Underbelly

Wouldbelove, do not think of me as a whetstone
until you hear the whole story:

In it, I’m not the hero, but I’m not the villain either
so let’s say, in the story, I was human

and made of human-things: fear
and hands, underbelly and blade. Let me

say it plain: I loved someone

and I failed at it. Let me say it
another way: I like to call myself wound

but I will answer to knife. Sometimes
I think we have the same name, Notquitelove. I want

to be soft, to say here is my underbelly and I want you
to hold the knife, but I don’t know what I want you to do:

plunge or mercy. I deserve both. I want to hold and be held.  

Let me say it again, Possiblelove: I’m not sure
you should. The truth is: If you don’t, I won’t

die of want or lonely, just time. And not now, not even
soon. But that’s how every story ends eventually.

Here is how one might start: Before. The truth?
I’m not a liar but I close my eyes a lot, Couldbelove.

Before, I let a blade slide itself sharp against me. Look
at where I once bloomed red and pulsing. A keloid

history. I have not forgotten the knife or that I loved
it or what it was like before: my unscarred body

visits me in dreams and photographs. Maybelove,
I barely recognize it without the armor of its scars.

I am trying to tell the truth: the dreams are how
I haunt myself. Maybe I’m not telling the whole story:

I loved someone and now I don’t. I can’t promise
to leave you unscarred. The truth: I am a map

of every blade I ever held. This is not a dream.
Look at us now: all grit and density. What, Wouldbelove

do you know of knives? Do you think you are a soft thing?
I don’t. Maybe the truth is: Both. Blade and guard.

My truth is: blade. My hands

on the blade; my hands, the blade; my hands
carving and re-carving every overzealous fibrous

memory. The truth is: I want to hold your hands
because they are like mine. Holding a knife

by the blade and sharpening it. In your dreams, how much invitation
to pierce are you? Perhapslove, the truth is: I am afraid

we are both knives, both stones, both scarred. Or we will be.

The truth is: I have made fire
before: stone against stone. Mightbelove, I have sharpened

this knife before: blade against blade. I have hurt and hungered
before: flesh

against flesh. I won’t make a dull promise.

More by Nicole Homer

Petting Zoo

We pay to enter the dirty
pen. We buy small bags of feed
to feed the well-fed animals. We are
guests in their home, our feet
on their sawdust floor. We pretend
not to notice the stench. Theirs
is a predictable life. Better,
I guess, than the slaughter,
is the many-handed god. Me?
I’m going to leave here, eat
a body that was once untouched,
and fed, then gutted and delivered
to my table. Afterwards, I’ll wash
off what of this I can. If I dream
it will be of the smallest goat,
who despite her job, flinched
from most of the hands. Though
she let me touch her, she would not
eat from my palm. In my dream,
she’ll die of old age
and not boredom.

Related Poems

I Have Read the Whole Moon

In March I drop an egg hoping a bird will fly out disbelieving
science. All the manuals tell me this is a logical contract.
You commit yourself to a shell & you end up flying. Fine.
Stone after stone, I’m defacing the river of being in love with you.
True, I don’t care how that sounds. I have a list
of cocoons to transform my body: Uncontrollable
Shaking. Sleep Paralysis. Dread of Eating. I’m guilty
of pretending the roads to your house are no longer roads
but deerpaths angled crooked through the marsh. Again the water
doesn’t stop; it rains even when the weather is overdue: a holy
parallel. My mouth is rotted & anonymous. The bed needs oars.
I’m interested in dust but only new dust arriving unmarked
after you leave. After you leave, you leave &
thicketed in sludge I’ve been glued open. Self as spectacle:
Yolk Marvel. Unbird. Emily as grave pillar as salt lick as dammed up
luminous in thread. I have read the whole moon
cycle; it doesn’t explain the cracks. Mercury for once
cannot be blamed. My dishes float in soap like little planets.
I drop my hands in the sink. They come up feathered.

After He's Decided to Leave

When the bottle of hot sauce shattered in the kitchen
he stood in the doorframe, shook his head at the mess.
 
Not worried if I was injured,
mostly curious at what else it was I’d broken.
 
You are so clumsy with the things you hold,
he never said.
 
The red stain on my chest bloomed pungent,
soaked any apology.
 
I used his shirt, the one I slept in,
to wipe the counter and pale-colored kitchen floor.
 
That night and the next for a straight week
as he prepared boxes to leave
 
I hunched and scrubbed the tiles. Couldn’t rid myself
of the things that I’d sullied, of the look he left behind.

Ways to Harm a Thing

Throw scissors at it. 
Fill it with straw 
and set it on fire, or set it 
off for the colonies with only 
some books and dinner-
plates and a stuffed bear 
named Friend Bear for me 
to lose in New Jersey. 
Did I say me? Things 
have been getting
less and less hypothetical 
since I unhitched myself 
from your bedpost. Everyone 
I love is too modern 
to be caught
grieving. In order 
to be consumed 
first you need to be consumable, 
but there is not a single 
part of you I could fit 
in my mouth. In a dream
I pull back your foreskin
and reveal a fat vase 
stuffed with crow 
feathers. This seems a faithful
translation of the real thing. Another 
way to harm something is to 
melt its fusebox, 
make it learn to live
in the dark. I still want
to suck the bones out 
from your hands,
plant them like the seeds
we found in an antique 
textbook, though those 
never sprouted and may not 
have even been seeds. 
When I was a sailor I found 
a sunken ziggurat, spent 
weeks diving through room 
after room discovering
this or that sacred 
shroud. One way to bury
something is to bury it 
forever. When I was water
you poured me out
over the dirt.