by Emily Rose Kahn-Sheahan
I should ignore the empty city
in my gut that still billboards
your name. What fictions
we create for each other,
the epic piles of prose
lining our beds. Twice
I’ve asked you to leave
and kept the door open
behind you. I couldn’t stand
the sound of the lock clicking
its steadfast no, when we
have always been so maybe
and bad timing. I fall for your open
hello every time and you, made of good
intentions, ghost one day through my chest
and my foolish city believes you.
There are nights I spend following you
through fictions and roundabouts. Last night
I chased the back of your head
through a crowded room and woke
with hands clenched. Legs wide
Some men like to watch me
run, enjoy the squirm under their thumb,
marvel at the magnets in their pockets
and the steel cage in my chest.
He is nothing like you.
That’s a lie. His quiet is less
indifferent. He is real beneath my hands.
Imperfect and solid, he shows me
the asymmetry of amber strands
that decorate his body, he lets me
map them, ripples when I tickle the tufts.
When my mind wanders and he asks
what I am thinking, I never
say your name. Never admit that
my nipples firm at the thought
of your plucking fingers. I say
Kiss me, occupy myself
with his open lips and swallow
Sometimes, he carries her
to bed with us. His hands trace
the length and curve of me,
assuring himself that this is not
her body. When I ask him
what he’s thinking, he nibbles
the places I’ve shown him, my places,
until I am clutch and shiver.
When we fuck, sometimes you and she
are there in our pile. We do our best
not to draw attention to you. We fuck
harder. I know this rhythm belongs
to him and her hips were never
as hungry as mine. And this
is how we slowly forget. This
is how we choose to fill
the cleft of your names.
If this means nothing, please say so.
Who brings soup to a poker game?
My bag dripping barley on the felt.
I wear top hats to tea parties, forget
to duck in the foyer and call it
a mud room. I wore my white girl
to a BBQ and left with sauce in my hair,
lips smeared with smoke and pig
in my teeth.
The job is just a reason to drink
tea and take over all the time,
the conversations comic strip easy,
limited. Velcro in a porcelain shop,
maybe duct tape in its forever
useful, but not the solution
to my mother problem. I think
about joints in the shower, the swell
of my right knee and the 90 degree
pinky my grandmother passes down,
wonder if she’d sell that too or shove it
into my pocket with the rest of her
scarves and grapefruit spoons. She
brings caviar to the dog fight and talks
about how dirty the floors are now,
wonders if her bedroom is too green
now that my mother turned hers honeydew.
I leave my walls taupe. We all keep
our wood floors and buy more socks
than we’ll ever have feet. I stole
a lighter from the Walgreen’s
when the clerk was rude to the black
woman’s kids. Seemed right to hide it
in my palm and pay for the milk. I’m not
supposed to have dairy, but the cigarettes
are still ok. My favorite word this week is
asinine. I went to a birthday and stole
the party outside, dropped it in the fire
pit and left without my coat. I never
paid the cover. I go to the bar with an empty
wallet and a purse lined with rice crackers,
a bruised apple and I’m still awful
at Scrabble and due dates. I never read
your book or I read that one poem, just
that last line and then watched two
seasons of Buffy and didn’t shower
for three days. I found your book in my laundry
basket hoping to find clean underwear.
I don’t feel like apologizing.
I ate all the cereal. I feel worse about ruining
the poker table, forgetting to light a match, pooping
in the hotel room bathroom while the other girls
were all sleeping. I only shit when it will go
quickly. I’ve only made soup once, redeemed it
with bacon. I wish everything were that easy.
Song of the Helpful
I peel my smile from the soles
of men marching up my spine
to their glory. I’m not supposed to say
I let them. Their houses built on my back.
I’d rather be talking about sex. Lord knows
I like to lay beneath that heavy masculine
pumping some mutual writhe and sticky consent,
but there is too much rise and tread on my spine.
Give me your hand,
I’ll help you climb. I pick the fruit ready to fall.
Rescue the soft and bruised, carry it
in my hungry skirt. I haven’t eaten a bite. I gorge
on the still life’s promise of action. Watch rotten fruit
flower with no love for the soil
that bore its kicking roots. I am full of soft spots.
I nurse my wounds, lick my pride and tuck myself
back into shadow. We are not supposed to shine. We
hold the lights, reflect the sun and illuminate
a blooming great. Bitch and Bitter
ground by our teeth, rolled between
tongue and cheek. They don’t want to hear
this voice ugly with protest. Be pretty, quiet, helpful,
bend your back and raise these boys high
with your forklift heart. Be workhorse prancing
complacent gaits. Bridled, broken, and bit bitten.