stale ale,
and a scent between desperation and desire
Through this fog, I feel the call of wealth
as a bright green light, guiding, beckoning
me through the bay of dreaming men
Only after I sense the source do I descend
the stairs like a debutante looking to make
my mother blush—no,
I descend like an Airedale hound searching
the strip club wilds for supper, hunting
instead of hunted—no,
I descend like a man, all control in my gait,
all swagger in my smile, all knowing pinned
in my hair, owning just another experience
I keep wrapped around my ring finger.
The boys are pretty little fools, lined up
with their gravel giggles and nervous hands,
looking at each other for approval
I come in and compliment their appearance,
whisper a pick-up line—Oh, I don’t have to act
with you!—and convince them
I was their idea. As they gaze at me,
the green light becomes my cologne and I take
what they came here to give me, I take
what is already mine: their wallets, their time,
and then, I’ll crime scene their hearts—
such careless damage I will leave
to this night and move on from
early and easy tomorrow afternoon,
their names already forgotten—
as I ready again to bring
the next best thing
to its knees.