Secrets of my heart

she thought maybe she’d like to see
the secrets of my heart.
she thought she’d love what’s lying there,
beneath the pale white scar.
but peel back these walls of skin,
and pull my chest apart:
you’ll find a hollow socket now,
where once there lay my heart.

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Fire at the edges

Fire at the edges of my nipples, and you
walk into the room like
banjos playing soft in the woods, to a Yankee.
Terrified of shadows because death is
always hidden at the corners of them, shift my eyes and
swear something moved at the edge of my vision
of you.
We twist words into yarn, spin it with abandon,
knit ourselves shawls and sweaters and blankets to
keep out the cold,
cold that
pleads and begs like an old
beagle, whines and howls and
melts at the doorstep in defeat.
Embers grow under my feet, I
watch the full moon creep across the
sky, empty of stars,
wait out the loneliness and
clench my fist around
one last piece of coal.

Infertility

I have the same
emotional response to it as
other women.
Nothing so dramatic as a
miscarriage, my
infertility is subtle, masks itself in
bodily quirks like my
urine never having enough LH to
mark the
pee stick in double
pink lines; quirks like
pains at the wrong times, or my
body’s refusal to make an
egg on time, or at all. Quirks like
my already compromised
thyroid under attack again, by my
own body’s hand. Every
invasive procedure, they
stick things inside you in some
sick, consensual form of rape where
you desperately need this
child, and so you endure it.
Every
period like a thousand
deaths of every child I imagined from
infancy to adulthood, a hundred thousand
potential people I might have carried–
all killed in a whirlwind of cramps and a sea of blood.

Sweep the dust back

We sweep the dust back
into the cracks
between old oak floorboards.
Each day I see patterns in their
grains that point to
shapes, this time
rabbits and deer, like
pictographs on stone. One day the
permanent lines traced by
stress or insects
shift themselves like
candle-lit shadows and suddenly I see
two round, empty sockets in my floor.
Now I avoid that place
skip the room altogether most days,
avert my eyes if I have to walk through;
scared of their stare, so much
stronger than my own, so much more.

Belts and Bodies

That year I got to be an expert
at pulling the belts from the pants
of dead white soldiers.
I’d bring home ten, twenty in a night–
the women would divide them by firelight,
see if any would fit the men
or the children in their lives.
The rest they scrapped,
made into bootlaces and purse strings
ties for the shelters and,
when we were starving, stew.
It got to be a hobby of mine
to slip the belts from living mens’ pants,
hand them back with a grin.
It got to where they called me along–
I’d rifle through the pants
then slide the belts off last,
the bodies a comforting presence
the bodies cold and unchanging.
It got to be an intimate dance:
me leaning in close
going through pockets
smelling the meat of them
wondering what the next step might be
after their belts come off–
whether I would undress them fully, and
dance with them, and
who these men were before,
me wondering why they had no place
that they were going to.