Turtleneck

wrapped in a turtleneck
voicebox cover
a phone screen that won’t break
my last one shattered
picture shards
that’s what I really am,
was, now I’m a suburban
dog mom
the bags I carry her shit
in are transparent
what am I doing looking all
see-through
in the middle of a warm
winter that doesn’t know itself?
you look lovely in a turtleneck
is not what I want to hear
from anyone who doesn’t know
where I’m from, what my living
room floor looked like
with glistening presents
purchased by strangers.
my throat is sealed up tight.
I try to belong here
underneath a seizure
of Christmas lights.

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Bath water

I take more baths than I ever did
even with a lack of rubber ducks,
practice breast strokes, homemade rain.

Now, when I breathe into porcelain skin
of a full tub, quiet currents take me.

This is the closest I come to clean slate.

To notice my two fleshy peaks rise
and fall, is to know my own body,

I listen to what’s submerged, to water
slipping down drains that belch
low croaks between lily pads of soap.

It’s a subtle sound of swallowing
a lost song, of dead poets whispering.

I’ve ignored poets for most of my life
because I couldn’t bear to face their sense,
but I sensed them, especially in old libraries.

Did you know if you press your ears to walls,
you can hear pipes clearing their throats?

The gurgle in my ears is intergalactic.

No one will ever find this place on a map,
and it’s a crying, hell, it’s a sobbing shame
because the fizzle of salt is good for your skins.

My toes look ancient under these dim lights,
and the curtain has a pattern of tight curls
that look like a doodle of a loose brain.
I could have drawn that, I start to think,
see, and there’s that pesky “I” again.

When does the self become so persistent?

What if when I go low, beneath the bath’s bowels,
I reach the highest heights I’ll ever know?

That’s enough indulgence for one day.

When I pull the stopper, a miniature tornado
surges between my legs, and time begins to drain.

The loudest way to survive

So you didn’t get the knobby
shoulders you needed.
That’s a lot of us,
and I sympathize with relativity.
But let me let you
lean in on my secret:

my big-mouthery is
my own, but it’s also
cavewoman survival.

I did what I could
with sticks and stones.
But tried my best not
to break any bones
because I recognized
their malnourishment.

Children who have been
pushed down rivers
in baskets please
cry, cry, cry
as loud as you can.

Your cries will give way
to words, which you will use
as an armor of testament,
of existence, of proclamation
that you belong here,
that we’ve not yet
occupied Mars.

Don’t press so much on
the bruises, which
are designed or not
designed, depending
on how you look at it,
to fascinate and distract
you from what tickles
your insides and makes
you sneeze at the flower
raised in front of your face.

And if you can see it
don’t pluck the petals
just yet. Love me nots
are not yet in your equation.

This is your cliche to own.
These are your metaphors
to mix and match.

So lasso love.

Sling what you
did not receive.

When you pull it
from the earth,
rock it back and forth.

Then put it back
in the river you
remember floating
down so clearly.

Feed what will cleanse you.

Go home, you’re getting crazy

“Go home, you’re getting crazy.”

Oh, my sweet motorcycle riding, cat loving co-worker,
what if I’ve been there for as long as I’ve lived?

I don’t know what the other side looks like.
Probably just as crazy, huh?

Everything feels like the apocalypse.

I know. I know. The word is as loaded as a baked potato.

Just imagine flames and feelings that aren’t yet in the registry.

I see people begging or asking for donations on Higgins Road
on my way home from work.

There’s no rotation. It’s always a new person. I scrounge my car.

Here, take it.
This is everything on me.

No, keep the lollipop.
I don’t need any more sweets.

I always look the person deep in the eyes until mine burn.

Someone

“Someone” needs to unplug my brain
or allow me to be in a space
where I can play with it
like a cat with yarn.

But I’ve never been much of a cat person.
I like dogs for their bliss
and birds for their flight and paranoia.

It’s true what they say, a job,
at least any old job is a trap,
and 9 to 5 is man made
and wrapped in barbed,
electrified strings
that zap you awake
but not wide enough.

And sometimes you forget the way
your throat tends to move
when it’s fed words.

And that “someone” is me, right?

Except that someone seems so strange
to me right now.
So hidden, creepy-crawly,
rag-dolly.

