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Only the Trees

A storm blew down
the tree your bones
nourished, through the
roots. They cleaned
you from the dirt and
tore you away from
where I left you, lying
peaceful, reborn an
older creature, my
heart with you, a
piece of tissue and
blood, keeping you
warm.

(You and I met on the
edges of a teacup, fragile
and empty. Like two
wolves yearning to be
human again. Breath
is a luxury for some, like
diamonds. You don’t
miss it until the water
rises and you realize
you’re the only one
still alive.)

Nothing about us is
sacred, or heavenly,
you told me, the third
time you died and I
watched your eyes
flutter, your wings
spasm, your fingers
stutter, as the world got
darker, the sun mourning
you with me, unable
to rise.

Every time you asked
for the noose, or the
rope, or the knife, or
my hands on your
throat, I remembered
your other lover, whose
body was yours, like
mine is, with scars
for each piece he
gave up to keep you
tethered and lucid
and here.

(You should know,
he and I picked your
tree together. This
time, I wanted your
bones to prop up
a rose garden, but
he wanted a cactus
patch. We settled
on less beauty, less
pain, something more
solid, mundane and
ordinary, like the
sort of person you
always aspired
to be.)

Watching the news, as
they dig out what’s left
of you, I can’t help but
think that only the trees
truly know how much
we did for this world,
you and me and your
lover. How much air we
pushed out of our
lungs every minute,
hour by hour, year by
year, no matter the
hardship, until finally
finally, finally, you’d
decided we’d given
enough.

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White Herons

Love is a canvas with salt stains
on the wrist, hard wind nursed in
serpentine surfs, tuft of herons
turned white knitting rain to sails.
You tapered skin to vibrations
of tourniquet limbs, ghost ached
like a foam foaming over, self-wisp
rippled in glass and emblematic
folds of sundown. Heart stretched
monarch butterflies up the dark
of your collar, seeding aster chirps
like whispers woke and smoked,
tumbling smooth as the heron calls
around your heartbreak wound.

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the lagahoo speaks for itself

you think I is the monster?
nah—I is just a funeral procession
with canine teeth.
I does keep the lists when
you forget your children’s names,
I growl them low in the night.
I am a rabid memorial—
one that does snatch the mournless from their beds,
one with breath that stink like remorse
I know the scent of every dead girl’s close male relatives
I could sense the sour of trigger fingers
in the alleys at the edges of hotspots
and the sticky-sweet of six figures
in the conference rooms with the hotshots
and all of them left residue on the dead,
still fresh-wet on the bones,
stones slick with your wickedness.
you think I is the monster?
I don’t eat my young.
I will, however, feast on the
tight-fisted and apathetic how I please,
calling their names over the dinner plate,
breaking all your headstones into my palms,
picking my teeth with the memory of your name.

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Mirror, Reflect Our Unknown Selves

I recall lying next to my sister, saying,
“Those with machine lungs don’t know how to exhale love.
Why do they come here to us?”
She peeled off her face and said, “I’m tired of living.”
Encouraged, I peeled mine, too.
We walked naked, our bones knocking against each other.
The job of the dead is easier
Than the job of the living.
But
That was not the beginning of the self.

I.

A sad night; moon heavy for sky’s black.
Her afro traced her scalp
Like patterns of poetry.
She dug her nails deep
To carve out the self
And lay herself in a cloak of snow.
She/me
I tell myself/her:
My beauty is my own.
It is your ugly thought that curls around my hand, trying to be a friend.
I will not care.
I will practice to not cocoon myself for your pleasure.
But in the mirror:
Her make-up, a ghost’s mask,
Buries ethni-cities in layers of bone
’Cause isn’t it so tidy to be the color of bone
Unwrapped of skin
Instead of the color of sin—
Skin?
Sternum shivers at lungs patting it dry,
Stale air curdles cold in chest,
As panic mounts the spine.

II.

My belly is full of unborn worlds, unseen things, unknown selves.
Before sleep, thoughts awake as wolves thirsty for peace.
Fear is selfish; it breeds on my breaths to fill its lungs.
The world, a womb where oceans beg to seal earth with sea-skin.

III.

I’m a girl searching for love
Thinking it hid in phallic caves.
Carved in lifelines, laugh lines, hands,
Who are all these names in the sky?
She pointed to the skies, but I only saw her eyes.
“You’re beautiful,” she repeated.
My lips were fences keeping words penned in, bulleted to my sanity.
I’m only as right or wrong as my brain tells me.
Guilt drew its nail to my neck, pulled the marbles from my face,
Masking grenades in words, the barometer of hatred.
Her life became a lit cigarette placed between my teeth.

IV.

A strange night; two men drove her home.
She was a drop-off package.
He was a sex digger, mining her loins.
So:
What’s your favorite color?
She said, “Blood, because it’s so alive.”

V.

When you see the scene,
Your knees bend into the veld
Dismembering your bones to find Him.
I am moon bleeding like sun;
You pinch my uterus, begging the blood to stop:
“Go back. No, we don’t want children.”
For we were buried in ethnicities of snow
You lay back, afro wilting, sick of non-seeing mirrors.
You peeled your mask off. “I’m tired of unbeing.”
Encouraged, I peeled mine, too.
We walked naked, our bones knocking against each other
Like drums of the night.

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if ink could flow backward

separating what is from what could be
I’d erase all the borders
I would melt the walls
edit history for you
if I could change time
who would you be
your name is not who you are
I will never know your name
yet you’d enrich my world by your presence anyway
you would never know me
a stranger
what if you were
a surgeon
would you save my life
a confidant
would you stand by my side
would you love me
who would you be
breathing next to me
there is another reality
not imprisoned by closed minds
one where you are welcomed with open arms
one where no one is hampered by hate
in another future
who would you be
if ink could flow backward
who would you be
one pen stroke
changes everything
one eyeblink in time

one eyeblink in time
changes everything
one pen stroke
who would you be
if ink could flow backward
who would you be
in another future
one where no one is hampered by hate
one where you are welcomed with open arms
not imprisoned by closed minds
there is another reality
breathing next to me
who would you be
would you love me
would you stand by my side
a confidant
would you save my life
a surgeon
what if you were
a stranger
you would never know me
yet you’d enrich my world by your presence anyway
I will never know your name
your name is not who you are
who would you be
if I could change time
edit history for you
I would melt the walls
I’d erase all the borders
separating what is from what could be

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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.