over breakfast,
my father asks what you see in me.

I bite the inside of my cheek,

shove a forkful of pancakes into my mouth,
notice the salt shaker eyeing my wounds.


you launch “I love yous”
from a Brooklyn fire escape.

they travel 3,000 postcard miles
and collapse into my ear, exhausted.

I pinch their noses,
breathe new life into their lungs,
fold them into airplanes,

send them back to you
and wait.


there isn’t a building
taller than two stories
here in Orange County.
not a single fire escape.

no point in jumping.
the worst that could happen
is a broken leg or heart.

this is why the sad kids get
so goddamn creative around here.

the mayor’s son rigged his noose
to raise with the garage door
when the Mercedes came home.

a nine-year old leapt into the lion’s cage
at Prentice Park Zoo after
her dog was hit by a car.


on our wedding day,
when I tell you “I do,”

it’s because I do.

it’s because you understand
how ten-thousand dollar apologies
still keep fathers worthless,

it’s because my ribcage expands
every time I think of you,

it’s for all the things
you see in me

and pretend
not to notice.

—  "your airplanes," from Rachel McKibbens

If I tell you
‘you are a riot’

it doesn’t mean you are funny.

When your eyes slink across me,
I get that feeling in my stomach
of a man with his new love at the pier
as she sees her old lover —
they wave to each other
and in that brief instant
you know she will never stop
missing his touch.

Love is truth
and truth comes easy
like a drill bit to the larynx.

You are a riot.

—  "Trigger and Happy Belong Together," by Derrick C. Brown


lovely the little bits and pieces.
The fingernails, the teeth. Even
the bombed cathedrals
being built inside of me.

How sweet
the eye socket. The spine. The
curious, distant possibility that God
had given courage
to human beings
that we might
suffer a little longer.

—  from "Game," by Laura Kasischke


Your hands were delivered with the mail like postcards. There was nothing written on them,
but I knew they had come from somewhere far away, because all the fingernails were painted

like stamps. I looked at the backs of your hands as if they were landscapes and tried to enjoy
the sunset of your skin and riverbed veins, but could only wonder why we don’t have a word

for the backs of our hands.

—  from "Elegy in X Parts," by Matt Rasmussen

to give back to God his ticket.

I refuse to—be. In
the madhouse of the inhumans
I refuse to—live. To swim

on the current of human spines.
I don’t need holes in my ears,
no need for seeing eyes.
I refuse to swim on the current of human spines.

To your mad world—one answer: I refuse.

—  "Poems to Czechoslovakia," Marina Tsvetaeva

Without even knowing it, I have
believed in you for a long time.

When I looked at my blood under a microscope
I could see truth multiplying over and over.

—Not police sirens, nor history books, not stage-three lymphoma
persuaded me

but your honeycombs and beetles; the dry blond fascicles of grass
thrust up above the January snow.
Your postcards of Picasso and Matisse,
from the museum series on European masters.

When my friend died on the way to the hospital
it was not his death that so amazed me

but that the driver of the cab
did not insist upon the fare.

Quotation marks: what should we put inside them?

Shall I say “I” “have been hurt” “by” “you,” you neglectful monster?

I speak now because experience has shown me
that my mind will never be clear for long.

I am more thick-skinned and male, more selfish, jealous, and afraid
than ever in my life.

“For my heart is tangled in thy nets;
my soul enmeshed in cataracts of time…”

The breeze so cool today, the sky smeared with bluish grays and whites.

The parade for the slain police officer
goes past the bakery

and the smell of fresh bread
makes the mourners salivate against their will.

—  "Note to Reality," by Tony Hoagland

You counted days by their cold silences.
At night, wolves and men with bleeding hands

colonized your dreams. The last time I visited,
you said you trapped a dead woman in your room

who told you to starve yourself to make room for God,
so I let them give your body enough electricity

to calm it. Don’t be afraid. The future is not disguised
as sleep. It is a tango. It is a waterfall between

two countries, the river that tried to drown you.
It is a city where men speak a language

you can fake if you must. It’s the hands of children
thieving your empty pockets. It’s bicycles

with bells ringing through the streets at midnight.
Come up from the basement. It’s not over.

Before the sun rises, moonlight on the trees.
Before they tear the asylum down, joy.

—  "Through a Glass Darkly," by Traci Brimhall
I’m tired of the way love turns us into animals.
I’m tired of roaring. I’m tired of you tearing
my flesh with your teeth, stalking me like prey
in the shower, lunging and growling; I’m tired
of pawing, and panting, and hunting
and wagging. Of course at first it was thrilling. The we
have no words for this. The we are just
our bodies. But look at my cortex. Look
at my opposable thumbs. I want out
of this stew, I want to use tools, I want to develop
agriculture and walk upright towards you through
this field of corn that we planted, on purpose, because
we were hungry, and human, and knew
exactly what we were doing.
—  "Neolithic Revolution," by Ali Shapiro
Be my lover between two wars waged in the mirror, she said.
I don’t want to return now to the fortress of my father’s house.
Take me to your vineyard.
Let me meet your mother.
Perfume me with basil water.
Arrange me on silver dishes, comb me,
imprison me in your name,
let love kill me.
—  from ”Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems,” by Mahmoud Darwish

I am the rain

and the others all
around you, and the loneliness you love,
and the universe that loves you specifically, maybe,

and the catastrophic dawn,
the nicotine crawling on your skin—
and when you begin

to cough I won’t cover my face,
and if you vomit this time I will hold you:
everything’s going to be fine

I will whisper.
It won’t always be like this.
I am going to buy you a sandwich.

—  "To Myself," Franz Wright