Repetitive Motion Injuries
My therapist asked me where I felt the trauma
and my arms fell limply forward on my lap, palms raised
like an invitation, ulnar vein upturned like a plea.
I have the tissue paper wrists of a child,
barely wider than the blue thread stitching
through them, just thick enough to tingle life
into these lined hands. He held them
both in one hand behind me. Always
they are behind me. It is not open mouth or closed
eyes that revisit me, it is breath. Breath and tremor.
Breath, tremor, and the press of my wrists,
choking back the prayer of my blood.
Rape Poem #3
At some point, crying began to feel
like a concession, an offer of electrolytes
to restore the sweat he had spent during that hour
on his couch, holding her wrists behind her,
her rhythmically flopping hair more inviting
than the vacancy of her pupils,
so she refused to let it spill. She started
poem after poem, trying to write a rape
without using the word rape,
trying to prove that victim doesn't preclude
artist and consent doesn't preclude
non-consent and that someone somewhere
knows what these words mean and how
to hear them. She settled on the third
person, on using the words themselves instead
of their flowering cousins, and on crying
for how many rape poems are written
in the veins of how many women.
The Persistent Appeal of Synchronized Drowning
I was seven when I first almost drowned.
My frail sister, who would later write
lectures on the danger of cow's
milk and the curative properties of cannabis, wantonly
leapt into the deep end of a hotel pool,
toothpick arms bare.
Our parents were caricatures
of inattentive parents, so I jumped.
Our bones were not hollow
and the sharp cut of her hips submerged me.
Our lungs were not fishlike.
I continued to breathe
the wringings of the waterlogged
until I learned my body
is neither bird nor fish nor life raft,
until I learned to let others do their drowning.
The Secret Life of a Secret Collector
I was never good with my own secrets. I always rinse them
down the sink to make room for those given to me by others —
friends, lovers, my mother after three gimlets, a long line
of married grocery store clerks with stories about the lingering scent
of bag boys. I collect other people's secrets like the teeth
of my children, entrusted to me, but still I grope for them in the night
and hide them in a pretty lie. The burden of less bone takes the edge off
of copper tongues and the dull throb of living with a hole.
My back is bent with the bloody bones of others.
Nothing fills these holes.
Explanations for Silence
In the ongoing aftermath of the end of childhood,
I'm trying to decide if it is the way I didn't cry
at the casket, how I couldn't look at him dead
like I couldn't look at him alive or
the number of cigarettes I've never smoked
in the dirty basement next to you or
the fact I don't know the right words
about the way you get high.
Maybe it's the rug burn on your nose.
I tried to catch you but booze
weighs more than shame and you were
saturated with both. Or maybe
somehow there was just more to say
about a child that never lived than
about a child who almost dies, but doesn't.
There is a quiet way
though most prefer the satisfaction
still smiling, stuttering
on the closing
consonant of I love you