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September 28, 2022
When you were the size of a fist, a coyote dragged a three-year-old Angeleno out of the living room by the Peter Pan collar of her pale yellow shirt. She survived but was left with a sizable scar on her cheek. The scar resembled an American flag, pocks for stars and gouges for stripes. Her mother was on the news all the time, which led to the child signing a deal with an agency, and quite soon after that, the child and her scar started appearing on billboards as the new face of a California restaurant chain that sold bratwursts. Last month, for reasons unrelated, the little girl passed away. 
     The querent used to say we come back as either human or animal, that in the spirit world, there is no delineation.
     It’s nice to think the end isn’t the end. 
     Though I wouldn’t dare say that to the dead girl’s mother.
September 21, 2022
What we had done was trample on Johnson’s city, four sheets of paper, loosely placed side by side, with buildings growing in no particular visual perspective, some upwards, some in profile, some in three dimensions but others in blueprint, and this, we felt intuitively, was a triumph of Johnson’s city, or would-be city, it’s resistance to confinement, its ability to transcend.

And we sat with Johnson. We consoled. We patted Johnson on the back and said that we might rebuild it, that it could be rebuilt. That it could be better and that we could help.

We collected the roll of white butcher paper from its mount and unfurled it across the linoleum, gathered the colored pencils, the crayons and scented markers and watercolors and even the Sharpies we’d hidden in our cubbies. We collected scissors and Scotch tape, and began to connect the sheets of paper, for there would be no limit to what we could design.
September 14, 2022
Nocturne

Midnight at the pit of my irrelevance:
     a hair’s breadth away, I step closer to the mouth of it, no more afraid to
shake hands with my lacuna than a bird is of the air
     whistling in its bones. To stay possible as long as possible

had felt like enough now—a persistence of streaks
     in soft butter yellow shed from the clock tower onto the indigo-
freaked slate-to-black vagueness
     that indicates the river. The light lives
 
July 27, 2022
from between the lines of Another Love Discourse
Silence

I thought I was good because I had borne the brunt of society’s manhandling, because through halls
of terror I fled and gangs of girls followed me, seeking to press thumbs deep into
my arms, cheeks, back of my neck, thighs, because goodness lay heavy in the air around me, because
most around me were powerful underprivileged role models, I thought it good enough
to know and read vexatious histories and in my own private sanctum feel the pain, to dwell
in sorrow through theater and dance, that just by being around, goodness could rub off on a person
July 20, 2022
The island appeared in the playa –
            a thick family of vegetation in sand
            as if risen from the undulation of blued snow over
            grasses, purple. Huddling
            through time, as bodies green and dark
            in me knew better, yet compelled me
            to run from the tall thick house
            where I lay resting
            and take refuge from the wind
            where wind blew.
 
July 13, 2022
The feet trudge the path of the eyes.

Vouch for snow-covered trails skirted by galvanic tamaracks,
the previous fall’s needles a carpet of #2 pins.

Vouch for garrulous waxwings captivating powerlines,
mesmerizing middle C and rising,
coloratura clouds.

Vouch for the rich acoustic world of moths
fallen silent, streets of pupal stillness,
bodies suspended in glycerol sleep.
July 6, 2022
I. THE SYMMETRY

In the beginning, they told us that only babies born with a herringbone of downy fuzz running the full length of their spines carried the gene. Then it was the nostrils: if one was larger than the other. From there, it grew into a hysteria of symmetry. If one eye was squintier the baby was a carrier. One ear higher. One testicle smaller. Left side of the labia fatter. Oh, how Richard squirmed at this. To think of his daughter having labia; such a prickly word for his pure baby girl whom we’d designed one night on a whiz of bubbly wine and goat cheese, right down to her delicate parts. That area I engineered, being the woman and inherently more attuned to shades of pink, shapes of flower petals, and all. But, still, nothing was guaranteed.
June 29, 2022
—Translated from Polish by Katarzyna Szuster-Tardi
Here, they combine the knowledge of choosing words with the art of touch. Before somebody utters soft fur, they keep their hands on a dog’s head for years.

From granaries, they dispense hunger, a spice that stimulates the sense of lack. The king trusts that absence is the saltpeter of things susceptible to nonexistence: what doesn’t keep in salt will be preserved in hunger. No myth can be cut like the fabric for a coat, the halves of which will be dragged through life. Thanks to the spice, the subjects of the kingdom don’t know stale love, only unfulfilled. The professed religion is apnea. All maturing is mutiny. Red fruit get a visit from hangmen.
June 22, 2022
No, that’s not it, that’s not how it happens, it’s—

—because I’m here, have been for years and years, in the backseat of the Oldsmobile 88, top down, wind enraged, tearing along some country road at night, Jackson drunk at the wheel, Ruthie by his—

—the world all quick nervous giggles and skinfizz, the whirled world, the world like leaves spinning in a crazy autumn gust, only it’s not autumn, no, that’s, it’s what, it’s—
June 15, 2022
THE SPEECH OF THE THIN KING’S MINDER

