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17/30 (In Your Atmosphere…)

"You know the oxygen we breathe

is killing us?

Rusting our blood vessels;

poisoning us. just helping

us live long enough to feel

as much of this as we can take —

every heartbreak between

now and when the pipes finally


I always change the subject

when I catch myself about

to tell her that I have always loved her,

or that I still have flower, and dinner, and movie, and liquor, and condom, and breakfast, and borders, and pastry-because-you’re-not-fat-and-you-should-be-able-to-taste-your-life receipts,

and the hotel room keys that would hang from rafters like the jersey numbers of star players if our relationship were ever reborn as a sports team.

I’ve squeezed

the toothpaste tube she left

dry, but it’s still sitting on

the counter.

Every few weeks,

She asks if I’m on something

or says “maybe you’ve developed ADD?”

I thank her for caring,

and blame the fluorescent lights.

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16/30 (to the person who broke into my car)

I am sorry that
they never spoke power
into your name —
that they painted
you; covered in rot
and gangrene
until your limbs
learned how to
forget their circulation,

I hope that
my coat keeps
you warm.

I hope that you
can convince someone
to charge your peace
to my Macy’s card.

I hope that you remember
that you are stumbling
because they pushed you


that when you stand up
or the next day,
or the next day —

that when you use your left hand
to find the wall,
and find your balance

I hope that just because it’s
whatever day it will be when
your feet remember their
souls, that you decide to give
the light switch a try

and that you (re)discover that
you are electric.

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I keep waiting
to bleed-spill-pour out:

i’ve pooled at my feet
enough that

I can’t move without
kicking ripples into the

floor, my edges have
started to dry,

like cold winters
when the shores
freeze first,

I am a lake
laid on it’s stomach

looking down it’s arms
at frostbit fingers

looking back at the ice
creeping up it’s calves

stretched across a valley
between two beds —

every so often looking at it’s reflection in the sky

how liquid it
really is

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it was the way
your fingers ran
the waterfalls
of arms pouring
from my shoulders,

it was the way
you looked at
my skin
with wonderment;

you said you couldn’t
figure out how it
hugged itself around
a soul like mine;

that whenever you looked
at me I was standing
between and behind
your reflection,

that my layers reminded you
of fall and that orange leaves
were your favorite kind
of departure.

you said my momma
wasn’t no glass maker
and that you were grateful
I would not shatter so easy,
no matter my track record
covered in crack and crevice.

it was the way
you unwrapped me
careful not to tear anything
that might have been
delicate in ways you couldn’t have known
that made me love you

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and then
she smiled and
my arms and legs became
aware of one another,
of themselves,
of their distance from my torso,
and from hers, they
quivering, exhausted, as the
epitaphs and coffins —
my past and the post-ambles
I was dragging behind me
suddenly felt
like a burden

I let them go.
and smiled back.

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all of our pictures

looked like music, vinyl

after the record player broke.

even the street-drawn caricatures,

exaggerated nosed smiles that slid

across our faces toward one another.

we always sounded

trumpet and tromboned

and even though all we have left are

album covers

and the liner notes we wrote drunk

on bar napkins and take-out menus

and each other’s palms, even

with no way to listen left for me

I still dance to us

on Saturday mornings,

and Sunday afternoons.

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every time the doors slammed thunder
I would open my eyes, slow, checking my
panes for shatter and the soles of my feet
for flooding.

I would strip naked and stand
in front of the mirror and
examine myself —
looking for
splits in the bark;
charred trunk or branch

no one ever tells you when
you fall in love with a spring storm
that your life will be spent
trying to catch lightning in a bottle;
waiting for tornadoes to climb from their cradles —
hanging like mobiles from the green sky.

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every time she looked at him,
her face was 7 years old
on Christmas morning,
preparing to unwrap a gift everyone
promised was from Santa.

every time she looked at him,
he was backlit,
and she always thought about squinting
but was too afraid of missing
a single moment while her eyes
adjusted to (t)his light

every time he looked at her,
he was handing her a gift wrapped
in his empty hands,
unsure of how he would outdo
the last one

every time he looked at her,
she was covered in
his shadow, and he always thought about squinting
but was too afraid
she would think he was looking away.

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when we stopped talking
and kissing and whispering
things we couldn’t have spelled
in each other’s ears, the only sounds we left lingering and
echoing through the room
were the slow drip of the faucet
diluting the acid in our stomachs
and the prayers we squeezed between our palms
until they became feathers and dreams and
hopes that we hadn’t bunkered ourselves
so corrosive that even
holy water would only react
violently inside of us.

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Her: Morning after comforters are more cloud than cover.

Him: How so?

Her: If you close your eyes hard, and breathe deep,

Her: and allow your dreams to open them again:

Her: when you see the fresh-squeezed

Her: cracked-blinds-sunlight pouring over

Her: our amateur attempts at bedset-and-spread map-making --

Her: scandal, expose, midrift and thigh turned to any landscape you stretch them into;

Her: mountains, and valleys, and rivers,

Her: and waterfalls, and sitting, and watching days turn dusk from

Her: the porch of the home we could build

Her: together

Him: and the clouds?

Her: don't you feel winged here, too?

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I can’t tell you that I remember things that I’ve said;
somehow always been better at
“anything for yous,”
than “anything specifics” —
better at the way your hands felt in mine,
than the color of your nails.

I can’t tell you if the scratch marks
started at my shoulders and dragged down
like drapes your cat had swung from,
or if they started at my spine
and fled — high speed chases across my back
along a rib-cage-lane-divided highway
toward my sides,

I can’t tell you how your hair started —
only how it looked in the morning as you slept,
and that I hated the pattern of your carpet.
It made me dizzy.

I spent eleven minutes
trying to stare through the design,
trying to find my feet,
trying to convince them to join forces with my calves,
and knees and hips and spine;
to stand me up
to run me home.
too scared by how
I loved the way
you tried to love me
to try to stay.