I never thought words
could make an enemy of me.

They were supposed to be
flutters of light.

Dandelion-like.

This was supposed to come with sprinkles,
and the icing is dry.

And sure, I have secrets that paralyze me,
play me dead,
but it’s the open-ended questions
that consume me.

The lose-yourself-in-the-music
kind of symptoms that come
with hearty pep talks.

But not only music.
Everything.

Lose yourself in everything?
What kind of advice is that
for people who choose to be planted
in perfectly pleasant pleasantries?

Oh, but there’s so much more,
they say with their dewy eyes
that are so easy to get lost in.

You know the flower children I speak of,
they grab your hand and drag you
through a row of sunflowers
drinking sun in the wind.

You tell them it’s getting late,
and you have to get back.

I love and hate them
for clasping the galaxies
swimming around their heads
and daring them to jump.

Rooster goes Cockadoodledoo

My nephew’s name is Sky, and I see sky for miles.
I thank the universe for letting me be so close to the clouds.

Sky likes the touch of leaves and sunshine on his pale legs.
To him, the forest is filled with long reeds and stems
to caution and laugh out loud at.

We veer off track, and as I push him through grass,
long, slim skins skim his knee.

His instincts kick in, and he throttles into his seat
in horror or fits of giggles.

There is no in between.

Then we play peek-a-boo through the mesh of the stroller,
the window to his gummy soul.

We’re strolling past a farm, stumbling upon a chicken
that’s actually a rooster. We surprise him,
so he ruffles his neck and straightens.

I’ve never heard a cockadoodledoo in broad daylight,
a mere two feet away from my face before.

My nephew can’t speak yet, but I’m hoping he’s internalized
the sound and syllables, and how off-key the noise
is with expectations.

His eyes pop, and the bird’s eyes pop;
its wattle snaps to attention.

Wordlessly, they exchange thoughts while I sprout feathers.

Wears multiple hats

Bowler, beanie, sombrero, cap,
ten gallon, and a fine ass fedora,

the hats I wear stacked high like
a Dr. Seussian pile of pancakes.
My neck sags, and inside my head’s
a three-ring short-circuit circus.

I’m a professional cockroach
capable of survival underneath
the soulless, energy-efficient
lights with a sensor that says
if I sit still long enough, life
will grow a shell and crab legs
that will scurry away from me.

Each time the room goes dark,
I come to my senses and rise
dramatically, like a staged mime.
What a forgettable performance,
they’ll say, as I tap my beret.

Believe in baths

If God is water, then Sundays
are reserved for soaking in the tub.

The bath salts fizzle and crack,
I hear the snap of the candle —
this one’s called cashmere plum.

I pump my legs like riding a bike
against a lukewarm tidal wave,
hoping the words will come.

I guess I’m thinking too hard,
so I focus on the follicles,
proud and stubborn,
protruding from my sweating flesh,

and the candle wax drips.

I swipe my razor,
but the soap is misleading.
it’s not enough
it’s never enough

paving the way to a perfect shave.
(I still feel the sharp parts.)

And then it occurs to me
that every bath is baptism.

There’s so much left on
this earth, in this tub
for me to accept.

No one is ever loved enough.

After the great plunge,
I sit up, drenched
and heart-quenched.

I latch onto my elbows,
hug my knees,
these knobs
are not smooth or soft;
but they’re something to hold onto.

I bend my spine crane-like
follow my folds,
trace the watered down lines.

Total body stretch

Alexa and I stretched today.
She laid out a blanket on the floor
in her room.

Her room is blue.

It’s covered in photographic memories,
discolored thrift finds
worn by use and age
and someone else’s hands
that handled these finds
from time to time,
in coming and going.

We grew up a little in this room

and stretched alongside a woman
on a screen.
She wore tube socks
that covered her entire calves
and grazed her thighs.

When she pulled her limbs,
we pulled ours.
When she rolled her head,
we rolled ours.

Earwax

I’m thankful my boyfriend lets me pick his earwax.
Lets me pick his golden goo.
Going treasure hunting
in his cavernous ears is a great hobby of mine,
or maybe an ill tendency
as the doctors may say,
but maybe not.
Not all of them
follow the DSM
like it’s a Bible
to slap people in the face with.