by Caroline Cabrera
And when we crossed the state together
you could feel its insistence. And when we
crossed the state I knew you were my husband
from familiarity. Two hearts can know the length
of something more than one alone. Two people
can live in one house, and day to day it can feel
like a large or small house. If a year passes
should I feel more or less alone, more or less
a function of the family I am? If a car passes
on the highway that looks like ours, can we believe
in an alternate universe where we are coming from
or going to other places? Do we then have to imagine
all the places we could be where we don’t pass
ourselves, and what if I am alone in the car?
And what if I am happy or sad in the car?
And what if we pass the car again and inside
we see two teenagers we never looked like?
When we get home the house looks bright
enough to welcome us, the clementines still ripe
in the bowl. The brightness fakes a cleanliness.
We could return to the couch. We could build
a whole cat from all the fur under the furniture
where the vacuum cannot reach.
If they label you soft, feather weight and white-livered,
if the locker room tosses back its sweaty head,
and laughs at how quiet your hands stay,
if they come to trample the dandelions roaring in your throat,
you tell them that you were forged inside of a woman
who had to survive fifteen different species of disaster
to bring you here,
and you didn’t come to piss on trees.
You ain’t nobody’s thick-necked pitbull boy,
don’t need to prove yourself worthy of this inheritance
of street-corner logic, this
blood legend, this
index of catcalls, “three hundred ways to turn a woman
into a three course meal”, this
legacy of shame, and man,
and pillage, and man,
and rape, and man.
You won’t be some girl’s slit wrists dazzling the bathtub,
won’t be some girl’s,
“I didn’t ask for it but he gave it to me anyway”,
the torn skirt panting behind the bedroom door,
some father’s excuse to polish his gun.
If they say, “Take what you want”, you tell them
you already have everything you need;
you come from scabbed knuckles
and women who never stopped swinging,
you come men who drank away their life savings,
and men who raised daughters alone.
You come from love you gotta put your back into,
elbow-grease loving like slow-dancing on dirty linoleum,
you come from that house of worship.
Boy, I dare you to hold something like that.
Love whatever feels most like your grandmother’s cooking.
Love whatever music looks best on your feet.
Whatever woman beckons your blood to the boiling point,
you treat her like she is the god of your pulse,
you treat her like you would want your father to treat me:
I dare you to be that much man one day.
That you would give up your seat on the train
to the invisible women, juggling babies and groceries.
That you would hold doors, and say thank-you,
and understand that women know they are beautiful
without you having to yell it at them from across the street.
The day I hear you call a woman a “bitch”
is the day I dig my own grave.
See how you feel writing that eulogy.
And if you are ever left with your love’s skin trembling under your nails,
if there is ever a powder-blue heart
left for dead on your doorstep,
and too many places in this city that remind you of her tears,
be gentle when you drape the remains of your lives in burial cloth.
Don’t think yourself mighty enough to turn her into a poem,
or a song,
or some other sweetness to soften the blow,
I dare you to break like that.
You look too much like your mother not to.
“For My Son”
[x] (via oiltipped)
Originally from Ugly fruit.
When I get the call about my brother,
I’m on a stopped train leaving town
& the news packs into me—freight—
though it’s him on the other end
now, saying finefine—
Forfeit my eyes, I want to turn away
from the hair on the floor of his house
& how it got there Monday,
but my one heart falls
like a sad, fat persimmon
dropped by the hand of the Turczyn’s old tree.
I want to sleep. I do not want to sleep. See,
one day, not today, not now, we will be gone
from this earth where we know the gladiolas.
My brother, this noise,
some love [you] I loved
with all my brain, & breath,
will be gone; I’ve been told, today, to consider this
as I ride the long tracks out & dream so good
I see a plant in the window of the house
my brother shares with his love, their shoes. & there
he is, asleep in bed
with this same woman whose long skin
covers all of her bones, in a city called Oakland,
& their dreams hang above them
a little like a chandelier, & their teeth
flash in the night, oh, body.
Oh, body, be held now by whom you love.
Whole years will be spent, underneath these impossible stars,
when dirt’s the only animal who will sleep with you
& touch you with
because this is what you do. get up.
blame the liquor for the heaviness. call in late
to work. go to the couch because the bed
is too empty. watch people scream about love
on Jerry Springer. count the ways
it could be worse. it could be last week
when the missing got so big
you wrote him a letter
and sent it. it could be yesterday, no work
to go to, whole day looming.
it could be last month
or the month before, when you still
thought maybe. still carried plans
around with you like talismans.
you could have kissed him last night.
could have gone home with him, given in,
cried after, softly, face to the wall, his heavy arm
around you, hand on your stomach, rubbing.
shower. remember your body. water
hotter than you can stand. sit
on the shower floor. the word
devastated ringing the tub. buildings
collapsed into themselves. ribs
caving toward the spine. recite
the strongest poem you know. a spell
against the lonely that gets you
in crowds and on three hours’ sleep.
wonder where the gods are now.
get up. because death is not
an alternative. because this is what you do.
air like soup, move. door, hallway, room.
pants, socks, shoes. sweater. coat. cold.
wish you were a bird. remember you
are not you, now. you are you
a year from now. how does that
woman walk? she is not sick or sad.
doesn’t even remember today.
has been to Europe. what song
is she humming? now. right now.
