something happened to me / the swiss knife chipped off a strand of my tooth / now i miss zero point zero zero one percent of enamel / nobody notices it is gone / my tongue laps the cliff of my incisor for the downward jag / is this not how damage works / nursing what is not with you / yet we all go –
swimming in cesspools of lachrymation / so much of salt would look like white sand / i have not been to a beach in a loop of weeks / my skin verbosely dilates like a profane sore / there is so much of my body / if he started kissing me it would never end / play with my hair / play with the dead / it makes me –
wonder about desire / how it devours its own skin / leaves a festering cavity / but make a habit out of something it becomes a chore / you brush your teeth / spit lust into the sink / turn off the tap / zip up your pants / you end up no better than the parasite wildflowers / in nondescript backyards / someone deigns to water you / lustily lick each molecule / that seeps through your fissured tooth
crowbar trail mix batteries flashlight.
water, water everywhere—you know the rest.
for some godforsaken reason, or perhaps none at all,
it's 90 fucking degrees. (fahrenheit.
this is america, after all.)
the air is still, save for static
between our bodies. strands of hair
bridge the gap, cling together. the ends tangle.
billboard evangelists beam down
benignly from their roosts,
smiles weathered, worn.
the heavens have opened and shut.
their deluge was rapturous, so naturally
we were left behind.
car engine cicadas pop radio.
here, at priceline 103
beside our lady of sorrows,
we sit in your sedan and pray for deliverance.
(the national guard turned us back
like we have somewhere else to go,
two college queers with ten bucks total.)
here, you tell me your parents are stuck,
water halfway up their driveway,
road an unnavigable river.
we're worse off, i don't say.
"isn't that awful," i say instead, pressing on the wound,
preoccupied with pain other than my own.
for once, you don't cry. you don't even answer.
(it wasn't a question anyway.)
here, i am alive, vibrating with
anger fear agitation hostility boredom,
and i don't look at you but i hope you are too.
we're seconds from either killing or
kissing each other. i can't decide
which would be worse.
i'm ready for an end, one way or another.
floodwaters ebb, but
dams can't hold forever.
we don't know much yet--
we haven't even had real girlfriends.
we're majoring in language left unspoken,
and from it, we divine two truths:
something will give.
it will be us.
grandma—you live in your Obsession perfume bottle, i talk to it every day, telling you how good you smell, that i long for your root beer kisses that stay sticky on my cheek, that you are magic.
grandma—you live in your flannel & it goes unwashed for too long, but if i can call you mom
on accident again and go without socks in the house, i promise to clean it. grandma—you live in my rosary beads, that i never hold loose, & i beg you every day for something that i cannot control without being soothed—
say Julie one more time…
spoon feed me sweet truths
catch the word more on my lip
trying to slip out
For me, if you breathe
please and thank you, I will fall asleep.
If you frolic obnoxious, if you drop kick
books at me, if you spill coffee
on my boss's vest, yes, I will
kiss your boots.
The courteous patron
becomes the forgotten.
It's the headache, the crass handful
the staff member remembers mid-dinner.
It's you in the crewneck
with the faded alumni card.
It's you in the crewneck
with a stack of back catalogs
hiding your face. I'm holding
your hand as you stab my side.
I bleed out and check out
your books. You drum your fingers
on my forehead. I return to you
your card and remind you of due dates.
My brain is a name tag. You remove it
through my nostrils. I cry such
rainful joy as I waive late
fees and hate to clock out.
to live in the diaspora
is to return to your homeland and appear as a stranger while there a stranger approached me and spoke some english that was broken carried by pidgin – i received only a few pieces.
half at peace and half uneased.
i’m nigerian: i could regurgitate a reply in my stale, remnant accent from childhood
i’m american: he’d smell the tainted accent and perceive how rotten it is.
to live in the diaspora
is to be in your homeland and appear as a stranger while here strangers approach me to question where i’m from because of the lingo spoken with my people – igbo.
half at peace and half uneased
i’m nigerian : i’m american
AN INCANTATION TO MAKE AN EMAIL ARRIVE
Say you are hot water
running rills of warmth
across my stomach
Say this room is earth under a tree
this room is bare, aching earth this
room is my open palms
Say you are a tangerine
falls away like foil or a winter coat
Say I expect nothing of you
I am not waiting — I’m up to my elbows
already in tomorrow — I am not waiting —
A CHARM TO REPAIR A BROKEN PHONE
The real trick is to realise that
whatever the fault (glass spidered,
waterlogged circuitry, sniping texts and
friends’ voices slipping to sugary nothing), it resides
in you first and foremost. The phone
itself is nothing. The phone itself
is your clenching heart. In the grey morning
— the sky yellow as orangejuice
with streetlight light, flu-pallid with dawn —
go out into the garden. Dig into
mouthmoist loam. You’ll find
three egg-shaped stones
an arm’s length deep. Place your phone
with them and cover it over. Mark the
Return on whim one evening in spring
before its bulb
This is the drink of a cardboard uncle gummed up with ambrosia. This is the drink of myself, a condemned mansion with hedge-maze arteries & I am flocculent with cabbage roses. Do you remember shooting my old blood between the eyes like a rabid dog? It is wrong to believe the bread is Christ & eat it anyways, so I shrike it to the bottom of the pew & tip the table once a week. There I come blooming from your nostrils in clumps of atom-less peonies & yet you’ll still cluck your tongue at the snap of my toe.
Back barn, wooded over & zapper-lit. A piece of top-skull, curved. A tiny moon or enlarged fingernail. Hands placed around it, finger bones feeling the hollow of their ancestor. Hair still mossed to the head, stubborn against plucking. A prayer. And then another prayer. And then a question. To what lock does she belong? In the aftermath, the death-mess keeps its chosen pronouns. She-bones, their-bones. Re-forms a whole identity. Something to feed. Tea sloshes around the bowl & the aftertaste of calcium & dust delivers us to the old bride.