The Tourist


He spent his time with me like a tourist,

holding an itinerary I had no language for,

my heart a country over mined,

but on it he would search for a casino, 

some lights.

Not finding what he expected, 

he traded in fun for feeling,

though he’d lost that ability

long ago.


But I didn’t know, 

because he pretended

he needed something real,

but it was real like the sudden drop

of an amusement park ride,

the way your heart suddenly falls 

to your feet.

And the thrill for him would be the fear, 

lasting only for a moment,

and then he could leave,


drop his ticket stub on the ground,

his pattern of life the same,

nothing changed.


But I can’t leave the pain 

from the land of my life,

I am a citizen.

I can’t flee from my feelings

on a train.

I wasn’t raised to think

the world was made 

for me.


And I will never understand 

the way

he dropped coins 

so casually

in a cup,

when I sang 

my most difficult 


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She says,

”Don’t move your arm.

It’s a woman’s nature to want

to help. But I’ll adjust it.”


I say,

”Sorry, I’m sorry.”


The huge plastic frame clamps down

on my right breast

as I realize

I tried to help

and I apologized

two of the “feminine”

stereotyped behaviors

both celebrated

and criticized,

loved and hated.


My breasts are big and soft.

They have never

nursed a child.


Yet still,

I blame them.

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Whenever he makes you feel like you’re not enough,
step back for a while and take a real look.
Not at yourself, you’ve looked at you long enough,
but at him,
and all his unearned entitlement,
his beer soaked breath,
his frayed T-shirts,
his text speak spelling,
his emotional ADD,
and all the ads he has been sold,
and all the photoshop he believes,
the online porn he’s addicted to,
filled with silicone people,
choreographing emotionless orgasms,
it’s like fast food, McDonald’s, but for his dick.
And then, think of the women putting fingers in their mouths,
in bathrooms,
throwing up everything they ate before to feel full,
to fit into underwear that makes them uncomfortable,
that goes up their asses and gives them a rash,
that comes undone in the dryer,
in hopes that they will feel wanted, maybe,
at least, for a second,
and then he probably won’t even eat them out,
and they’re not even eating,
so then, who wins?
Not you, not her, not any woman, not me,
because what sexiness feels like is being free,
not hating yourself for one goddamn day,
not caring how you look when you cum,
making him make you cum.
But how can you?
Because he doesn’t even see you,
because he doesn’t even know
how to see.

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They first called me The Cat,
with my leather and whip, men couldn’t resist
the click of my black heels against the concrete.                                                                               

Tell me where the jewels are, I’d hiss in their ears,                                                                     those men with their women who wait for diamonds half their lives.                                           I just take mine.

Catwoman, masked woman, thief woman, whip woman,                                                               slick woman, poor woman, trouble woman,
all me, not me,
I slide against the brick like a furry feline yet I shine
like newly pressed vinyl.
How could the man of the bats, of the night,
in his cold sterile cave
not look up
and notice me?

Who was I before?

They thought I was a flight attendant in a short skirt passing out coffee,
The exits are there, there, and there.

One day I was hit on the head 
and I changed…became something else,
                                 reverted to the quick mercurial beauty of the feline.
Or maybe I was a battered wife, 
an age old story of pain,
played out too many times each day
 again and again until people look away,
                         and ignore the bruises that shine so clearly in front of them
in the supermarket.

But before I break completely I break
into my then husband’s safe and it feels so good,
so free, so right,
that I want to break into all the safes,
into all the husbands,
until I have all the jewels,
until all the bruises fade
to smooth and clear.

Or maybe I dominate for money. Businessmen come to me,
there’s a girl who looks up to me,
we pretend we are not selling ourselves,
and yet we are.

Or maybe I was an orphan,
and I catch the owner of the orphanage embezzling funds,
I am young and small, and they throw me in a sack, like a wayward stray cat,
and yet I live and come back,
forever scratched,
forever skittish,
forever changed,
yet always landing,

on my feet.


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Food Stamp Zen

Clean the dust out of the corners of your room,
then look at the balance again.
Do the math inside your head,
then go out and get what you can.
Think about what could be worse.

Grab oranges as if they were the last
gifts on earth.
Think about how warm soup can calm you,
coat your insides                                                                                                                                     like love never seemed to.

Think about how here it feels
like feeling at ease is only for people
who have never counted the quarters in their pockets
to see what they could equal.

Think about how cool a coin feels against your fingertips
and how pleasure can often be felt more acutely
when pain bleeds around it.

Think about joy and how you must
concentrate on finding it.
Carry your bags inside and think about
how you will survive.

Get under the blanket your mother sent you
and listen to the rain hit the trash cans outside.
Think about fear as if it were just garbage
you could throw away                                                                                                                             like dust cleared out of the corners
of your brain.

Think about balance and if you’ll ever
find it again.


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I swam to the bottom of a shallow end
and hit my head.

When I bleed you can see it
rise up red in the water.
Like a shark, you’ll swim toward the loss.

Who is stronger,
the predator or the prey?

You may feed on me but know
that after it is done,
you will still be

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“This snow is all going to turn to mud,” she says.

We’re walking in it and I keep wishing for spring.

She’s reminding me of the part in between,

how things must melt and flood before

anything will grow.

Lately, I’ve felt the flood in me,

flashed feelings

drowning out the circuit breakers

of my brain.

My heart muddied,

I am stuck in place.

The ground sinks and each movement

becomes treacherous.

Lately, I’d rather hide under ice than

find what’s underneath.

I am afraid of the rush of what I can’t control.

I am afraid of the rotting at the roots of things

before they even begin.

“Aren’t you looking forward to spring?” I ask her, walking faster, against the cold wind.

“Yes, but it will get cold again first, she says, “Why rush what will come anyway?”

And I think it’s her youth

that makes her think the sun

is an inevitable thing,

that warmth always returns.

I am older and I don’t rely on much

coming back anymore.

But I know I can no longer fear

the in-between.

The changing of things.

The uncertainty.


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