jrrm

Clumsy

I cut my lip on a soda can. I thought
of you. I burned my tongue on my coffee
this morning. I thought of you. I banged
into the corner of my desk. I thought
of you. I tripped on the stairs, thunked
my knee. I thought of you.

You are fortunate I am having this
bout of clumsy. It means I think about you
a lot. The way you bite and bruise,
even when not direct or intentional. The way
you have scarred me even though
you haven’t. The way

you are with me even when
you’re not.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Full Disclosure

When I fall for you, the passion
we hold between us will be
the devouring kind. A tormenting
tempest tethering souls together
with a force fit to warp steel. Creation
implicit between the lashes of a wink
or stare like eyelids cover tiny infinities.

Our love will smell like skinned knees
and grass stains and the bindings
of old books. I will keep your heart
thick in my throat, every whisper
a sunset that echoes the longing
the surf feels for the shore.

When I fall for you, my
submission to you will be
the playful kind. A teasing
triumph taken in time, a two-step
too close to tripping to be grace-
ful. Admiration of bruises that break
like constellations against a night
made flesh.

Our fever will taste like playgrounds
and Thursdays and double-dog
dares. I will keep your tongue
tucked behind my ear, every syllable
shivering down and down my spine
to vibrate secrets into sonnets.

When I fall for you, our life will be
the adventuring kind. A treasure trove
of temptations bled through salty
whimpers. Such exquisite torture,
the static of daydreams. Delicacies
to break and mend, break and mend,
break and mend.

Our living will feel like thunderstorms
and comets and godliness, when I fall
for you. If I fall for you ever,
or at all.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Heirloom Recipe

Here’s how it works: write
a poem. Pull a lover out, hiding
between the lines, or in the spaces
between letters, or in the spaces
within letters. Remember that lovers
hide well. When you’ve gathered
your lover at last, provide generous
food and water. Nourish your lover’s soul
with words and whimpers. Allow
your lover space––not too much space––
to breathe. Wear your lover on your skin;
feel your lover’s radiance pulsing
through your veins. It all starts
with a word. Not just
any word; any language.
Become fluent in words best suited
for letters wrapped in ribbon; hydrangea
blossoms pressed crackling between pages.

Find these words. Find them
and throw them to the clouds,
to the stars, to the sun. Throw them
high and hard. Leave;
do not wait for their return. They
will find you. Look for them
between and amongst
spaces. Use all necessary precaution
as you pull your lover out. Remember
lovers can be delicate; love breaks
easily. Allow your lover to nourish
your soul. Write a poem. This
is how it works.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Bite Marks

This is not a poem about you.

If it were, it would start
with the strength in your hands,
how they feel around
my throat. There would be
a line or two about the depths
of your eyes; the quiet, probing
intensity bursting through (and
that little spark you might not even
know about––not to belabor the point).

It would go on to detail how empowered
I feel despite surrendering control,
complete and utter, to you. How you turn
my body into a work of art. How you
weave my moans and whimpers
into poetry. How tall I am
when I’m looking up at you.

But this is not a poem about you.

And because it isn’t, it won’t mention
how much it means to me
that you pay such close attention,
that you treat everything as important
if it concerns me. It won’t discuss
the value of your openness,
your encouragement, your serious
answers to my silly questions.

It also won’t describe how safe
I feel in your arms or how much
I love your small gestures of taking
charge, taking care. And it sure as hell
won’t go into how amazing are
the random things you like about me,
such as my perpetually
dirty feet.

Because this is not a poem about you.

And since it isn’t, I see no need
to talk about how I want to share every
little bit of every little bit with you, no matter
how ridiculous or mundane. Like how I find
I feel a little bit lost whenever you’re not around.

No, this is not a poem about you. If it were,
it would be longer and lovelier than this.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Of Mine

I said be gentle, for my bones
grew thick with weight of words
unsaid. Volumes we wrote,
dust on shelves. Voluminous
and needful. Every page a day;
every day a reckoning. Dancing, then
no dancing. We could not dance
when we could not stand; could not stand
when we could not bend.

