Figure, ground

Melissa Stein
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.

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.

Anthem

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.

Related Poems

Blackacre

one day they showed me a dark moon ringed

with a bright nimbus on a swirling gray screen

they called it my last chance for neverending life

but the next day it was gone it had already

launched itself into the gray sky like an escape

capsule accidentally empty sent spiraling into the

unpeopled galaxies of my trackless gray body