Fast forward ten years. The first thing you will notice is that you are taller. Not necessarily farther from the ground, but closer to the sky. This may at first be dizzying, especially if you never learned how to breathe. Practice. Meet your lungs. Take note of the way your skin fits, how your bones have grown into your skeleton. Your shoulders are perfectly balanced at the top of your spine. Your arms are long enough to reach your hands. This, you will discover, is what people who know anything mean when they say beautiful.
Investigate the body you are in. Reach for both horizons at once and discover your wingspan. Crack your knuckles. Lick the gap between your teeth. Place your fingers against the underside of your wrist and feel for a pulse. If you have one, it means you’re lonely. That’s good. This is a good world to be lonely in. Explore the space you take up, the way your body displaces air in the shape of: calves, hips, belly, chin. Trace the path of tingling from lips to nipples to between your legs. Notice that your skin is the color of new skin after the old skin has peeled away. Feel underneath your sternum: there. A scar. Your body has opened up, allowed egress to something it no longer needed, like an appendix. This was painful once, as doorways always are.
Excavate yourself. Turn inside out like a pocket and examine what falls to the ground. There should be just enough coins to take a bus to anywhere. A pressed flower with a breath of purple left in it, the exact shade ofI will always remember you fondly. Keys meant to open something old and worthy. Lint. The lint means you have been places, smelled dust, shaken off dead cells. A piece of paper with a name on it. Nothing sharp: you don’t carry razor blades under your fingernails anymore.
The suitcase you packed before leaving your parents’ house is here, spine-creased books and a one-eyed stuffed dog. The green dress that made your collarbone a lie. Your first lipstick. Jeans that will always have the stain from that night, an empty whiskey bottle. Spread them out like tarot cards on the pavement: the past, the present, the wish. Where the tenth and final card would be, place yourself.
Practice listening to sounds other than the grinding of your teeth. Songs are a good place to start, especially songs with piano accompaniment and lyrics about changing seasons. Listen to crickets. Learn how to divine the temperature from their chirps. Listen to the ground underneath you. Gravity will keep you here until you are ready to leave.
You can still recite those sad poems from memory, but they don’t resonate in your chest the way they used to. You can walk across a bridge without counting the seconds between your bones and the concrete below. There is an ocean, but it is far away, not filling up your mouth. There will be people who want to touch you gently. You know that you can still feel pain, in your eyes and hands especially. But in this moment, all you know of your body is open arms.
Blame your drag queen roommate—Lamar by day, Mahogany by night—and then
blame his sequined dresses—all slit high, up to his balls
Explain that dusk smells so different in Spain—musky cherry—tight tangerine burst—sage
mixed with lavender
Tell him you were under the influence of bees or bats—the spin and swirl of doves
Tell him you were half asleep—about to leave to the dunes just west of Madrid—better
yet say forest—he knows that crazy shit happens in a forest
Tell him no tongue but his mouth—wax-like and wet
Tell him timing
Tell him ease
Tell him sweat and sweat
Tell him lips
Tell him the juice—yeah saffron juice
Tell him flat-chested
Tell him, “crook”—I mean, “creek”
Tell him tales—lies—tears—water—weakness—churros—chocolate—hot—heat—heave—
Tell him anything you want—then tell him
You did it again
It’s hard telling the people that you love,
that they love a figment of who they imagine you to be
Donney Rose, from “Confessions of a Reformed Homophobe”
Donney is a man that I write with and perform with and laugh with. I’ve been so fortunate to learn from him for the past 3 years. He’s truly one of the best men that I know.
Check him out, Tumblr Brains. (via poemsbydes)
Originally from Desireé Dallagiacomo
This Spring with you
is burnt-orange backyards and
speeding through cornfields,
with the car door blown open.
It’s the quick wind tousling
our hair and not caring
where we are going–
or how fast.
It’s our smiles sold to each other for a price
That we haven’t named,
Our teeth come together before our lips do
When I’m kissing you on the couch
It’s fluorescent school hallways in between classes-
your voice is the bell.
It’s these hours between home-from-school
confined to my bedroom painted red
and decorated with your laughing,
It’s like you’ve always been here-
Another piece of the floorboards,
A notch in the bedpost,
a kink in the machinery.
It’s your black eyes, shining liquid no matter where the light is -
It’s the sinister warmth of your chest.