I said be gentle, because pushpins
in maps. Where we’ve been, where we want
to go. How far we’ve come. How much
like soundtracks we are, crafting mood
to cover silence. Paper tears
and fabric frays, and we. We wait
for something good and new and better
to move us along.

I said be gentle, not knowing how
many pages were left. Not wanting
the story to end. Those volumes
I stuffed with bookmarks to measure
our losses. This I’ll keep, and this
I’ll keep, and this, and this,
and this. Images of impossible
times. Us heart-led, headlong and
lusty through thickets.

I said be gentle, as I struggled
with the weight of empty swelling
through my veins. Chapters
I didn’t want to write, scenes of
reluctance. Remorse. A seeming lack
of choice. An unwillingness to
react. A desire to hold onto the future
that existed only in my mind,
flawed and idealistic as all
promises are.

I said be gentle, understanding
the tendency to break clean and hard,
leaving no dangling threads. You didn’t.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Pale Knuckles

Late night, your voice goes soft and
you send me pretty things that make me
smile. Late night, we whisper sweet,
share dreams that make the hour
less heavy. It is late. Night,
as the world slumbers on, 
we persist.

Knowing tomorrow there will be
momentary regret for bedtimes debunked,
alarms overslept. Coffee in our nostrils, we will
reconvene and regret nothing. I wish for you
to be my heart, throbbing and full. You can never
be more than that, I said, and yet
we exist.

You smiled and took my hand.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Penetration

Please know that I am trying. I am trying
to write a poem, I am trying to think of tomorrow,
I am trying to work, I am trying to clean, I am
trying to focus, I am trying to relax.

I am failing.

I am failing to not think of your hands
on me, of bruises fading when the hold you have
on me is not the fading kind. Reminders.
We are moon-full lust and you are reaching
the depths of my dry-docked soul. Dusty
and aching, I cannot hope
for more than machinations, yet I am
undone again and again.

I crave you

and I beg you, drain me. For now,
I will be yours. Take care
to be not careful, for you are me
uncorked. Together we are ancient
and open, we are
worlds untethered and I am
anxious above all
for your kiss. (Seal me.)

I am needful.

I am needful of your hands
on me, of bruising bindings when the hold
you have on me is tight enough for me
to finally breathe. Reminders.
We are reaching and I
have not yet bottomed out.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

But You Are Different

Distance. A word best for cartographers,
runners, swimmers. Though between us
there be oceans, you are but a breath
away. Your name passes
through my lips and I am tongue-tied;
luscious for you. But this is not a love poem,
not anymore than this day is June.

How you feed my courage. With one word
I am brave enough to storm castles,
fight dragons. You do that for me, and yet––
this is not a love poem, not anymore
than the sun is violet. I’ve admired
the patience in your passion,
the eloquence of your thoughts,
the warmth in your amusement, but still––

this is not a love poem, not anymore
than a pigeon is pink. There
is something gentle to your firmness,
a genuine affection that bathes my spirit
in comfort, warmth. Your face, the perfect place
to share a smile. I can scarcely imagine
all the delicate and delicious ways

I could be undone by you. But this
is not a love poem.

I’m not in love with you.
Yet.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Stars Fell

Alabama, I forgot so much
about you. I forgot:
how your shoulders are littered with cotton
how you curve into and away from yourself
how your roads wind over you like ribbons
how you stripped me bare and had your way.

Alabama, I forgot the beauty
in your decadent decay. Your run-down
roadside museums. Your hoarder
trailers, signs advertising “Thrift.”
Your detritus of war. Your monuments
to shame. Your red clay
and your sand. Alabama, I have you
under my nails again. The thickness
of your air and the stickiness
of my thighs when you’re inside me.

