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Ocean Shores

“Death is not a gentle falling asleep as I once believed. It’s brutal, hideous, and foul smelling. I wrap my arms around myself and rejoice in my youth and my health. Otherwise my youth is nothing more than a deficiency and a hindrance that I can’t get rid of fast enough.” —Tove Ditlevsen

I believe is not a phrase I use. It’s a guess with heart
but I’ve scooped the meat from mine out, a bell pepper
denuded of seeds. On a plane, the boyfriend gropes
at his girlfriend in such a way. I am seen for what 
I haven’t done, a sequence of negatives that make sense
in exposed light. I went a year without starting a poem
with “I” and it was like removing all the forks from my drawer.
The work we do is necessary, I say in a commanding voice.
I am exposed to the light. I scatter and descend. I tell a man
I have lived in the present so long it has scorched me. 
This is a lie. Out the window, snow-capped mountains,
hard as a fact. I can hardly make sense of  topography,
that is, a positive so real it temporarily dulls me. I think
I could reach down and stroke the mountains like the spine
of a kitten. I think I belong anywhere at all. The boyfriend
in front of me wears a black nail for a thumb, his elbow
greasing his neighbor’s belly. I’m trying to be as alone 
as possible. A dark cloud over a peak, a sex toy forgotten
in a drawer. I want to be better than the acid in my throat
but it will eat me when I die, each wretch a threat, a thought
called up. Later, I’ll follow an illegal trail through the dunes,
fox scat and crushed Glaucous egg, a torn seam in the Pacific
where men putter on ATV bikes to dead bonfire sites, a longing as cheap
as a Goo Goo Dolls song. I am willing to call such things belief.

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Ursus Arctos

“Some kind of belief still runs off me in strings.” —Sandra Lim

A pregnant bear slips out cubs in her den 
two thousand miles from here. And here I sin, 

the taste of fennel in my hair. The cubs will latch
until fat and gold. I try to wake each morning

with the focus of digestion, an indistinguishable
alloy dusting my eyes. The black tick of waking

to a man who can’t say he believes in me, but whose
scent makes me rip every curtain off its rod. What 

I mean is I keep waking up steeped in renewed resentment
for the men who tell me they like confident women over whom

they have no need to control or labor. My pits ripen,
moldered oats in darkness. Bears in hibernation use every

ounce of energy to live in deep sleep, nary a shit or piss
wasted. My mother tells the story of the bear that visited

her campsite, its hulking shoulder in menacing silhouette,
the toothpaste it licked clean from the thrashed tube. We kill

on site such offenses, the unslakable being who cannot survive
our constructed comforts. We define loss on small terms: a set 

of keys unglowing in a crevice, orange panties crammed between
drawers. Cubs sit by the river’s low tides. I am not hard to know.

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Natalie Eilbert, by User 4357

There’s no there there. A sweet empty 

vacuum bag smells of industry, 

its provenance. I try a xylophone

note, a sound like burnt yellow. 

Approximations don’t

mimic, they stand in a room 

full of doors. My legs 

are hungry for money, 

hang over a man’s ribs. 

I argue I am trying to be myself 

when I sever a cucumber. Each

object presents its presiding objects. 

An elbow grinds

into a caramelizing thigh bruise. 

I remove an article, an

article too particular to understand. 

Kitten breathes shaped

as a pair of slumped lungs. 

I must laugh at my brain fog,

seran wrap over my eyes. 

Is authorship anything? I am a

single combination of cells, 

dander under a god nail 

duplicating. I press my thumb 

to my femoral nerve until

a white light blinks myself open. 

You enter me, a door

warped. Rest in the crease there.

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Land of Sweet Waters

But the husband is an idea that occupies and tills the idea 

until you are outside of it. And I wanted for so long to sing

an unlonely ode but the ode requires a centering, a centering

for which I am outside. Or I slept in the husband bed, or made

many men sing. But I come from land that meant sweet waters

and nothing of the land bears this shape. But I sipped flat vanilla

Coke medicinally and scraped the innards of a shredded warren

from the new wood finish. Or I dropped a rock on a smashed cat’s head

because it whimpered stuck living on Lincoln Boulevard. How is it

I come from Glück’s marshlands without any of its blue lore? 

My body stank in its magenta stirrups, my body rattled inside

the toppling trailer home. What origins was I supposed to speak to?

My identity, it means longing, a surname slipping into ur. A stranger

told us Eilbert means olive and we were so hungry we believed him.

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Consultation

“Grace is a word that stings.” Megan Fernandes

When asked if I’ve ever attempted or began the process
resolved to end my life, the decades’ past dandelions throw up

up their heads. Radiant silence. A type of yellow. Her hair.
I could mouth off and hit them all with branches torn in a clearly

violent way, a likeness to hurricanes, a left-rattling subwoofer.
Decade of acid rain. Decade of smog. Of ozone holes and the green

house effect’s definition glaring from the new edition earth science 
textbook. When the stick was a brain that cracked against my head.

I tell the story of the highway. When I stood in front of it like the cartoon
facing real life. The no hands that grabbed me back. The headlights

that might not brake in time. From the top of the highway, on a clear day,
you could see the Manhattan skyline that we called the city. Blinking

needles. The rat incisors of Twin Towers. I ached to be launched there,
but only so I could touch it, pummel the silver line. Nobody was ever

around to guard me like a ghazal. I put a thumb print to the white 
beef fat congealed in the Folger’s can. I pushed down into its sludge. 

The sting of hay grass stooped low in the corral. A story in reverse 
is still a story. AM radio crackling a gray man’s voice. Hands cranking

the wheel left as headlights soaked my figure. The panicked cartwheel 
of the service road opening into a Hess. Green and white candy above us.

Cold butterfinger, a can of Coke, the expressway exhaling beneath us.
Her hair. Italian black. Radio silence. I held my chin up the whole time

every time I threw up. The dandelions resolve to end my life every 
decade I see them in. To carry the branch in my mouth, I keep biting down