Two Poems by Nina Puro

“houses all the way down” and “dream of a unified undercommons”

houses all the way down,
or, the slope mine

            Whether time got away from me or
caught up with me is hard to say,
            the shape of its shadow is the same.1
Rupture in the silhouette of a house.
            The house was the beginning
of a puddle of milk, forest
            before the fire, before our nostrils blackened
with ash. Houses break lawns
            like shadows. I’ve taken to pretending
there’s a thumb pressing the bad
            spot in my skull, tamping the fever. Trepan,
a compass needling not-quite-north.
            The city air’s stippled plaid. I move my sour
face around it, waver
            in doorways. Flickered scraps
of fryer, laundromat. I’ve taken to shoving men aside
            to order at bars. I’ve given up
asking what I can do to help. I’ve taken to
            doing. Suffer the flames
but not what started the fire. Sure I don’t eat
            in public, but I plug in the
banter until brittle, until I can walk back to the room
            where papered lamplight spills gentle over my mess.
Suffer the mess. Air breaks sticks like deer. Wind breaks bodies
            like men. We do the most we can. Desert towns
break teeth & horses faster. I was born
            with lungs that didn’t open like flowers but
like sickles. Heartland towns rust out fastest,
            point and shoot, factory soot. Born in a
hospital room where twenty-seven people
            died. Cities break buildings faster. One collapses
each spring, just as the geese
            start to go home. I’ve given up thinking
anything is the most I can do.
            I’m not broken. Air parts around my walking
like a prow. Moreover, I’m not inscrutable
            I’m pokerfaced. I’m frightened.
For us all. Suffer the fear. Do not call me
            darling. I refuse
to be reforested. I stay razed
            as a reminder. I know words
are mostly transactions,
            but they taste like flint.

1 From “Ways of Escape,” by Michelle Orange.

dream of a unified undercommons, or, how to survive the police state between riots, or, the detritus eaters, or, how to intentional queer house

Saturday’s a raft                       of smoke, a proxy gender.
Good friends               poke holes in eggs. Our good
debt what it is               to leak
a sheet of frost,                        to be their sponge.
Our family tree                       in caution
tape. Our fathers’ debt and what
it is to be what              has been sloughed,
what cleans up.
Are we burnish                        or scour? We forgot they wouldn’t
let them die                  how a god dies. We foxed under
their current.               The brambles
they know us.               Our ripped
pockets.                       There are
a thousand tiny winks. To nod
out to.              A city’s
far off shining              like the cufflinks
of the disposably incomed                   but babe
it’s not for us.              That’s for what our
siblings muddled                     and all that
keening afterward.                   Lie down.
Here’s where our                    queer shoulders touch.
Ten thousand points of                        manifestos
lurching languid yet the                       census men they make
no box for us to check.                        Why does not getting
killed matter                so much
to me? Lie down lie
down lie down.                        Wet leaves
will dry out or rot.                   A tree’s a sentence
broken at the root.                   No gate. A turnip seed’s
a regret, a mouth                     full of ash. What do I have
to say about                 violence. I swipe
my card.                      I’ll never have
a kid. Iron filings                     silt the borough.
Such hopeful               names the streets have in that city:
Occlusions. Useless flowers like
rhododendrons.                       Wednesday the townspeople
make lace                    of extension
cords.              Thursday’s a handful
of bullets                      thrown on the coffin. Today’s
spring cleaning. Red days                    we can always make
an us.               We make a syntax
for our kitchen.                       We burn it. Darlings,
you don’t have             to be afraid,
but you probably should be.

Ghosts & Cyborgs

“Stay away from dark colors.” “Hoods and caps cause trouble.” “Don’t stare at anyone too long.” “Hold your chest in, Son.” “Try not to take up so much space.” “Keep your hands where everyone can see them.”

On Rising

“We know that so many have named it mere anger, when in fact it is the resuscitation of hope.”