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.