hey portland, come to my house tonight, bring beer
The cherry blossoms have been curling
in on themselves, skeleton hands, leaving
a hazel carpeting on the sidewalk,
so you drive. Here is movement you can
control, a wheel that turns only when you let it.
Here is a hard shell. Here is an embrace
that doesn’t ask questions. Right on Belmont,
thirty blocks toward Mt. Tabor. You were supposed
to be bigger than this—mind like a gilded library,
belfry for a throat, a shimmering ball gown,
a man to love you so hard he’d break your bones.
Now you’ve grown impatient, started
breaking them yourself. Take the freeway north.
Exit on a whim, head east. Your loneliness
is a parasite. Its hunger, oceanic. It is
as regular as breathing now, this thing gnawing
inside you, this monstrous want. Cut
through a small town. The road curves,
the trees close in, the streetlamps drop away.
You looked at him and forgot you
had a mouth and reached out your arms and
he doesn’t want you anymore. So who will?
You’ve promised to write so many letters.
Gliding alongside the river, the shadowy sentinel
pines—it’s almost like swimming, the way
you cut through the thick night. The way you wait
until you’re dizzy before you come up for air.
Around the bend, another pair of headlights,
at first blinding, then gone.
I keep seeing them at the hospital—though
they’ve left it now, dispersed to their homes,
or maybe all gathered in one dining room,
letting old stories spill across the table. But
I keep picturing them there, in the metallic halls
and white room where for a week they lived—
or were held, suspended, in a time between living:
There is my mother, holding tight to her voice,
the strong one, the nurse, trying to fit everyone
in her arms. My cousins, always so quiet, the lines
deepening and deepening in their faces.
My aunt, with her beautiful soft eyes,
the one that moved across town when she couldn’t
love him anymore—there she is beside him again,
beside the bed, her mouth to his ear, Squeeze my hand,
shouting it, as though calling to someone
at the other end of a long tunnel. The rosary turning
and turning in my grandmother’s hands.
But never him. Never the ruined body in the sterile gown.
Never the rocks as they reached out their corners to catch him.
Never the moment before—gripping the railing
with hands that always gave and gave and gave,
shoulders that carried children and grief and time
now hunched, staring out at a fractured landscape,
none of it saying anything to him, not the train tracks,
not the far-off highway, not the smokestacks or the river
or the whole of Kansas City unfolding blankly before him—
just a sky so gentle and grey
and dripping with mercy
he thought he could fall into it.
February arrives, restless.
Tonight runs its icy fingers through
your hair. You are recalling autumn,
picturing yourself once again
with the last man. His laughter
in the movie theater. His crooked
grin, the lovely tundra of him.
You know he has hands, but you
can’t picture them. They must
be large. He has large, rough hands.
He plays a jazz record. He holds
your wrists. When he enters you
he growls, like a thunderclap
stuck in some night’s throat, like
a caged dog.
Anonymous asked: Hi Alea. I like your work. I'm a prose fiction kind of person but poetry has started to call to me, like something I might really need. I like your style, and a lot of the things you've reblogged on your rebloggy blog. Are there any particular collections you would recommend to start with?
hey there! thank you! i’m going to go ahead and over-answer your question.
the most fundamental collections for me:
also, my favorite slam/performance poets are jon sands, mindy nettifee, brian ellis, and angel nafis. they are not only amazing performers, they are stunning writers, and they each have a book (or two) that will do crazy things to your heart.
other poets i couldn’t live without: jack gilbert, margaret atwood, stacie cassarino, bob hicok, kim addonizio, sharon olds, robert hass, michelle tea… and neruda and ginsberg, who were the reasons i became passionate about poetry in the first place.
anthologies and poetry blogs can be the best places to start with poetry. grammatolatry and spittingwhys are my favorite poetry blogs. as for anthologies, robert hass’s now & then and david lehman’s the best american poetry series (which comes out every year) are wonderful, and were super formative for me. write bloody has some awesome anthologies too, of course, since they are awesome in every way.
thanks for the question! i think there’s room in everybody to be both a prose fiction kind of person and a poetry kind of person, and a lot of other things in between. i’m glad you’re listening to the call!
grateful for this life
Your friend has been thinking about
what amounts to a life. He tells you
about a series of moments: his car
on fire in the desert, his grandfather’s funeral.
