[You think her big eyes have the warmth of a shark's]
Her words, coated in sea salt, will taste like a sun-baked gill. If you could go there. She says listen not hear me out. She says open not hurry. You imagine coming inside her, waking on a starfish bed. Her pupils dilating right in front of you. She'd avoided the ships, wound her way out of Arial's fins, to find you. She says sh and puts a drink in front of you. Waits for you to find rocks at the bottom. There is ocean in so many teeth. Her hands, those open sails draped over your collarbone, remind you of wind, of disappearing blue.
[Men in suits at the bar talking about slicing up dolphins]
Am I a dolphin? I wonder. Look down at my fin-slip, a shimmer of gold and blue. I am part ocean, part animal. Part get the hell out of my way and I fall in love too quickly. Speaking in the language of water: fold and unfold the seaweed tongue. But, I have forgotten the image of blood. Knife digging into my abdomen, this blue. What color might blue and red make under water? In a group, the men in suits have teeth and hooks. They tell me I exaggerate. My legs are smooth and slick. Good thing I finally shaved. My hands make question marks in and out of the water.
In Year Three
He stops kissing me
when the wind in Kansas
reminds him of his mother.
I beg him to use my lips
for warmth, but he sits on the other side
of the couch, all the weight of November
on his neck as he types away at his phone.
He's always part of some race
and I'm watching from far below.
I read poems about women underwater,
faces bloodied, their bodies like dead tree limbs bobbing.
I, too, felt like a dead woman.
A shadow on a cold prairie.
Sometimes he'll reach for my ass
and grab. He says This is mine
to remind me where I belong
and I fall further into the water.
There's a brutal routine to all of this,
a violent comfort when he ties the ropes
around my wrists, pulling the knots tight.
[I'm a very dead girl]
The psychic took an eyelash and told me to lean over a candle, breathe until I might find a harp growing out of me. Pluck and lick the tune off your fingers.
Years later, I used so many pronouns and prepositions a friend would ask to write down my sentences and edit them, publishing what was left.
Why didn't anyone tell me I could learn something only to barely remember it later as gasoline fumes?
Once, an old man threatened my future with a pointing finger and a broken cigarette – this is how a girl like you dies – and I let him draw my shadow onto the sidewalk until my own feet disappeared, tobacco falling like snow around us.
I don't know how to speak without talking of connection, without positioning my body. Perhaps I do not exist without the music a neighbor plays late into the night.
The psychic continues to tell me palms change. She squints for effect. Looks for something besides dead leaves in my smile.
This is too abstract, they'll say. I'm a hip bone or navel drawn into a black sky. And I'll rise for the day, pick up a button or a flask. Place them in a pocket.
He shows me the pattern of buckshot on his shins. Scars on his torso and hands.
Are we always simply waking?
In his past there are many fires and many knives, but at twenty-two, he doesn't yet know how to move his body around mine. How to undress without standing.
I have a habit of looking too closely at hands and finding something missing.
My friend Jennifer sends me links to articles about how to move on from something. How to open up my hands and collect the soil and fold it into the laundry, scatter it in the vents. I wake with soil in my teeth.
He won't move away from the bed.
I would dismantle all the lights if I knew we'd still be in that room together. But then I'd have to learn how to demand.
There are many stories. Bobcats. Shotguns. His father bed two women for seven years.
Jealousy is nothing more than fear. Except when it's a bird landing on the same wire day after day and simply flying away. Except when it's the recoil of a gun.
His mother and his father are still married.
Jennifer tells me to date older men because they know how to replace things.
Good morning lips, good morning honey, good morning, good morning, good morning.
They say on the news that families are hurting. I want to know what this looks like. It's about as dark as you can imagine here and graffiti covers the walls.
When I tell you I have a headache I am not lying
In the dream, a doctor slices into the brain
of an open-mouthed cadaver
until pulling out a meaty wishbone tumor
to show me what I need to see.
I wake with a tender bruise
above my ear and press,
can see the dead speaking
from the clouds.
Another friend of a friend
has hung himself
and when I sit next to my friend
there are rocks in my head.
I can feel her
sadness, a dark genius
in my mouth
until I erase the night for both of us
and wake having slept with no pillow.
What it feels like to sit up
with no neck, this absence,
rocks hovering above.
To avoid the weight of someone else's breath,
I sit in the same spot
and watch reruns of Judge Judy
where a woman suing for assault
cries into a glass of water
while ironing a finger to her wrist.
Why would she lie
about being stirred in glass,
about the never ending ache
in her jaw, how she can close
all the doors only to find more
through sleep opening and opening into the dark?
A friend sends a picture of a raccoon tail
and I can only imagine what it's like
to be swung so hard
and to not see the face of the one
who does the swinging.
In my dream, I can see
the whole brain, the gray ache,
and when the doctor removes
the tumor, the mouth tries to speak
but this is what pain looks like –
Soundless, the doctor and I
just look inside, find the tongue
boneless and white.