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Ashley Kunsa

Poem Beginning with a Mattock

water from your bones like milk like something taken / for granted / what I wanted to say all this while / what I was trying to / pour my thoughts around / this idea of never / your hand cupping my breast teeth scraping / flesh of scapula / morning light flash across unfluttered lashes / sadness which has its own logic / strange and violent as epiphany / the body in its righteous asking / how do you manage I say again / and again unmemorize me / relearn forgetting that language granted you / by histories rote as the passage of dust / into time into / where the beginning looks like something rooted in air / where was this hour to remind us that / nothing beckons disappointment / without first souring / fist-sized blooms of hope not / the heart’s eager emancipation / it’s fine / what a sweet mercy to remain a secret / from yourself all these years / spent in excavation and still the answers / their muddy undersides / left unturned

Body Language; or Small Metacarpal

Call it beeswax, call it French braid, call it double
helix: these cheeks not ruddy enough for spring.

I break into backbend, my torso a mirror to the sky.

Tell me something marvelous: the names
of finger bones and unaccustomed clouds.

Like those before me, I rewrote history. Who among us has not
scrubbed the page until eraser morphs to metal?
This country asks of me my name and when I lie

it only laughs and laughs.

I have wanted to be in love with the world,
but it did not love me back. Now the woman I was

demands answers and there is no one here
to give them. My thighs parted for summer, heat charging through my body like a song.

Sometimes my brain goes blank
with wanting: cereal and milk, the ninth hour
of sleep, parade of his tongue

along the soft arc of my ribs.

I smell the sea but it is only a river bordered on both sides by idle hills.

Flesh is neither holy nor unholy, but raw fact,

These careless chants will undo us yet.

Arcus, virga, lenticularis.

Little Poem; or, Poem Beginning Before We Meet in Person

counting prayers in my teeth       morning unleashes its hoary net
over hills rabid with green       the insufficiency of birdsong       in the wake of
your rugged breath       salt fever memory       of your voice its texture
your fingers romancing strings       the body’s way of answering
a need as yet unnamed       sheet tangle a day lost       inside hours stained blue by longing
no clock ticking no broken world beyond       screen-snagged
window pane       another flagrant dark a lasso of heat       liquid as night
encircling my limbs       waltz in unkempt dreams       watch the moment shudder
you back to earth       to waking       wherever that is       watch the small wonders
dawn on rain-slicked loam       bend body mouth in benediction

Poem Beginning with Bitter Rind

in the body there are no answers     without questions
everything asked for     unearths its roots in something dark and
ruthless     in the body where I came
looking for mercy     I found rebuke
served up stale and stolid     by fingertips
blanched and peeling     the blunted edge
of aboriginal desire     softened like rot in
fragile peachflesh     [panting]
I crawled away from myself     clawed away at myself
mouth bloodied     as afterbirth
this hollow-walled room     a coffin this appetite
silence has made me     accustomed to silence
a lid clattering to the floor     isn’t a song

Poem Beginning with Broken Bones in Another Recession

everything I wanted skulked back to some first principle original in its dread invested in accordance with the ribcage’s first wager taken at face value what you cannot have and to hold this lonesome disavowel soft callus spongy bone memory’s distinct insistence a persistence I applied pressure a perfect re-organization anticipate volatility asymmetry or rather recalculate pain management the primary operation all in callous disregard for the body’s junk bonds and bridges up to nine years of growth no guarantee but cast aside or look the other way in traction pins needles diversification is vital begging for a hemorrhage I settled for a papercut

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