Draws a wavy line through the points
of air where his words hang.
Says he thinks this might be enough.
Yes, you think, driving home late that night.
The winter is letting forth its fiercest rain yet.
Your only company on the freeway
is a parade of semi-trucks, whose wheels
send huge curtains of water
flinging themselves across your windshield.
Each one leaves you blind
for several immense seconds.
Yes, just moments, tiny opals scattered in the grass:
Yesterday’s squash peeled into
translucent strips, olive oil murmuring
in the pan. Flipping through the jukebox
at the all-night diner. The reading
in the warehouse lined with Christmas lights.
Laying in semidarkness, tracing the man’s
tattoos for the first time, your fingertips
light as dry leaves, his dead brother’s name
a meadow blooming across his
shoulder blade. Mint tea on the frosty patio.
To collect them, to gather them to you.
To string them together—a garland
of these moments, a rosary.
To run your fingers over it, to wind it
around your wrist. To make a living.
At the café last week the old woman
ordered her usual, told you
they used to go to Italy every year, but now…,
her husband quiet at the table.
So many train rides from Siena to the coast
and back have settled into wrinkles
around his kind eyes. The little towns
they’d stop in along the way, the others
they’d save for next time. Strung
like beads of light across the countryside.
You drive beneath an overpass
and for a split second the rain cannot reach you.
For a moment, silence. The concrete
arches its back. The freeway holds its breath.
The dog and I are sleeping back to
back, all three pounds of her pressed
against my shoulder blade. Earlier, the
girl at the mall rubbed something salty
on my forearm, sloughed off my dead
skin with a piece of cotton, and I thought
of you. Now my arm smells like the ocean.
In a few minutes I will turn over and curl
my body around the dog’s like an immense
fern. In a few hours I will lay in bed listening
to her bark at the drunk houseguests in the
kitchen, unable to sleep, wracked by visions
of the door cracking open, of her tiny legs
carrying her out, of the busy street and all
its headlights slicing through the night. I
don’t know what you’d hurl yourself into
traffic for. Look at all of that, the girl said,
showing me the cotton swab streaked with
grey. In two days the rain will start and after
that it won’t stop. The whole city is talking
about it, smokers at the doctor’s office, amazed
we still can’t outrun winter after all these years.
Have you outrun yourself yet, darling?
The dog twitches against my spine, waking
us both, bringing us back to the cold.
The Mountain Goats | Night Light
dream of maybe waking up someday
and wanting you less than i do
Your roommate comes home to find you
in the kitchen, in old sweatpants and a lace bra,
heating soup on the stove. You wonder
what she thinks of your stomach, its pillowy folds, if
it isn’t a little obscene, how it grows softer every day
while you stand there, tearing chunks off of a baguette,
barely chewing, constantly swallowing.
Your friend invites you over for a movie. Cancel because your
feet hurt. Cancel because your fat stomach hurts. Cancel
because he thinks you’re beautiful and you know you aren’t.
Consider writing the boy you love another letter
to tell him you are sad that he ignored your first letter.
Wonder when you stopped worrying about being
a “crazy girl.” Acknowledge that becoming one
feels natural, like tugging at ivy until it’s uprooted, like
holding the vine and watching soil fall from the roots,
back to more soil, gently.
Fear every man who looks at you.
Hate every man who doesn’t look at you.
The train whistle you hear every night
sounds like the cawing of an angry crow.
This is not the mournful song everyone
writes about, not the lone bassoon stretching
its neck into the night—this is something harsh,
dogged: blaring sandpaper, a smoke alarm.
Think about getting hit by a car almost every day.
Resent that you can’t think of anything more creative
or less passive.
But that boy. You have spent most of a year unraveling
your skin for him, draping strands of it places
you thought he’d notice, your teeth always chattering
like crude drums calling him to battle across the room,
across three states, across your bed. The woman he loves
is a magnet. You don’t know what you are, but you suspect
it is something less permanent, something
more likely to dissolve in water.
Eat the whole baguette. Lay in bed
sweating. Don’t call anyone back. There’s
that train whistle again: furious, obscene.