Clarification (or a couple’s inside joke that I think is hilarious but you probably won’t understand)

Everyday Life

Me: (texts Mr. J. a list of things I want him to bring from the apartment when he comes to visit)

Mr. J.: (calls me three seconds later) What do you mean by cat brush?

Me: The cat brush. Like the brush for cats?

Mr. J.: Oh ok, I just wanted to clarify that it was the cat brush and not some weird cat shaped brush thing that you have.

Me: (Laughs)

Mr. J.: (Laughs)

Me: I’m laughing because I can totally see why you need clarification.

Mr. J.: Yeah.

Wormwood

Lupercalia, Poetry

She has black dirt on her face.

The ruins of a garden plucked

for winter stain her hands.

She has scratched that greenery free

and bathed in the empty

soil, praying for next year’s harvest

with touches of bare arms and thighs.

She rubs the flesh of the earth,

places stones in her mouth

careful of her teeth

though she knows

this is ritual.

Her tongue rolls in the grit,

hips turn the ground like a spade.

She says, “I will starve myself for the gods

so I can grow poison in the spring.”

Photo Credits: wormwood, Prosperina (1870) Dante Gabriel Rossetti

How to Build a Nest

Lupercalia, Poetry

1. As a bird that has no hope.

Embrace the numbness in your hands, the writhing micro-fractures in your ribs as they grow into bright veins of quartz and agate, burst into winged fractals when no one is looking.

2. As a bird that thinks she has a lot of hope but really has none.

Choose the number of vertebrae you’d wish your favorite enemy to take out of your spine and treble it, if you are brave. That is the number of shiny things you must gather to attract a mate and keep yourself sane. Learn to make up the lines of poems you can’t remember. The dead won’t mind and the living are too preoccupied to care.

3. As a bird that has reached that powerful space beyond desperation.

Don’t be afraid to create with your teeth. Blind them with your claws, dive down their throats. This technique may not promise survival but in this way you can make beauty out of whoever tries to kill you.

I Love You (2)

Lupercalia, Poetry

If I cross my middle finger

over my forefinger

I am wishing for luck.

If I cross my forefinger

over my middle finger

I don’t want them to hear us.

If I tap 2 fingers twice

against the door hinge

on the way to the kitchen, don’t

eat anything they give you.

If I touch my broken

right pinkie to my thumb

I am wishing to die.

If I put my hand

on your knee underneath

the table, I am trying

to choke hysteria.

If I tap 2 fingers twice

on my coffee cup,

the spider lilies are blooming again.

If you see me

punching the paisley wallpaper

over and over again,

I don’t want to talk about it.

If I brush my fingers

across my lips as I casually

adjust my glasses

I am begging you to be quiet.

If I hold my hand this way

the rain came in last night

and flooded my room.

If I hold my hand that way

they are still searching for

your body, the place

where they insist

you drowned.

If you run your fingers

across my knuckles and my

breath catches in my throat,

I love you.

I Love You (1)

Lupercalia, Poetry

The declaration

is so soft

no one notices and

when our breath catches

in our wine swollen throats

we wonder how

such debauchery

could have snuck in.

For my birthday

I asked for a 12

pack of toilet paper

and a sturdy pair of boots.

The first to fight

the ration shortage,

the second to fight

standing still.

For your birthday

the state of Virginia

banned oral sex

along with all the other

crimes

against

nature so I

sent you a picture

of me

pleasuring

the turkey blaster.

We still manage to see

fireworks even though

they are not

really fireworks.

In some distant

country not yet at war

with us the arches

of a cathedral crack.

I make an altar

out of pilfered bird

bones by the river

you will never see again.

Five tornadoes

touch down inside

the cradle

of a 10 mile radius.

We all raise

our arms

but we cannot

hear each other scream.

Dead Poem

Lupercalia, Poetry

This poem is dead.

It wanted too much:

wild strawberries

from a summer marshland,

wild roses

dripping with all the giving

I could not give,

the wild, full moon

kissing the beaten

highway

with numb lips.

It whimpered, finally,

about incurable diseases

and silver

bells

dripping

from wet bones,

the most beautiful song in the world.

(And liquified eyes soak my pillow.)

How to Build an Altar

Fiction, Lupercalia

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.