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poems

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  1. 1. The historian of your life remembers Then I will have to love you mysteriously. Motherwise I will love you. Though the storm has mummified the garbage bags, though the salt eats our paws and the false spring buds are dying, Over and over again in matching hospital socks I will love your every newness, will lastly kiss your bald spot, brush the tangles from your eyes: the dark light whispering our fears, like grandparents, moving crabwise over the unmappable distance of tomorrow, of countdown, nine a.m. I will not forfeit any inch of you. Sisterwise, crumpled on your couch until they cut apart your spine, I will not forfeit: though You play the same record again, heavy metal from your childhood again, though we drift in and out of sleep Again, wondering about death and health insurance, my name restless on your DNR, You lean your bike against the rail. Can't cross the bridge, you say, until you've cast off something you love. I follow the river to its end. Stand knee-deep in silt. Collect bouncy balls, your dog's first tooth, a slap bracelet, a Statue of Liberty keychain. Cast me off in love: I carry myself into the waiting distance.
  2. 2. 2. 28 Liberty underneath all skin is a room in an empty office building with the sun coming down shapewise, all Manhattanhenge pretty, isosceles joy like you wouldn't believe and a lone swivel chair in shadow, looking out across the plaza to another office building to another office building to another such infinity — Andrew's daughter dreams of mopping floors here in the hollow hall- ways of nighttime with her headphones on, she's nineteen she's going to Puerto Rico she has a tattoo of a rose on her arm and an overbite that makes her pretty I print out her resume to help her get a job mopping floors or maybe changing trash bags in executive cans I correct Team Work, fix the margins, the cacophony of typefaces, the love is in the editing I suppose, all love in the editing, though god left us with tailbones and cellulite, though god left us with uncertainty about god with wisdom teeth and homeless dogs And everyone's just flying off the planet, Andrew says on the phone with his little girl who's somewhere in the rust belt now pretending to be full-grown, he says it again, God, everyone's flying off the planet I hear her voice against his ear: Four people since January And he's quiet now, his hand on the wheel The city lights floating golden in his glasses,
  3. 3. 3. Nothing shuts him up like grief's invitation for platitudes — The voice against his ear pulls us over to the fire hydrant, says Dad? I’ll take you to the movies. The city golden, the gravity holding
  4. 4. 4. you, the average of all noses love you abstrackly love you bottomless unemptying on the doghair rug water your plants for you pour you a diet coke in a glass with no beginning, no end, kiss your bacne kiss the mouths of your tattoos we have many mouths you have two pairs of orthopedic shoes in neuropathy brown a cracked cello case, glass bowls stuck with jewels, a daughter named like ghosts and everything after is mine to hold against the entropy of everything after is mine
  5. 5. 5. Black Circle My mouth is a salt lick I lose my metrocard a rivulet of sweat flows down my belly from my right breast which is larger than the left, like feet — It is disgusting to perpetuate the asymmetries of a body with every breath but here we are, sweating, long sleeves and hijab, heat- straightened hair down to the waist, gray suits and nylons the longest four minutes of our lives: To work for the MTA you have to cover up your teardrop tattoo with a smooth black circle, fooling no one, and sweep what cannot be swept, sweep cemented gum sweep tar of city shoes and homes of sleeping homeless: sweep the rats from our eyes and change the garbage bags on the platform so we can dream again oh look at that young mother, shoulders marked with acne scars, judge her for being so awfully teenage so awfully laughing, glitter nail polish, a charm bracelet a skin-hot newborn stuck to her chest and god she looks so happy, so overjoyed no shame at being young, baring scars, holding her baby’s foot in her small hand I’m going to New Haven which is the country as far as I'm concerned, clouds of minnows in the river, a heron pretending to be a stick: I’m done pretending, though it comes natural and my body when it sweats can catch me off-guard with a lung-deep shame and suddenly the train is packed with suits like a Friday afternoon at the dry cleaner’s I haven't been to a wedding in forever, the gray one says, as I am thinking of wedding rings and the sound they make, like water,
  6. 6. 6. and I pray to the beautiful girls in pearl earrings who fall asleep in public with their mouths open Our bodies on the train tracks make the grass grow, the graffiti jingle make the bunting outside the car lot shine spiritual make hesitation pretty
  7. 7. 7. A Counting why running made her dizzy, why Oprah and cigarettes, why vertigo, why overwork, why laughter of a gasping kind, why ringing in her ears: I never had to ask where babies come from, knew I had no father, knew my mother must’ve found me, spirit swimming in the ether: Knew she showed me mercy, knew she took me in she built a home from milk and hair, from bits of organs, heart and lung, the skin of her skin the toes of her toes I never asked why memory, why ether, why belonging, only asked to count her fingers, toes and heartbeats, taking Meticulous inventory of What I’d hollowed coming through When what I’d hollowed coming through was why she slept so much, why running made her dizzy, why Oprah why cigarettes, why vertigo, why overwork, why laughter of a gasping kind, why ringing in her ears, I never asked just counted: onetwothreefourfive and back again, one two three four five and back again Never asked just counted
