We were all in love
but didn’t know it.
We were all in love
continually. Bless
our little hearts,
smoking and drinking
and wrecking things.
Bless our shameless shame.
We were loud, invincible.
We were tough as rails.
We stole street signs
and knocked over bins.
Ripped the boards
off boarded-up stuff.
Slept in towers
filled with pigeon shit
and fluff. We kicked
beer bottles down
cobbled lanes.
Tires and chains.
Chains and wheels
and skin. The world
was always ending
and we the inventors
of everything.

More by Melissa Stein

Ring

Control was all
I wanted: a handle
on the day, the night
when it curved,
when it swayed,
when I could sense
the teeming stars
in light, in dark
the sun’s bare wire.
Some switch
to turn it off:
each shadow
pinned to each tree
like a radius
of some infant’s
milk it spilled.
And the leaves,
their gossip
of claw and beak
and wind and heat
and wing. Tether
lake to bank and
cloud to peak.
And weather it.
Weather it. All this
to say I’ve
taken off my ring.

Dear columbine, dear engine

Dear columbine, dear engine.
Mere water will force a flower
open. Then with a touch
the beautiful intact collapses
into color filament and powder.
It’s all my fault. All hands on deck
to help collect what’s spilled.
That could be me beneath
a bridge. Torn up beside the road,
a bloat of skin and fur.
Afloat in bathtub, clean,
blue-lipped, forgiven. Face-down
in the snow. Why do you
imagine these terrible things?

asks my mother, or her
ghost. Because the paper’s
crisp and white. Because
no slate’s unwritten.
Because the ant that scaled
this flower head
has nowhere else to go.

Figure, ground

Catapult through hills
locking on air. So much of it
the lungs won’t take it in.

Then all’s a pinwheel, I’m
the pin. The girl
on her back

having a tantrum
on the drugstore floor
until her mother stands up and leaves.

The ladybug’s gunmetal
legs pedaling machinely
until they still

and fold. The body
is an envelope.
The air black

diamonds and helium
I’m far too far
to grieve.

Related Poems

Mimosa

for James Schuyler

Pink dandruff of some tree
afloat on the swimming pool.
What’s that bird?
I’m not from around here.
My mail will probably be forwarded
as quietly as this pink fluff
or a question or morphine
or impatience or a mistake
or the infinite method
established by experience
but never in this world.
I’ve always wanted to use
malarkey and henna in a poem
and now I have.
Oh Jimmy, all you ever wanted
was to see the new century
but no such luck.
You never saw a century plant
either, or you would have
taken another drink.
They grow for one hundred years,
bloom in their centenary spring
then die forevermore.
The stalk is ten feet tall
(you’d be jealous) rising
out of a clump of cactus leaves
(think yucca) then busting into
creamy ovoids flaming
on the candelabrum.
I was in an air-conditioned car
when I saw it but still felt
the heat of its beauty,
I wanted to stop and talk to it
but we sped on, so tonight
I’ll xanax myself to sleep
with the sweet thought that
today and every day is a
century plant of its own
seeded awful long beginning
blooming in drive-by yelps
of love and helplessness
and you saw plenty of them,
spectacular and sad as
a head of hennaed hair,
a lot of malarkey
if you ask anybody
other than us.