It’s the something-animal about you
That brought us both here-
It’s coaxing the low growl from your throat
With my hands.
It’s never knowing what time it is
It’s waxing pseudo-philosophic into the stars
We painted onto our ceiling
It’s the earnestness in my voice that you
love so much
It’s your words from my window and
pebbles at night
It’s Cinderella with both of her shoes
It’s throwing our sheets over our heads
and planning New York City
It’s a trip on the train and feeling like I’d lost my ticket even though
it was in your hand
It’s your secrets told softly into my cheek,
Drawn on my palms for safekeeping-
It’s your marks that you leave
Where everyone can see them,
It’s your teeth that you leave
In my skin.
It’s building a fortress between us and the rest of them
It’s crying deliberately away from you,
who is busy busying himself with my body
It’s baby’s first Valentine’s Day and
it all turns out wrong
It’s the subtle absence of everyone that isn’t you
It’s only once meeting your dad
It’s skipping childhood and crashing straight into caskets
It’s prison and your arms are the bars,
your lips, the guards
It’s Little Red Riding Hood and your snarling jaw
It’s your Huffing and Puffing just outside
the front door-
It’s your threats from my front lawn to
“leave a scar next time”
It’s a dream that I’m having about you
It’s a nightmare that I’m having about you
It’s waking up and not remembering how I got here
It’s the earnestness in my voice that you hate so much
When I’m telling you
That it’s over.
It’s 11 pm and I’m scared of you
It’s 1 am and you’re still not leaving
It’s 4 am and you’re gone out the window
It’s tomorrow and I don’t see you at school
It’s news pinned to my chest that you’ve moved to Colorado
It’s my brick house left standing
after selling off the others
stick for stick.
It’s your tracks burning fire away from here,
It’s burnt-orange Autumn and everything’s fading.
It’s waiting for the seasons to keep changing,
It’s knowing that time will tame this.
It’s trusting in the freezing keeping
It’s snow falling silent over where
Your tracks lie,
It’s trusting that the thawing
It’s trusting that next Spring
Will not bring
A man that you met the month your heart was snapped in half walks in.
And then you remember how fragile you were, how you were so cracked open you made a fool of yourself in his bedroom.
How you were a baby doe learning how to walk again. How you kept saying “love me love me love me” in a whisper to his ear. How he heard “I’m open I’m broken hurry up and fill these holes.”
You will be 6 months removed from a night in his sheets.
You will simply look down at your book and say a thank you prayer to the god of your whole-again heart.
Desireé Dallagiacomo, Poet Extraordinaire (via phoenixburning)
Originally from adoxography
Tonight’s Cantab feature is upcoming Write Bloody author Miles Walser! This is an excerpt from his book, What The Night Demands, which will be published in April.
View in high-resolution
Originally from National Poetry Slam 2013
The last time you came to see me
there were anchors in your eyes,
hardback books in your posture.
You were the five star general of sureness,
a crisp white tuxedo of a man.
I was fiddling with my worn coat pockets,
puffing false confidence ghosts in the cold January air.
My hands were shitty champagne flutes
brimming with cheap merlot.
I couldn’t touch you without ruining you,
so I didn’t touch you at all.
It’s when you’re on the brink of something
that you lose your balance.
You told me that once.
When I can’t bring myself to say what I need to,
my heart plays Russian Roulette with my throat.
I swear I fired that night, but, nothing.
Someday, I’ll show you the bullet I had for you,
after time has done the wash.
I’ll take it out of the jar of missed opportunities.
We’ll hold it up to the light.
You’ll roll it around your mouth like a fallen tooth.
You won’t forgive me exactly,
but we’ll laugh about how small it is.
We’ll wonder how such a little thing
could ever have meant so much.
I can’t hear anyone talk about love without thinking
plane crash. locked door. snapped matchsticks.
a choir of heartache. Every face, a costume of loss.
Trumpet voices in the second line marching band
out of my funeral home heart.
What I know about grief, I learned in a winter in New Orleans.
Nights I would drive the city, end up by some massive body of water.
Sob at the shoreline. Stare the beast in its face, and it didn’t give a shit
how loud I screamed. It roared back louder. It never stopped.
Not even when I did. If there is anything that breaking like a wave has taught me.
That grief has curb stomped into my teeth, it is that
When love leaves, it doesn’t always
shut the shotgun door on its way out.
The last time I left my heart wide open, the hurricane
in me got so bad the slamming of the stupid screen door
kept me up for months. I couldn’t stop pouring out my insides.
I couldn’t see the shoreline until I pealed my skin
out of bed, looked straight at it and said “Stupid door.
You’re so fucking loud. Would you quit it already?”
I didn’t know the carpenters in my heart until I needed ‘em.
