I have seen the hearts of most creatures set upon the table, but never the heart of the wolf. The mottled purple thumbprint of the fish, the soft apple of the black bear, the pulp of the deer and the rabbits and the squirrels indistinguishable when slickened onto the canvas of my palm. But the fruit of the wolves we have always been denied. When we hear their howls, Papa locks the door and bars the windows. There is much I wish to ask him, but the truth of the wolves will never be mine to know. I am learning to accept this.
Nothing’s changed here in fifty years and it won’t in another. If Gregory comes with me, even after four years it’ll still be true that the bottoms are empty, the Hill is tall, doctors are liars and men are swine. Save for, I’ll have a degree and he’ll have a little exposure.
Everyone in my town is a man, and every one of them has those gorgeous muscles you see on television. They are sometimes on television themselves, the men of my town. Our town is not known for much beyond its strong, beautiful men. If you visit the public spaces of my town, you will find men flexing for one another. You will find men checking out one another’s biceps and triceps and quadriceps for tone and mass. It is lonely, being a weak and ugly man in my town.
He is the one to break the silence. He tells her about his childhood and the stories his mother used to tell him. How much he misses her now that she’s passed. How he misses his family far from home, but also feels detached. How it feels impossible for him to return.
How sometimes our bodies grow and our minds don’t follow. And what was his overwhelmed aunt to do but move in with his Pentecostal mother. What was left to be done but pray. What could he do but sleep.
You remember your parents in the driveway, the way your mother unnecessarily adjusted her skirt at the moment you had expected applause. You think it is all your parents fault, this artlessness you carry with you. You start to hate them.
At that moment, Brix felt the ship a bubble; disjointed from everything else, its float was a rebellion, an expulsion. But the world hadn’t expelled the ship like a black sheep or a bad egg, rather the ship had expelled the world, rejecting its force, pulling away, leaving it one limb the less.
The audience members exit toward the other arena. It must be getting near time to announce the grand champion, the doggiest of dogs. I’ve already experienced the epitome of dogdom, though, in my perfect Border Collie. I don’t need a panel of judges to tell me anything.
Those who run straight away for love
return home drawing circular ovals.
What a rush it was / to speak empire / at such a young age.
I think of the whispers shaped in the / curl of our bodies and I think of the pants
tonight, a girl straggles
below streetlights, the horizon
noosing her limbs taut.
Consider the way snow fell on the Western Front: feathered & /
indecisive, droplets sprung flat like parachutes & the opposite / of death.
So speak it, o dark. Give me my own name / to translate and I’ll only get so close.
O Nigeria, before closure of a prayer
on your behalf, my tongue regurgitates
the God given to you.
His teenage hormones guiding him into traffic / body laying full on blacktopped streets and sure / he was okay but named a foolish boy.
Loving me has nothing to do with a pronoun. / It has to do with seeing me vivid.
How could one not love the driver /
of a magical bus?
Your body forcing itself to the surface— / The breath of air, loving daggers in your lungs.
Death walks with you in a school lab, / takes you through a wedding, stops at / a restaurant now shut.
Agadez, edge of the Sahara, water
touching lip of modern-day Brass.
In the dizziness of time, they heard it
When I am this / I am no man / you have ever known / Lucifer’s mistress / Bitch boy / Twisted
Babe sneers & I bind my hands—
I refuse to use them for this. Babe, tear
a hole through me, pull out all my ropes of blood.
Like the ideal vacuum, you’re the only thing / in my universe. My sources say you’re looking / mighty fine
You walk with a logo that will wipe
off its rainbow the next day like a stain.
Which one of them asked? Can I touch
your pecs? Was it night curiosity
pumping him full of bravery?
to pass on for another to foster as their own
when you are the body it calls home.
Silence is the result of two feelings:
I couldn’t go back,
no matter how easily I could drown.
the first time you punched me
in the face, I couldn’t fold your towel / fast enough. deliberate stupidity,
you called it.
ladies in the church used to shout, “praise! praise your holy name God! i don’t need no rocks crying out for me!”
Scar is my favorite Disney villain:
a matriarch in his step,
moths netted in his voice box.
I’ll look as good
as the personality
I’m known for,
all wrath and no god. The kind of look that has no heroes,
only martyrs and the things they die for. This is the moment,
library of everything you did not escape and one girl ready to destroy it, I’ve wanted this
Bill moves out a few months later—moves someplace closer to her work. The night before, we drive down to the beach to wander on the bike path. Watch moths dance in orange lamps then disappear from view. I watch her hair catch the light, hold it close, let the beams fall in the sand.
He seemed to reach the moon with his laugh. / My abuelo was the true poet: the way / He smoked his cigarette on the porch like a train
a couple keeps kissing / stopped by the old wall / too many palm fronds / and slicked back movie hair / and they don’t know
tell me about your day / mariana / about the song you shazamed / on the grocery store radio / the spilled bottle / that soaked the concrete floor / in a color / you called cerulean
You play the dressing game with your mother like this: every item of clothing in your closet and dresser drawers ends up on your bedroom floor. You mix and match, mix and match, mix and match until both of you stare each other down; parallel stances, hands on hips, and eyebrows knitted in defiance. She tells you that she doesn’t know where you come from sometimes, such a small body for so much attitude. Such a tiny girl for so much chutzpah.
I can hear him through my shut eyelids. Bent over in a fit, I wheeze against the radiator, indifferent to its warmth. Somewhere in the kitchen Jorge opens and closes drawers, each emitting a different hollow note. He intends to bury the ashtray—probably among dirty porcelain, empty take-out boxes, and more mugs. I recover, only to knead dust on my fingertips. The apartment is filthy, that much I can tell. His mother, Angela, may she rest in peace, would not approve.
He knew the facts: The tomatoes were not ripening, though day after day he offered his eyes and pruned them and watered them and watched the sun. It was too hot. In these extreme temperatures, the tomatoes wouldn’t begin the process of senescence and therefore wouldn’t ripen. Senescence was, essentially, the process of getting old. The natural process of aging in plants includes the ripening of fruits, which is often induced by ethylene.
Yes, Audrey is wearing a graphic T-shirt with a depiction of Lake Arrowhead. After killing her, someone stuffed the earmuffs in her mouth and wrote #BroosterBabe in black sharpie on her right arm. Perhaps it has a meaning, perhaps not. Most things do not. Do not get lost in the details.
The apology was platinum. The publicist hit all the right notes: the contrite acceptance of responsibility, the head-hanging, the hand-wringing, the self-flagellation, the commitment to listening and learning and striving to change. The reminder of daughter, the apology to wife, the reassurance of positive work for womankind in other areas.
My dream is to be the funniest person someone has ever met. Maybe I am that something to someone. I talk to my therapist about my competing thoughts and resolute feelings. The friction gives me migraines. Can I be both rock and hard place? What is that phrase even trying to mean? I only want to see all angles of everything is that so much to ask for, so much to try for.
Before Cameron returned home to Texas, we’d exchanged our mailing address. A year after he returned to Texas, I served a mission in Taiwan from 1994 to 1995. He wrote to me weekly, telling me about his transition back to the student life, about his breakup with different girlfriends, and about the feelings he had kept secret during his service as a missionary. “I fell in love with a girl . . . it’s you.”
I’m trained on all the birth control methods. I memorize the effectiveness percentages, the most common side effects. I learn to take vitals and discover which exam rooms have the digital blood pressure monitors, and which ones will require me to use a stethoscope, the ear pieces so hard they hurt as I listen for the muffled beat.