  8. 8. 8. Mother in All Your Disguises you are near me but cannot breathe me, mother in all your disguises are you mercy or apparition? Who were you before you knew me or have you always known me, the every mother trapped inside one kitchen crying woman high heel spinning woman night shift working bathtub sleeping red robe woman Reddi-whip upturned elbow braced against refrigerator woman, it is summer and the streets are melting, they have swallowed up your high, high heels the sky is pavement orange And your face is menacing when you scold me In one breath You named me Me; I named you mother in all your disguises not Reddi-whip, though I could have not high heels not melting, not menacing not Mojave that made us not Joshua tree as salutation not scorpion as desire not tumbleweed as talking, mother in all your disguises I look for you in every grocery store I heal you with my bones you are mysterious in the parking lot the summer turns the pavement to molasses you lose your shoe, your best pair (the tar pits took the wolves and mastodons, who will cry for them) now the heel is all messed up you dive in after it the parking lot has got you now, you mastodon your legs your teeth your blood your cysts your breasts your love your broken-down indifference on Sunday mornings I throw cornflakes on your bed to mark the shape of you I satisfy the achy, bruised-up edges of my knowing You are liquid, ever-changing flypaper, hairspray wafting down the daffodiling hall, camouflaged in sofa bed
  9. 9. 9. pasted into wallpaper moving swanly with the vacuum your voice the whoosh of highway cars, the furnituring breath of night, the splish and splosh of bathroom sink mother I’m outgrowing, I’ve sucked all the spaghettis I can muster I’ve paranoid the locks and shaken possums from the rafters I have even wrecked myself searching for you and still you move in the tissue-thin house dress of my childhood and your body smells like crayons mapping out the infinite imagination of my four years old: I draw the speckled black that burst me, I draw you before I named you, I search the wallpaper I empty out the vacuum stick the crayons in my nostrils: Are you presence or the absence, the broken or the blessed, the blackness or the rainbow that I scratch out with my nail I love your burst blood vessel cheeks Veiny cavity: a neck A cold piano sings your teeth, you are a pink arrangement in sand You sweat you grow hair from your armpits, no wonder you’re so tired Remember when we paved over the animals and they grew wild inside us? Now we dance the dance Of buzzards in the desert, more beak than footwork more memory than desire you never really say you love me but you press a penny to my forehead, oh cool relief You teach me to feel the smallest breezes in the world (the breath of flies, the second hand of clocks) You tell me where I come from so I don’t forget though I am older now and not so hungry
  10. 10. 10. Rebeginning Skin we share Bones we share You asked for a mirror you got it The skin under your eyes is the blue of always I gave you varicose veins, turned your hair gray and spindly Taught you heartpain that could kill you Gave you greedy gave you Sticky hands The lake is milk with salt, the black sand beach is only gnats the terrible black of thousands deep So we wade. We part the sea we cup the water In our hands and thirteen years go by I'm not a good girl anymore no I’m a little shit and near the buzzing carcass of a fish My hands r alive with hated sixleg things their crystal ball eggs their blooming near-invisible smooth black shells Mama says to really see the larvae tuck it under eyelid, waterline will quiver you may hear the holy suction of life attaching to life and yes! I see with pure transparency the nerves So cellular unstopping, the branching spine, It is irritating to unravel world as it is My mother lassoes mysteries with every word They say this lake is all runoff All human error, a flood that killed, And some more blessed than others More blissfully on purpose I slam my bedroom door so many times a draft forms in the house Flips books to unread pages, wakes dust From blinds, Carries away the water bill And any hope of paying it I'm angry To the point of disastering I bang my head against the door Dream violent mercies of rebeginning, Dream clean birth of eyes
  11. 11. 11. White linen, A family of spines, A flood that kills all things, Sweet milk from salt. We wade. We part the sea Of black. We cup our hands The larvae is invisible except For desire The salt has reddened up our fresh-shaved legs The skin we share Bones we share Blue we share The milk we share: the water stings our eyes but heals Your varicose veins, my acne we are washing out our ugliness with salt We are mirror The gnats they eat our ugliness We weigh nothing.
  12. 12. 12. The Babies We Had as Children are All Growed Up Mama your dirty lipstick cigarettes are kissing our ancestors on the mouth of some salt sand graveyard While the parking lot weeps up the bramble hills. You say the iodined old folk will exterminate the grief from our mouths, I say Ash in lungs can’t choke me Sun pain breath can’t hit me and though Your knees may crumble there will still be tomorrow picnicking the disco ball till dawnlight stumbles, rises, pours a cup of coffee on my raw pink teeth. I’ve already seen your death mask and it’s pretty. It can stop a nosebleed with its eyes It waxes off your eyebrows like the moon It laps up all the blackness from the bathroom sink your hunger looks nice on you, it’s something alive at least Though you are filthy and smell like bruises, Though you scratch mosquito bites with broken nails to brief explosions of time, your appetites scream wind chimes through the vast unknowing childhood of my bedroom, through the brief and happy Goldfinch yellow sponge paint walls remember when I was your one and only hamburger helper?

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