The thin king bound in the fiery hollow shook
The chain by which his left arm was suspended
And from a hatch that rattled open just

Above his right eye dropped a demon like
A glass-winged gerbil, who immediately
Began to stab the thin king’s pupil with

A dripping claw, and said, Forgive me, king,
For my unwilling violence. I bite
My paws off, but they grow back while I chew


So that I wonder while I’m chewing, Is
This still my paw I’m chewing, and, forgive
Me, king, but that thought helps me swallow.
June 8, 2022
He decided he would die and then
drove through mortality,

a motorcyclist in heavy traffic. He
was afraid for his dog, which he had

loved and abused. The neighbor said no
to taking it, but he died anyway and

the dog—no one knows. Cigarette butts
and dogshit left in the litter of his lawn.
June 1, 2022
Tina has been watching the place between the wall and her couch for either three minutes now, or for her whole entire life. It’s two thirty in the morning—2:34, actually, which feels like fate, like either a really lucky or a really terrible number—and she’s on her way back from checking the sliding glass door, because she couldn’t remember if she’d locked it or not, and who could sleep like that? But what she can’t remember now is if there’s a tall, broad-leafed rubber plant on the far side of the couch or not, making that for-sure-there shadow fall against the pale wall in that . . .
May 25, 2022
Your sister is losing her voice. It feels like it happened overnight, her lips turning into rubber, but it’s been almost four months, and your sister, who would have suffocated you for calling her doll-like, spends her days sitting by the window, looking at everything and nothing, all at once. For what it’s worth, you try to remind her of her human self. You clamp down on the flap of fat on her arms but not a pipe. A deep paper cut exacts only a hiss of air. She has long, dark Rapunzel hair that thins into her calves, and with a pair of garden scissors, you give her the first haircut she has had in sixteen years. All her history is in her hair, and that’s the problem, you think, the weight of it.
May 18, 2022
Still Life With Flying Sombreros

Three sombreros hung on pegs in a cantina, where their owners stood at a bar, soaking in the tequila. The sombreros got to talking and soon discovered they all despised their owners. “My man,” a sombrero said, “came home drunk every night and beat his wife and children with a hard stick he kept just for that purpose.” Another sombrero confessed that his owner sat on a porch and shot cats that had strayed into his garden. He skinned the cats and displayed their pelts over the fireplace.
May 11, 2022
                                  1.

Someone nodding, and the light pressing down
as though it had weight.
And right in the middle of what I want to say
there’s a long row of chairs. There are green,
red, yellow arches that gradually contract
and close, like doors.
Like a disease whose threshold no one can cross,
she says.
May 4, 2022
Once upon a time, there was only Olga and me, as well as our old dog, Boji, in a big house we inherited from our parents, whose food we had slowly been poisoning in a span of at least a year. Our parents blamed their “chronic illness” on inclement weather, on the “heathens” who played rock music next door, sometimes on “cursed” and “possessed” appliances and furniture.
April 27, 2022
birds, vital furniture for our eyes. The floor refoliates
a dozenfold. Months
these days waltz
triple-time
within us. Echoes of fundamental shapes. Great-

grandfather, Harry Houdini’s accountant.
Isaac, our cousin the Don, muscled his way into King’s spitting distance.
All told, say
the performance outlived the performer?
O
April 20, 2022
She used the word alabaster too often. And breath, as if her body always knew what lay ahead,
the repetition of need. Even absence became a title. Even then long shadows danced in the room,
wind slithering under the door. There was a hint of that tricky left eye, still squinting, an itch to
become worse. Fire had its annual appearance, though not at first, and always confused with a
sense of death or doom. Throughout there was a certain rage, a questioning, “how can this be?”
Rage might be a response to events, or it might have always simmered, a disorder from birth.
April 13, 2022
       Holly gives Katja another look, but doesn’t say anything. They are walking beside a long snow-covered lake. High overhead, a red-tail hawk makes its frayed, lonesome kreee. At the end of the lake, they turn and tramp atop their own tracks, hurrying to make it home before the hospice aides leave. A gun shot loud enough to thump their chests sounds in the woods straight ahead. Then another. And another. The shots continue at varying intervals, growing ever louder. Eventually, Katja and Holly come to a clearing where a young man stands just behind a young woman, his arms reaching around her so that his left hand supports hers beneath the rifle stock, and his right hand envelops hers on the trigger. The man and woman are motionless. His shoulders tremble. A gunshot echoes off of hundreds of trees. A piece of paper snaps off a target pinned to a tree and flutters to the ground.
 
April 6, 2022
When you pull me from the water
Tell me I fell. Say you saw it all. How I tripped at the edge.

When you pull me from the water
Hold my face in your hands. Make my hair stand like a mountain. Turn off the bath faucet.

When you pull me from the water
Ask about my blood sugar. Worry over grapes I ate as lunch. Laugh at how I nearly slip back in.

When you pull me from the water
Wipe chiggers from my ankles. Press my skin with your x’s. Numb all the ways they bite me.
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