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.)

morning, we woke up

and you performed

another extraordinary miracle:

wings split

the paper thin skin

taped across your shoulder blades,

your wet spine

glistened through jauntily

angled prisms thatched

to your ribcage

with flayed nerves

and slippery veins,

as you flew around the room

you said: “No. That’s not how

it happened.”

I woke up alone.

Copyright © 2018 by Jessica Halsey.

ISBN: 9781732036703

The first edition of this ebook was published by Jessica Halsey on April 30, 2016 and was titled RIVERKILL. This second edition has revised and updated content.

PROLOGUE

—words travel across the page in a sunset song sung softly your voice bleeds the line down a drop of ink on your tongue a stumble against the rumble strip a casualty of wandering and diesel fumes skinned haunches and shattered nose point towards the ragweed spine pokes through chewed skin defiantly the beginning of the line dresses itself in a drop of ink a hemorrhage here is the horizon bleeding down generations of sunrises and sunsets light comes up light goes down when you sing the road allocates flesh absorbs blood boneandfurfeathersscales pulverized to a fine sheen over the rumble strip and the verge the road stretches out sniffs with a dead thing’s nose gulps the sky with broken teeth—

Now I only write numbers.

05 line the 26 day line 2018

My initials are not letters but curves in the road, a roundabout, a punctuated swirl.

I never write my initials the same way twice

But the lab techs and quality know every time it’s me because they

Analyze beautifully

I don’t know what they write I do know

I don’t write words anymore, only numbers

And lines

10 line 04 line 2017 JH

And so on

And so on

With ballpoint pen

I used to hate writing with ballpoints but you can get used to anything if you do it long enough curls in the road like a ribbon, a strand of hair, a stray thought that begins where you are and takes you where you want to be with who you want to be with but if you lose focus you have to error correct and then there are more numbers and more lines

The physical physicality of writing

(after the death of Wislawa Szymborska, February 1, 2012)

I take the petit four

of your poem and put

it in my mouth;

let my tongue soak it up—

soft words

dissolving

softly

as a

spring weekend

—inhale the sugar flower.

The decadent scrim

of icing glosses over

everything.

“The sun rises and the sun

sets and I eat

this cake and you are

no longer in this world.

A violet grows on the verge

of a yard and a street;

efficiently

crystallizes in another poet’s

greedy panting

despite your vacant house,

your supercilious cat

and your mouth that

will never eat cake again.

I am eating

cake and I am not

efficient. Pieces of your

poem clot against my teeth

and I cannot speak.

Have you ever held blood in your hands even though you aren’t a phlebotomist or other blood enthusiast?

Your words moved me to make more words and the office skylight exploded, red and blue butterflies poured out of your throat.

But when I finally met you and told you about the miracle you worked

you weren’t impressed,

like you’d heard it all before and butterflies are just cockroaches with wings—which is kind of redundant, not like the words that poured out of your soul and when I say kind of I mean really in a redundant way that something is really really painful.

Or stupid.

Like (insert something stupid here) and not like the words that poured out of your soul like Plath’s arterial spray (or ejaculate—just in case the metaphor got lost there is was, over there) and I am wasting your precious time talking to you about words when there is so much grading and preening in the academic mirror (masturbating) to be done.

I can’t quite believe your kind of soul has a mouth that has never lapped up blood from the altar of words.