The boat, Michelle, does not agree with you
after Hannah Gamble
It is troublesome, it keeps saying no.
I want to make it move, but I don’t know,
Hannah, how you make it so literal. The boat slaps
me with an oar. The propellers all gummy
with my hair, but I know no other way to churn
without my own head.
Like a metal detector or horny cicada
dinging itself into the brightest frenzy,
I know which haircut to settle with
by the number of compliments I get.
Enough worry about my face being
a little too soft for this cut. And how
I betrayed all sisterly loves
when I began to love a man.
The ones that have hurt me most have been women.
That says something. That says nothing at all.
To be a small boat or a cicada—moonlight as ghost.
And though my cheeks were brushfire always,
he never laid a hand on me. Still, I was
sick of the length of my own throat
made measure of misery and mumble.
Rumble of oars in the brain.
And if some woman cries she loves me
because I am beautiful, tell me
how is that any better?
If this is not the place,
after Alison Stine
I couldn’t sing grown. I couldn’t sing
winter. I was only dull with rain. Years ago,
I killed a lonely man, and after that, it was
still hard to say I didn’t want him. I wanted
the sureness of stones. No, I didn’t want
him. Nobody sat at that table and I didn’t want
to breathe. Sometimes I didn’t even want
to sing. As thin as water. And still,
I lived. The sky folded bright side down,
my hands sewed themselves back to
me. When I left, he took
nothing. Like many, I hid
in the womb. I braced myself
from emerging. Anyone can climb
down that ladder. The pull of me, twisting.
I left, or she left, or he
is leaving now. Gasping screen door. This
is the floor. This is the ceiling.
Walls hold hands and basements
comb dust. No one grew up and no one
died. He once gave me life
but not a name to wrap myself in.
What he gave me, what I didn’t want.
It was hard to say.