Alabama, dancing in fields
with mosquitos. Learning to drive stick
barefoot in a pick-up truck older’n me.
Hard drugs and harder sex. Oh, Alabama––
all the broken chairs
and whiskey and rumors. Alabama,
not everything is love. You; my historical
marker. My tornado.

Alabama, I have your pre-cum in my hair––
too bad I’m just passing through. Seventeen
years: too long. Not long enough
for your scent to leave my veins.

Some nights I feel small; your hands
haunt my throat. I still
carry battle scars, Alabama. I forgot
how your sky is so big;
how the stars seem braver here.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Persistence

Back there, a yesterday
in which we felt no need
for symmetry––things could be
just so and just so was so
enough. But then,

Right here, a today
for which we seethe desire
drip-drip-dripping wanton
ephemeral and never
enough. And so,

Up there, a tomorrow
to which we stumble blind
down unlit, bramble-bit trails
until we arrive once again
and find ourselves, just so.

To be happy and un-alone:
enough.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Undertow

Afternoon simmer sun, I should
be working but you have infected me
with the poetry. This virus
courses veins; bleeds pores. Fevers,
chills. I fell in love with you
midnight Tuesday––wind
whispering storms to the sky
but the air was warm, and you.

The tenderness of your violence,
painted flesh. Tortured promises
extorted through wounded giggles
at silly jokes I can no longer
remember. You were there
when no one else could be. You.
Tickling as a warm-up
for a thousand little deaths.

You understand how to love me:
Tumescence. Succulence. Remembrance
etched, bare upon bare. Breath.
Breast. Silence.

Become cartographer of my skin;
landmarks erected in moans and sighs,
my heart tucked into your pocket.
Safekeeping. Every poem
is for you, even when it isn’t. Litter
my legs with lilacs and suffering. Scrape off
my barnacles, lead me shining
smooth to your brutal salvation.

Why you are something
special. Lift me up; teach me
how to fly. I will learn
more delicate ways to break
open for you. Water, tend, watch me
bloom. Beneath your fusillade
I am resplendent.

Music we make;
something worth hearing.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Sweet Home

Two hundred miles through thunder
the highway hums burdens into tendons
and tendrils of desire beckon––come. Come
contusion bloom among gardens
made flesh; speak of truths tangled
amongst cotton, satin, and
a thousand hallelujahs. Come and be-

come grace. Dance between timbers
painted, gap-toothed smiling. Spring here
smells like cedar and honeysuckle
after a citrus shower, but spring is still
not here. Instead, drive round
and round daring dinner to find
us. After setting we still seek

the sun. I drove two hundred miles
home but compasses can be unreliable. Compasses,
or descriptors. Home is the vertiginous windfall
of your love, lightning heaving constellations
across skies where stars fell. Where we are,
together, resplendent in shadows
of shelter and time.

On the shoulders of four-part harmony and Delta
blues I sang my way away. Two hundred miles:
both the closest and the farthest
I’ve ever been to the truth, depending
on what’s in your rear view.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Safe Harbor

Our conversations are poetry; each
evening I pluck out the choicest words
and phrases, smile, and rearrange them.

A dedicated archivist, I slip on white
cotton gloves before cracking open
the delicate cover of us. We are important
to preserve. These carefully curated
moments forever exist, pressed into verse
as surely as you’ve pressed my face
into this or that pillow.

These words, our history, conserved
and protected for whatever posterity comes
seeking some semblance of love. My fingers
fling violently, flailing at vacancies. Much
is the number of my desire, and many
is my heart for you. Unbound but ever-
tethered to the abundance of you.

One day or the next you shatter me;
next day or the one you pluck out my choicest
pieces, smile, and rearrange them.

My skin misses you.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

I Wrote You a Kiss

My heart craves late night
connections during reaches to transcendence
moon phasing only as witness
tendrils breaking by breath or breach
of protocol. Arms outstretched to touch
the dawn. Where is my heart when
the sky swells radiant? We cannot taste
truth with our mouths set like this.

