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Four Poems
Admit Nothing

Bones wired for strength we are less gullible than a feast but more sturdy. Twigs metalled now
and fragrant, unwilling to collapse or unable. A crush of sirens and all the absinthe 
you can drink, and oh it must be sweet, this stiff metallic knowing

Stars crushed to stalagmites in the thick (in the thick) of it. Sugar burns untended 
on the tripwire. All the fireworks but no discernable source. This is not 
about sympathy, the stairwell struck with light and churning. Iodine filling the ears clean like risk
            and warming
A jar of fishhooks all the proof you should need

I know what I have done 
And how willing

[Trampled blossoms look like nothing at all]

This Hotel Came with No Directions

Spigot in the wall above the bed, one eye turned up
Nectar only as good as the last person 
Who sipped it. Ice melting like a colorless feast 
While you run circles in the carpet, using circumference
As a way to track time. You could save yourself 
By simply pulling down the shades. How’s that 
For shame? The answer easy as pie. Cream 
Passed around the table like a delicate trick 
Of light. Machinery pounds because it’s meant to 
The body a collection of cross-hairs 
And hard. If you’re going to run, then at least 
Move efficiently. Eyes up hands useless as glass


Someone snapped the beaks
off the parrots
because they could and
they could

little shells on the ground 
Even now I could not tell you
how sound works
in this place

I Swallowed the Museum

Its clear metal like a key in the mouth as a child 
And there must be a way to blunt this 
Chemicals spread out white like a bounty and 
I am sober as a child in a fire who counts the objects 
That crack as they burn and the smells 
Return in time and yes they take the language apart
Too much for the doctors to stop. This is later 
For now, I have swallowed the museum
And am emptier for it 


His penis was a delicate fish and too small for his gut. I wore nothing and for once didn’t care. We moved into something with knives, and the child went outside and counted how many weeds had foamed through the fence since last week. I had gone there for fear, but metal does not scare me. Is this the crescendo? What sounds does a scared person make? You know I want to please you. 


The children are mongrel, doing things 
They cannot name. The animals have turned useless 
To stone. Black outlines where buildings 
Should have been. Horses pound through the street 
Like water like teeth. The windows I used to trust 
Are crayon. All of the doors are stacked like cards 
There is nothing to keep the men 
Back. Two of the children have put out their eyes
They speak a language I understood, back 
when I spoke. It sounds like white paint in the mouth 
Spilling out through the nostrils and down 
The chin and lord there is panic and very little 
Breath in this place. 


He installed windows for a living and drove a grey truck. We met in a coffee shop. I wore a transparent shirt with no bra. On the way to his apartment, he said he eats grapefruit each morning to make him taste better when he comes. I thanked him for his courtesy. What else can one say? He slept on a daybed usually seen only in guest rooms. I remember a white duvet. He had a beard, but I had no opinion on that. To me, he smelled like nothing at all. 


The child on the stoop knows what wrong is because it grows
In the body and turns into birds that enter 
The outside world and flap their powdery wings
About her face until she can barely
Speak. No wonder she drops things a lot
No wonder the chloroform and slick. No wonder
The flowers learn to grow backwards into the earth 
Because it’s safer there and pounding
And fuck the colors are good

I call it gin because I need / a metallic word and my city rings / with drowned and terrible hooves / which pound until I fear they will enter / The outside world but friend they never do / The children are playing with teeth / They have learned to speak like anyone else / At night, at night / They chatter like parrots with no beaks / I go to work and parse everything dry 

Malinda Markham is the 2011 winner of the Green Rose Prize in Poetry. Her work has appeared in Conjunctions’ online magazinethe Paris Review, American Letters & Commentary, and VOLT. Her first book of poetry, Ninety-five Nights of Listening (Mariner), won the 2002 Bakeless Prize.