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Two Poems
Second Thoughts

There is always construction, but no evidence of change outside.
How long did I pray for a silent house
                                                             but instead received no language?

That’s not what I meant. I meant no meaning. But there are great
of meaning in our cries

and I don’t want the expert, or his sack of explanations.
Where is my velvet hood? Where is the storm king pressing it to my eyes
then slackening it back to the ground?

                                                               He starves for me even as I fight him.

This is what happens
when you tell yourself you don’t believe and pray anyway.

I was indoctrinated early in the limits of good intentions.
How could I love and still have done the cruelest thing I said I didn’t?
Now I wait for my brother to call, though he hasn’t for years,

that is how I’ll know that what I feared since childhood
is real.
             My mother is dead

and right now it seems better for things to become real than be
                         My child’s speech which stopped.
                         My baby’s speech which never started.

Men scared me but I needed one to be a mother. Is that what I thought?
Or did I blame my mother for no father
                                                               and try to show her how
easy it was to make one.

My son thinks broken into means broken.
                                                                   His police come to fix the house.

The mailman delivers no envelopes. My son wants to know
if he misses us. He does not understand that the triangles seal other people’s

                          Second thoughts roll through my legs
                                                                                        through long grass.

What would you think if I picked one up right now? No pocket
fits which somehow comforts me.
                                                            To think it’s fertilized
with the dirt of attractive bodies no one expects me to hide.

As mother,
                  my trinkets taken, even the noxious ones that tell me to be glad
for any zone that’s mine,
                                        I fill a drawer with time
I apparently had.

My hand has room to roam and pick which weak minute
to be reconfigured by,              and what’s that sudden weight
of light if not proof of life-
long embarrassment?    

                                                 Hard to believe
                                                                          it shines through the tree and is not the tree.

Hard to believe the tree clings closer to the dark core than I can be alive.
                                                                                                                       And birds
forget them,       their sounds drool from each other’s mouths
before they even think to sing themselves.          Who wouldn’t be embarrassed
                                                                                                                               to love nothing
and be aroused by everything.


Again, Again

There are two walls in my memory.

The one my brother pins my mother up against.
I can see her die each time.

And the wall I lean back on
where seven years

before I marry you
we try to break up. I have only

known you for a month
and make you swear

before I ever see your penis
that you want me in my natural state.

We don’t know what I mean
but finally you repeat

after me. Both walls
are next to doors anyone

could reach out and open
but won’t. Stay.

Say his name
if you want to. It is my brother’s.
It is my father’s.



It is in the devil’s name.

I would eat the phone when he was on it.

Gobble and gag.

You really are too hungry he’d say.

What else would I eat that’s not food?

What else of his,
what else of whose?

I could hang up then. See,
he’d let me go.


The apartment smells different when he comes.

I cancel my plans.

Our mother lays out gooseberries
and cocktail onions

miniature testicles for me to watch
him devour

after midnight. I can’t look

at his mouth. He can’t bear
my eyes, the way they

come for him outside my face.

When he leaves I tell my friends
he’s still there.

I stay home.


Do I smell, I ask you after hours in bed
on our phones and you sniff, I like it.

Do you want me I say and you say
what do you mean?


Again, again I ask him for his cheek
in a voice

I keep for him. He lets me kiss it.
At the end of the game

he bangs his face into my face.
I asked for it, I ask for ice.

For the length of the hall
from my room to the kitchen

I put away the voice.
I want to hear it, you say when I tell you

but I cannot remember how it sounds
when I am with you.

A good sign?

But then I cannot kiss you either.


He visits me once on bed rest,
get up this minute.

Or else? You’re going to kill her.

I thought he would kill me.

I don’t tell you this
because you would tell me

to forget him which would mean
forgetting I loved any man
or child

before you. Celibate
I cannot sleep again

without a sex dream
and when I dream of sex

I bleed. Mommy
I vomit from my sleep.

I text him of my own volition
often very tired.

Play means
to move quickly—

I can no longer.
Can no longer speaking

please be


As soon as I have the baby I am insatiable.
I have another


You talk less each morning.

Then in my triple emptiness
anything you say
or touch blows me up.

You sigh and sleep
while I float above


missing you both regardless,
balloon of appetite.

Elizabeth Metzger is the author of the chapbook Bed (Tupelo Press, 2021), winner of the Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize, and The Spirit Papers (University of Massachusetts Press, 2017), winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry. Her second full-length collection, Lying In, is due out in 2023 from Milkweed Editions. She is a poetry editor at The Los Angeles Review of Books. You can find more of her work at