My heart wants to hold you
behind clinched teeth; wants to see you
go up in flames.
Wonder how much you must burn.
Just a little shaking
and then quiet. Where is my heart
when you are no more? We cannot experience
truth with our souls separate like this.

My heart aches to feel you
pressed close enough to labor beating
breathing still. Shallow pulses betray
impulse to live. We breathe
as one. We cannot exist as anything
less than this.

My heart means this
when my lips say “I love you.”

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

12:29 a.m.

and i am hungry for your
face. i am greedy, open for line-crossings
and naked is not stripped 
enough. bare me. i dare (not dare) to
look into your eyes
again. i love the way you call
to me; you beckon break
with bruising grip and i am bow-
bent beneath your heart, equal
parts brutal and gentle, carrying
me home.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Mes Pieds Sales

Here’s how it happened: I wrote
a poem and pulled a lover out. He was hiding
between lines, or in spaces between
letters, or in spaces within letters. I can’t
remember. Lovers hide well.

I do my best to distract him from anything
(other than me) worth doing. I feed him
smiles. I feed him daydreams. I feed him
lust. From rise to set (and then some) he anchors
me. I have forgotten all time
when he didn’t.

He cares for me as he cares
for his poems, soft babies. Observation,
attention: every word matters. He knows
what I need, sometimes even before
I do. He provides without prompting:
pleasures without pressure.

Here’s how I know: I came
to him with dirty feet and he loved them. People
say “find a lover who loves you whole,” and people,
he does. Plenty of cracks in this pavement
and there ain’t a one he doesn’t thrill
to discover. I find him with me
at least a forever. A long one.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

Back Roads

They always took the back way home––the serpentine two-lane highway that wound its way in hairpins through breathless mountain towns. Home. She still called it that, despite not having lived there for seven years. Despite having settled in flatter land hours west of the mountains she now crossed. She always drove, and she always took the back way. The interstate was broad and easy, a brutal straightness. The interstate didn’t go around these ancient mountains, no––the interstate had no respect for history, nor for the sacred integrity of natural existence. The interstate’s instinct was to be as straight as possible. If there was a mountain in its way, the interstate blasted through. Rockslides were common. For the seven years they’d lived west, she’d taken the more humble, more respectful back roads.

Seven years. A period of time more commonly associated with an itch, but his hand rested over hers as she palmed the gear shift, gently guiding the car through the caressing curves of the mountain passes, and it was comfortable. Secure. Despite the dregs and drama the years had ridden, there was no itching involved. Neither of them could imagine being with anyone else, or not being with each other, and both of them knew that. Over the course of that seven years, they’d created their own little world within rented walls, a world that had become increasingly familiar. But seven years stood short against the two decades she’d spent in the odd-shaped room at the back of her parents’ house––walls that had been pink, then lavender, then blue; sheets of a much lower thread count than those that dressed the bed they now shared, but were somehow softer; the creaky window she’d snuck through more than once for late-night rambles with the boy next door.

She called it going home, but she’d heard “home is where the heart is.” That didn’t seem quite right. Her heart was here, with him. Her heart was there, in the apartment where they slept. Sleep. That reminded her.

“I think I broke my nose,” she said, fussing with the facial appendage as she spoke, her voice turning colors.

“No you don’t,” he said to the passenger window. “No one ‘thinks’ they broke their nose. If you’d broken your nose, you’d know it.”

She sighed. “But it makes this cracking sound when I bend it this way,” she persisted.

He laughed. “Then don’t bend it that way.”

And then she laughed as well, recalling the source of what had become an inside joke between them––a terrible joke her father had first told ages ago; a joke he seems to find a reason to repeat regardless of the occasion. Of course they were expected to laugh as though they’d never heard the joke before, and as though they found it humorous. Neither was true.

“I’m serious, okay? Maybe I didn’t break it but it’s … dislocated or … I don’t know. It hurts. Can you dislocate a nose?”

