Prints Last night I dreamt that you were peeling a pear, slowly, the green ribbon of skin unwinding and twirling in the air like a small ballerina. You smiled, lips wide, fingers splayed out to offer me a slice. I reached for it, but could not meet your hands. I have been traveling the globe, collecting shot glasses and books of poetry from each new place, sitting in window sills each night with a dictionary that never gives me the answers. Tonight I am in a village where there is rarely a need to change the light bulbs. Summers here tend to neglect the lamps; the coarse curtains drawn back daily, like a thick waterfall of hair, parted, to expose the naked sun that seems reluctant to sleep at night. And here I am, my only companion a handful of dead matches and cigarette butts, all mixed and ashy in a bowl of old pennies that are useless here. Two nights ago, I heard music from an upstairs room. I climbed the uneven steps, jagged as a pirate’s teeth, and there I found a piano. There was no one playing it. The music had stopped when I reached the top step. I tried to lift the lid. I wanted to caress the keys, to leave prints of myself behind in this village that would never know my name. You are that old piano. The prints I left of myself on your skin have since disappeared. Two weeks ago, I visited my mother. Her eyes have grown grey with sorrow. She says that without my father, she cannot remember which side of the bed she sleeps on. She gave me gardenias to plant. She says I need to live with something alive. I asked her, Wasn’t I alive enough? and she only kissed my forehead. At home, the paint in my apartment is peeling off the walls, falling into my shoes like grains of rice. There is still potting soil on the throwrug; I spilt it planting my mother’s gardenias. Your paintbrushes are mixed in with my dishes, my earrings lost in the bed sheets, the tea kettle silently eyes the coffeemaker, a pile of papers on which I write my dreams grows wet and brown from the rain coming in through the open window. Another one about my mother My mother's last dying wish is that I have my tattoos removed. She pronounces the words "peanuts" and "penis" almost exactly the same. My mother says she was thinner than I am when she was my age. My mother can twist around my words like cherry stems on her tongue. My mother lives by herself in a four-bedroom house, but she is never alone. Students mill in and out, six days a week, Für Elise and Golliwog’s Cakewalk again and again. The only traits my mother passed on to me were short pinky fingers and a temper meant for someone twice my size. My mother smells like apricots. When I was eight, a baby died inside my mother. Whatever was left of it, stayed around to poison her. My mother is a sewn-up hole under the surface of her navel. My mother's hair is falling out, clumped in the corners of our bathtub like wet leaves in a gutter in November. It is the river The color of the Monongahela today is the same as the water you wash your paintbrushes in. We have not spoken all morning, I am a penny thrown down a well. A blanket is folded with neat corners on the futon, and I can see your bare back arched over the kitchen table, the pillar of bones in your spine. I stand facing our bathroom mirror, these scissors cutting so easily. An oil-slick of hair collects in the dip of the sink, the only thing I will leave of myself. absence What a memory looks like after it's been forgotten: an empty grave, surrounded by green green grass, and no gravestone. What sadness tastes like in your mouth: sour, bitter, the seawater crashing into your lungs when you were learning to swim, Does regret have a face, a body? Dark eyes? Black hair. A birthmark the shape of Portugal on the inner left thigh. Can you sink your fingernails into its flesh? Scrape them along the outlines of joints, try to save some skin, some scent. What does leaving look like? A doorframe, the fluorescent light of the stairwell. The insides of your palms, wet, turned upward. erosion lately i've been thinking about us growing old together: and your face, the valleys deep from my eyes tracing and tracing over the flesh again and again. It is hard for me to see you now My grandmother once told me never to drink water that has been sitting in the kettle after it has already been boiled. "It is bad for the heart," she said, "once it has already boiled and cools, it is no longer good for drinking. Do not think yourself wasteful, pouring the water left down the drain to fill the kettle and boil it again." Spirit You like that I am only twenty-one; eighteen years behind and I've still got my spirit, as if it is something I'm going to lose eighteen years from now. If anything, it will be stolen by a man like you who implies that its loss is inevitable. "If You Take Me Back, I Promise I Will Never Hurt You Again" How do you go back? How do you touch the hands that shut the door behind him? How do you let them tangle themselves in your hair again, now they’re like a mermaid’s caught in a fisherman's rough net, and I sit and stare at my bare brown knees, your hot regret soaking my shoulder. You are a stranger. You are not a stranger. You try to friction your way back into my heart and between my legs, breathing words into my cheek. All the used and dirty dishes have been washed and put away. It is getting light out. You cannot stop touching the side of my neck, the words are bleeding together: I'msorryI'msorryI'msorryI’msorryI’msorry When I was young, I used to repeat words to myself on long car trips until they lost their meaning. I'msorryI'msorryI'msorryI’msorry daughter You would have had brown eyes. You would have been a girl who dreamt of growing into a painter, or an architect, and having a daughter you would name Gabrielle. At thirteen, you would have stood naked in front of a full-length mirror, gazing at your small mounds of white breasts, wishing them bigger. You would have had your father's tall nose, and his allergy to gladioli, your mother's full lips, but none of her love for words. You would have been, instead of these two pills, pale, I wash down with black coffee, this heat I can feel beneath my navel. the birds and the birds flew as if swarms of bees, reminding me of the dark speckled whiskers on the cliff of your jaw and the pulse of your neck.
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