Primordial Mirror

I was newly naked: aware of myself
as a separate self, distinct from dirt and bone. 

I had not hands enough, 
and so, finally, uncrossed my arms.

In trying to examine one body part, 
I’d lose sight of another. I couldn’t 

imagine what I looked like during 
the fractured angles of sex.

At the river’s edge, it was impossible
to see all of myself at once.

I began to understand nakedness
as a feeling.

It was a snake, loose and green;
it was the snake skin, coiled and discarded.

The shedding chained itself 
like a balloon ribboned to a child’s wrist.

Morning’s birdsong reminded me
of the sloughing off of skin.

The rumored beauty of my husband’s first 
wife never bothered me before.

I missed the sensation of being fixed
in amber. Then the hair in the comb, 

fingernail clippings, the red mole on my
left breast grown suddenly bigger.  

I perceived my likeness in everything:
the lines on my palm as the veins

of a leaf, my mind as a swarm of flies 
humming over something sugary or dead,

my vulnerability as the buck
I’d kill then wrap myself inside, 

my hair as switchgrass, twine, and nest, 
a roving cloud my every limb.

My Nothings

You, who have bowed your head, shed
another season of antlers at my feet, for years

you fall asleep to the lullabies of dolls,
cotton-stuffed and frayed, ears damp with sleep

and saliva, scalps knotted with yarn, milk-breath,
and yawns. Birth is a torn ticket stub, a sugar

cone wrapped in a paper sleeve, the blackest
ice. It has been called irretrievable, a foreign

coin, the moon’s slip, showing, a pair
of new shoes rubbing raw your heel.

I lose the back of my earring and bend
the metal in such a way as to keep it

fastened to me. In the universe where we are
strangers, you kick with fury, impatient

as grass. I have eaten all your names.
In this garden you are blue ink, baseball cap

wishbone, pulled teeth, wet sand, hourglass.
There are locks of your hair in the robin’s nest

and clogging the shower drain. You, who are
covered in feathers, who have witnessed birth

give birth to death and watched death suck
her purple nipple. You long for a mother

like death’s mother, want to nurse until drunk
you dream of minnows swimming

through your ears—their iridescence causing
you to blink, your arms twitching.

Even while you sleep I feed you.

Hunger

When I rose into the cradle
of my mother’s mind, she was but
a girl, fighting her sisters
over a flimsy doll. It’s easy
to forget how noiseless I could be
spying from behind my mother’s eyes
as her mother, bulging with a baby,
a real-life Tiny Tears, eclipsed
the doorway with a moon. We all
fell silent. My mother soothed the torn
rag against her chest and caressed
its stringy hair. Even before the divergence
of girl from woman, woman from mother,
I was there: quiet as a vein, quick
as hot, brimming tears. In the decades
before my birthday, years before
my mother’s first blood, I was already
prized. Hers was a hunger
that mattered, though sometimes
she forgot and I dreamed the dream
of orange trees then startled awake
days or hours later. I could’ve been
almost anyone. Before I was a daughter,
I was a son, honeycomb clenching
the O of my mouth. I was a mother—
my own—nursing a beginning.

Related Poems

dwelling

that winter it was so cold
I had nowhere to go but inside

my heart was a clock on the kitchen wall
and I tacked up curtains to keep

anyone from looking in on my liver
up river  snow kept coming

and the aching thing ached still
husband it was yours for the taking

I clanged pots against my radiator thighs
duct-taped my mouth  all the doors

if only we could lose the hour
if only we could witness a single bloom

listen  if spring ever comes
I will open these windows to you

and beat this old rug of a soul clean
the house will be pristine

and I will be your wife again

[And sometimes I know I am having a feeling]

And sometimes I know I am having a feeling
but I don't want to have a feeling so I close up
like a book or a jacket or a sack which holds
a body. Don't mind me, I'll just be dead in here,
you can drag me wherever you want, the body
seems to say. You laugh like a little silver moon.
You laugh like the moon on the water ignored
by necking lovers. You said you didn't like that word
because something so sweet should not call to mind
giraffes, but I love the word “necking,” the way it twists
in on itself, like what I do to you when I want
to disappear in you, leave the sack of my body
strewn on the shore of you. Sometimes I'm inside
the sack and then sometimes I am nothing more
than the stitching which keeps it from bursting.
Sometimes I carry the sack and sometimes the sack
carries me. I only know the difference sometimes.
Do you ever feel like it's difficult to figure out
what you're feeling? I have that all the time, especially
when I look out a window or at your open face
across from me in bed, or your closed face
when I see the quiet pain you contain, or which
contains you. I know you're more than that
frown which makes your face resemble a fist
with gorgeous black hair. I know you contain more
than the reaction to my words or my body.
Some of us have to learn to love with hands
interlocked, but each with our own hand.

Instrument

i have wanted to be a sieve

i have wanted to be an anechoic chamber

and reflect back to you     no sound

but for the quiet rush and thrum

of your own nervous blood

 

i have wanted to be instrument

and not just body     to be felt

the cleavage of the world through

but instead to splay the invisible

light waned out through     skin

 

          skin and rushes
          a bird-wing desire
          alight and under       {fire}

 

                                               {i} walked out into the burning-est
                                               woken / of time / am i / 
acting-vist
                                               enough / as light / in the interim
                                               / inner of darkness / now entering
                                               / the 
machine / in knowing of
                                               cloak & insidious /
                                               of wonder / & plunder /
                                               not to seek / satisfaction
 in peaks
                                               / & difficult in climb
                                               / & / into surrender's don'ts //

 

                                               {i} walked out
                                               into the brilliant
                                               wokenest of
                                               time & everything
                                               was trite-ist