Home scratches at her shingles with tree branch fingers, pulls the air conditioning unit to her moldy, aluminum ribs and keens a whale song of mourning. We found her wandering the tornado snarled wild three months ago, empty and starving. We fed her pieces of dining room table, gas key fireplaces, and cast iron bathtubs, clawed feet first. We gutted her plumbing, ripped out her nerves and re-wired the electricity, reinforced foundation seams that let the water in every time it rained. She did not respond well. We found rot and mold in her corners, force fed her antibiotics and quarantine standard operating procedures while she belched ladder-back chairs, sofa cushions, wind chimes, and broken bookcases. She still has her bad days. After feeding time Home likes to sit back porch facing east and picture window facing west; Home sits and watches the sun set, sits for hours in the dark. She gets regular walks around the wolf pen—let her mingle with the vultures, I said, let her feel useful and clean up the dead, but no one would listen—she shakes every time the tornadoes come through. She has bad memories and, hopefully, maybe a few ecstatic ones. When it rains, Home hitches up her porch and hops from one corner to the other, splashing in the puddles when she can.
A previous version of this poem first appeared in Six Sentences, 2009. It was edited and re-published in Lupercalia.
They carried the baby bird wrapped in a yellow, flowered handkerchief. Its eyes bulged behind their closed lids and its prickly down barely covered the stubs of its wings. The wrinkly peach flesh was damp with perspiration and plant juice. It choked and twitched feebly, beak broken open.
“We’re going to operate now,” said the little girl in the red corduroy dress. Her glossy, black shoes were scuffed and muddy and her little white tights had been ripped by the holly bush. There were no lights in the attic but the mother had given them three candles with the stipulation that Make Believe was not allowed to knock the candles over and burn the house down.
The two girls scooted past boxes and trash bags filled with grown up things and tiny baby things from times they could not remember. They were like bright fishes, easily distracted by strange colors and strange noises. They crawled on three child’s paws: two dirty knees apiece, one dirty hand apiece, tipped with chewed nails.
“On the operating table,” said the little girl in the red dress. She snatched the handkerchief from her companion and slammed it down on one of the boxes.
“Scalpel!” she cried.
Her companion picked up the handkerchief and lifted it to her nose. There was something there that reminded her of earthworms and pill bugs, like the juice that dripped from the knife to the kitchen floor, like the scolding she received when she stayed out in the sandbox past lunchtime. She reached into the pocked of her blue shorts and held out a sprig of holly.
This piece first appeared in Lupercalia.
Body is a road. Body is a moment on the road. Body is a cell without a nucleus and hemolyzed skin in a moment on the road. Body is a molecule of oxygen inside a cell without a nucleus and hemolyzed skin in a moment on the road. Body is a molecule of oxygen inside a cell without a nucleus and hemolyzed skin in a moment on the road in an autumn too hot for the leaves to turn. Body is a molecule of oxygen inside a cell without a nucleus and hemolyzed skin in a moment on the road in an autumn too hot for the leaves to turn so they die green and fall green into the dirt beyond the road. Body is a molecule of oxygen inside a cell without a nucleus and hemolyzed skin in a moment on the road in an autumn too hot for the leaves to turn so they die green and fall green into the dirt beyond the road where beyond the road snarls at the dying season.
To build an altar you need the familiar territory of a dry riverbed and the shadow of a nuclear power plant. You need the roar of a siren on the air, the highway in the distance, the skull of a kingfisher and the footprints of someone you don’t love anymore. You need a stone from a hand that killed in a war far from home, knucklebones that know the fractals of a willow branch and all the sounds of breaking. You need the smells of honeysuckle, salt, and gunpowder, a piece of iron if you’re superstitious. You need the oil slick iridescence of a cockroach wing and a lock of your mother’s hair. You need the cornerstone of a place that makes you feel safe, even if that place isn’t really a place but a scrap of paper or the empty air. You need a poem written by someone you haven’t met yet.
This poem first appeared in Lupercalia.
The strawberry is poison and it pops into your mouth as if by magic.
It is cold and sour. It pricks your tongue like a bee sting. You
chew as if a spider clawed its way across your jaw before stopping to
rest above your lower lip, you chew delicately.
Originally published in 50 to 1 (as Jessica Otto).
We stepped outside the greenhouse and the lights went cold. He reached out; his palm froze against Saturn’s gelatinous ring and pulled away from his wrist like wet paper. I felt the romance leak out of our suicide as I saw the black hole. I punched him in the face.
Originally published in 50 to 1 (as Jessica Otto) 13Feb2010.