Mammogram

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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The Queen of Hard Lessons

The Queen of Hard Lessons
sits awake at the table,
her legs open wide,
her knife sharp and ready,
pressed against her thigh,
she’s been fucked before,
she doesn’t ask why.

Her eyes are dark circles,
heartbreak fills her frame,
She’s added the costs,
She knows what’s the same.
Her feet too callused
to be clay.

When she speaks they will laugh,
a dark wit drowns out pain,
You might call it earned wisdom,
she calls it disdain.

She surveys all the kingdoms,
but inside she dies,
The Queen of Hard Lessons
has learned not to cry.

She can put on a straight face,
when the world hits and chides,
She can choke down her memories,
Find the best way
to hide.

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A centerline

I am a precarious mammal,
Born warm and trusting,
Eyes wide, heart open
Voice responding,
Limbs reaching,
My stretched vertebrae receiving
signals from the blinking
maze of my brain.

Years, months, days, pain
can surprise can
short out so
many circuits,
can create spaces,
can make gaps between bones,
can switch the current of messages
sent through the cells,
can leave sharp flashes of
picture memories interrupted,
a viewfinder narrative that
no longer makes sense,
creates longing,
the clicking bleed of nostalgia
from a slideshow mind.

I am building a spine,
because I’ve come to know no answers,
because my voice has only questions,
so many reaching out,
the curve of a structure always threatening
to cave.

So what can I do but build?
A pathway is not enough.
A fusion of the old backbone not tough,
Only a new
shiny spine,
built of metal, built as prime,
Will keep the together together,
To spite any weather,
Something sturdy, something fine
So what can I do?
I am building a spine.

It is words, it is darkness
It is hurt, it is hardness
It is sweetness, it is rot
It is everything I’ve got,
It is mercy, it is cursing
It is clay, it is twine
It is steel, it is brine
It is worry, it is time
It is whole, it is mine.

I am a melancholy mammal,
Afraid of dying on the line,
No longer hoping for signs,
Adept at adaptation,
Regeneration redefined.

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That Girl

You said I was “that girl”
at the bar,
the one hiding inside,
on her phone,
not caring if anyone spoke to her,
all alone,
drinking and listening
to whatever came on
on the speakers above,
not looking for anyone,
no expectation
of love.

“Why would you bother going out?”
(you asked me, without really asking)
and I was annoyed that a stranger
would be so bold,
I liked being alone but surrounded,
I liked not having
to be told.

I should have known then I should’ve
shut you out,
you had no respect
for the fence I’d raised,
you’d rip holes in it roughly,
to climb through,
as soon as you could.

You’re no good, you’re no good,
this I think I
must have known,
yet I so often fall for
the shallowly brave,
and later I’d cry that I
gave and I gave and I gave and I gave,
and you’d say I was “that girl”
who could never
give enough for you to take,
who was not easy to break,
who was too solitary, too bold,
someone you’d never own,
only hold.

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Seeing

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,
everywhere,
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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Catwoman

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 sometimes 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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