For 3 months, my best friend called me every single morning
just to make sure I was still alive. Because sometimes
that is the hardest thing to do- just stay alive.
On this planet full of zombie hearts.
People walking around pretending to exist.
It looks so god damned easy to play along.
Listen for the people with the upturned palms whispering
“Here, take my sweater. It’s fucking freezing out there.”
You deserve to make it home. You compass. Waterfall smile.
Umbrella chest. Grand canyon elbows.
Ignore the radio static lost signal hearts
when all you want are directions back
to the lighthouse where your own love lives
through this god damned sea storm.
Keep swimming. The lighthouse. It’s there. And it’s worth it.
That kind of love only stays when it has to. And it stays. Every time.
My Mama folded laundry in the hospital that I was born in
so that I wouldn’t first see the world as some back road barn in Oregon.
I come from a heart made from sturdy hands.
A heart made to set sail. Ride the waves.
The storm is always thick. It’s always loud. The road home.
It’s quiet. Small. A warm you have to get used to. It’s a ship
made from everyone that ever said they loved you
and stayed when your heart slammed shut
so loud you could not say it back.
Sometimes, I am so spilling over with feelings
that I have to sit in my room with the lights off.
blankets pulled up over my head
so I don’t explode out all of my insides.
I am full. I am boiling over. I am fragile.
I am terrified to say that. To say that I am fragile.
I break like a bad habit. Like a fever. a windshield. I break like a wave.
Sometimes love doesn’t stay, but mother fuck when it does.
It is worth every fire extinguisher mouth that told you
that you were not enough. It’s worth all the people that
tried to put your loves honest flame out.
That confused your birthday candle kiss. Firecracker mouth.
For some blazing forest. torched chapel.
Let ‘em run out of you like a house up in flames.
They won’t be the first. They won’t be the last.
Pull the fire alarm. Let it rain.
sasha stands outside the record store
with a man who thinks he loves her
she knew if she let him, it wouldn’t be
the first death. the first death
was in letting him believe he could love
a tidal wave like her. but he was sweet
standing there, heart bleeding in his back pocket.
she lifted her shirt, a shipwrecked belly of pennies,
lost ships, and sunken men.
“I’m no fountain. Everybody drowns here.”
sasha waits outside the record store
for a man who said he loves her
across the street, the subway station is
a silent scream. a white dress sings up her thighs.
she thinks, “why all this dressing up? when I open my mouth,
he will see all this blood and already know that I’m
a whole wound, made pretty.” she sees him, her dress crying red.
she smiles with her whole mouth,
“now you know everything.”
sasha walks past the record store
where a man used to love her
otis redding’s voice breaks
over her head, a bullet made of lightning,
and she remembers what it was like
to kiss someone who knew the width and breadth
of her. someone who knew how to twist the knife,
but never how to stop the bleeding. she wondered
what happens to your bones when you confess yourself,
like a truth.
: to bind the center of a peach pit heart
like a covered form; to smile tooth-wide
without looking too much alive; to cinch
a curved body like a rag; to avoid water-
melon and chicken; to seed thoughts of
bloodline fantasy – are you one part Indian
or two parts Creole?; to wear coffee-colored
dresses and cotton headscarves only in
the dark; to unremember the village of old
women who lifted their skirts and birthed
you; to resist the hush of spirituals; to enunciate
the h and roll your r’s; to avoid okra and
the black geodes of jazz; to fill the cracks with
dreams of southern porches and plums big
as a well; to pull-out the tar-brushed womb;
to drink sweet tea in dainty cups, deliberate
as a geisha waiting to wear new bones again
First it was Champ –
our seventeen-hand Morgan with one good eye – neck-deep
in a sandpit in a green wheat field.
Sand buried him from teardrop hoof to shoulder.
Only the rigid head left,
and the gentle, burning eye. I did nothing while the sand
crushed silently. And Champ
also silent, despite his steady aching. His desertion.
Then it was my grandfather –
driving up the gravel road (dustless somehow) in his gold
cadillac and picture-perfect
moustache. I blinked and a frame edged in around him,
sealed him off
with antique lacquer, and he nothing more
than an inversion, a sliver
of the fifties’ radiant decay, a hard echo in the glass.
And myself –
I dream too often – rows of ovens unbolting,
one by one, their large,
bald, concentric throats – or dirt’s blunt bitterness
prying my mouth open,
to lump itself inside, to glue limb to pale root –
and me grinning all the while,
as though I kept catastrophe cupped tight in the heart.
And still the snowstorms
shear our house, icing tiles to the grass, while the oldest maple
taps his lean finger
on my bedroom window. And you still bloom inside me,
folded in utero, locked nerve
and bone to disordered chorus. Sweet evidence, you can’t hear
the wind gnawing the eaves ragged,
or catch the slow, cold flutes pulling us into deep slumber.