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White Bread Mother

My white bread mother is sliced thin.
She sidles from room to room on feet of soft crust.
Sometimes I don’t hear her when she approaches;
I am reading something, I look up and
there she is, staring at me
with her blank preformed face.

I wanted a whole-wheat mother,
mouth-full and nourishing,
who wears bandannas, smells like a bakery.
Or a ciabatta mother drizzled in oil, soaked in herbs,
with a red lipstick mouth like a slice of tomato.
Or a pretzel mother, chewy and salty,
who talks loud and laughs louder.

Even a banana-bread mother,
almost too sweet and rounded on the edges,
making the best of all things overripe and not apologizing.
(Some people like banana bread the best.)

There are days I want to push her in the oven,
toast her to ashes.
I’d pick out crumbs and
scatter them underfoot.
I’d pull off pieces and
feed her to the ducks.

Then I could have a duck mother,
greasy and dripping and savory-sweet,
ready to carry me home over the water.

Originally published in Illumen, Spring 2016.

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the devil riding your back

ten years old when the ocean spat beasts and they
walked the world with strides the size of cities and i hid
i coward-cowered from the noise of it and the dark
until they crouched into mountains and slept left us
shaken shabby in their footprints, peering out.

fire and rubble and everyone died. i
grew up. we built houses, went to school,
wore swimsuits, got haircuts, grew old.

when i was a young girl vital,
unstooped, no concrete dust in my hair,
on my skin, no glass underfoot,
no dry shale taste, i was face-up,
i was raw strong, i sang, i belted.
now i’m hours under the writing desk
staying very, very still, with muffling
curtains, with scythe smile ghosts i’m
holding onto clock face hands to weather
hydraulic hammers, the kick and the sway,
the ground’s grand betrayal, the city
and the beast’s heel pinching like a mouth,
our bodies, teeth ground together so i

became so small a mote a molecule. i lived
the innocuous life i soft-stepped i folded down
and down, careful, prepared, precise.

everyone knows that the mountains are dead and i know that
they’re alive drool and blood and fire deep inside inhale ten years
exhale twenty i am ready the taste of grit under my tongue didn’t
fade the gaze on the nape of my neck never left me alone ever
since they were dead i am grown and this time i’ll be ready.

Originally published in Liminality: A Magazine of Speculative Poetry, Autumn 2014.

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Speaking Language

I am not speaking English now.
The lightest word will alter our trajectory.
The slightest touch, and another marvel
of translation blows itself to feathers,
to pieces of paper fluttering in a cracked wall.
I am trying to tell you. Listen to the faucet.
Hear what I look like. Imagine

the dark-haired phrase you fell in love with
during a sixth grade picnic. Now give her
eloquent eyes, a slender body, a new name.
Her syllables roll over your tongue,
skate over breaking ice. Words do that well.
White grains, small grains,
long grains scattering on linoleum. What
language looks like: a woman unafraid to eat.

The lake is breaking. Underwater
swims a long black fish, a sleek diver.
She is not speaking English now.
She sends meanings to the surface
in white bubbles, in pearls. They roll
up the sides of your face, in laughter.
They break against the glass.

You say she is that kind of woman. You slur
the night with her. She leaves behind
no letter, no predictions. You have not heard
the diction of her face for weeks. She has
given voice to me. And I am not speaking
English. Listen harder. Tell me
what I look like, once you’ve looked away.

Originally published in Poetry Northwest.

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Jupiter of Jupiter

Two seconds shy of
seven days,
clockwork heart capricious,
you haven’t spoken
since February or Ganymede.
Remember neverwhen?
Sol bursting
over Io,
you opened your lips
and breathed
would-be human memory
pearl bright
rolling past your tongue
oxygen the flavor of
Brunei,
Zambia,
Brazil.
Synapses kindle
and I watch.

Quiver.

Sever.

Now
Mundus Iovialis unwinds
behind your eyes.
A gasp.
1614
Simon Marius sputtering in the dark
between Forever Sleep
and trajectory,
between earth and Jupiter,
between your left eye
and the gears of your jaw.

Three kisses.
Four.
And still, you do not see me
hovering bone bright
beside you.

Originally published in Strange Horizons on June 6, 2016.