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Four Poems
Empty Subject

An exhibit was all you wanted

and me to lay close
my face

like a film behind a curtain

featuring reflections
in odd moments of ice.

You are probably where I left you

inhaling a rough vapor
the real world singing

as I sit with my legs crossed

holding none of you
beginning to cough out

the existence you had contemplated

before you decided
to earth here.


Not My Child

Here where dark cherries grow up from the ground
and have not been penetrated
by time or branches

I wake on a hip that has fallen asleep,
and there you are
with a fully grown family

sledding inward
down one mud-caked hill.
Were I your child

I would be your children—
several ladders
with slightly different oil-spills

undermining my bases.
I’d be slipping and swaying
beneath your capacities

and on one too-long night
you would bleed from my holes
and be fine.

Dead so early before sunup?
you’d say, literally planting a kiss
in my absence

like a weed too petty
to get rid of. I wish
I could tell why my body appalls me

even though you have thrived,
why nobody died,
but that’s just the luck of it.


So I Finally Slept

At first I was afraid
of what felt like mutual need

but soon his initial comfort
was just like corn silk

stripped with the ear
and compelled to the beautiful

dead. He had evolved too
he said as any irregularity

in a mammal and had crafted
forever into an answer of milk

from his bodilessness
that no one would drink.

I showed him what still
swayed inside me and

how grueling it was to be
the harbor for someone else’s

thirst rather than the drink itself.
He didn’t mind that I had not

believed him. Like a sleeved arm
into an ocean suddenly full

of another power of movement
and also with all suddenness

taken away he put me to sleep
by a simple asymmetrical gesture

no patting or sweet departures
just the exponential side

of his face on my face and he
never came back for me faithful.


As Long As They Want

Back I go into a body carelessly
groomed, like a plant

                                     it conceived me

with the root of aloneness

then was blown
toward a mother more consuming
than mine.

                        One can see
between departures I had children,
and between children

both are my cohorts now.

Having sedated my hands
again in time

I fly home for the chance
to watch all mothers
play as children

as long as they want

bouncing the quietest balls
on the heads of their children to be.               

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