“You can’t dislocate a nose, there’s no joint to dislocate. You bruised it somehow. Your sleep is violent. I’m not surprised,” he said.

She lapsed into a huffy silence. There was no point expecting sympathy from him over something like this. She often wondered what it would be like to be with someone who was more openly concerned about her well-being, someone who doted and fawned upon her every complaint. One who babied her, whose touch was gentle and frequent. She’d met a couple like that once, one night at a party. That night she’d lain awake thinking the same thoughts she thought right now––a beautiful dynamic in a story or a film, well enough to daydream about, but in practice maybe suffocating. It had a false note. His care for her every concern seemed intended to distract from some other defect, to enable his imperfection to escape her notice lest she realize she wasn’t actually in love with this horribly flawed human being.

We are all flawed, she realized. We expend so much energy trying to hide our flaws from others, to protect them from criticism, to protect ourselves. But if our love and connection and commitment to someone is true, wouldn’t such walls fade away? How many years must someone be a part of every pieces of your life, seeing you at your ugliest and weakest and lowest, before you finally recognize that there’s no use maintaining resistance? This is what love is. She smiled as she jerked the car into a gas station just before they passed it, spinning around in the parking lot and flipping on the turn signal.

“What are you doing?”

She reached over and squeezed his thigh. “Going home.”

He brought down his hand, fingers curling twice around hers. She smiled and pulled out of the gas station, this time heading west. They always took the back way home.

© 2012 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller; revised 2017

Listen

Stars Fell*

Alabama, I forgot so much
about you. I forgot:
how your shoulders are littered with cotton
how you curve into and away from yourself
how your roads wind over you like ribbons
how you stripped me bare and had your way.

Alabama, I forgot the beauty
in your decadent decay. Your run-down
roadside museums. Your hoarder
trailers, signs advertising “Thrift.”
Your detritus of war. Your monuments
to shame. Your red clay
and your sand. Alabama, I have you
under my nails again. The thickness
of your air and the stickiness
of my thighs when you’re inside me.

Alabama, dancing in fields
with mosquitos. Learning to drive stick
barefoot in a pick-up truck older’n me.
Hard drugs and harder sex. Oh, Alabama––
all the broken chairs
and whiskey and rumors. Alabama,
not everything is love. You; my historical
marker. My tornado.

Alabama, I have your pre-cum in my hair––
too bad I’m just passing through. Seventeen
years: too long. Not long enough
for your scent to leave my veins.

Some nights I feel small; your hands
haunt my throat. I still
carry battle scars, Alabama. I forgot
how your sky is so big;
how the stars seem braver here.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

*Read in the style of a half-asleep, two a.m. phone call to an ex-lover.

Anticipation

My shirt still smells like you; I don’t
want to take it off. I don’t want to take
you off––
don’t want to remove
the feel of you from my skin,
the sight of you from my eyes,
the taste of you from my mouth.

This is not possible. I’ve showered,
brushed my teeth a week of times since
last I saw you, and yet you occupy
space sufficient to break me.

I like the way you linger. Days later,
long after I’ve lost the trail
of scent, of taste, your voice echoes
through text. I am encumbered
by desire. I am curious to feel pulse,
vein, marrow, pressure, come.

Come release and let me understand
what last week should have felt like.

But most of all linger like single-
barrel bourbon and fine
cigars. Let us realize a thousand little deaths;
let us resonate. Let us recognize
what it is to be reborn. Souls breaking
apart; refastening together.

Or less.

No pressure. I’m just making room.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

A Little Salt

If once, the earth did tilt us
standing face/face and side/side,
would we say then what we’ve said?

An open question.

Would that we would keep
the front door open. Revealing space
we find we do not need.
Otherwise there is a spark that fails
in vacuum to ignite. A dream,
once tarnished, found sitting and shined.

I think, perhaps, you are
perhaps. You are my heart, perhaps,
you are.

© 2017 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller