Poetry Suite by Jeanann Verlee
Editor Carrie Seitzinger, Poetry, July 21st, 2014
Me, a rusted hammer. Me, a sweet & lovely disaster. How much beautiful must I kill?
For the Woman Who Loved the Predator More Than His Prey
“I wanted to sing you a curse song.”
I would wish on you the knowing—knowing
with your own good body, but I am incapable.
You are made of flesh and nerve and thought,
of heart and love and wonder and grief, as I am.
Let me wish for you this: a deep sleep, trust
in the man at your back who has promised
sanctuary, and you have sipped of the sanctuary,
rolled your milk skin in it, leaned your eyelashes
on his breastplate, removed your bones for kindling
to warm his hands. And he has drunk of you and you
are almost whole in the clumsy wonder of maybe he
is the one, though he appears a strange divergence
from your girlhood imaginings (they say this
is always true). His mouth is filled with the world
and he is giving it all to you and you believe. I will not
wish for you the bruise. The leap in the throat, shriek.
The shock and scramble in your own flowered sheets.
His glazed eyes, the sudden property you’ve become.
You, a scatter of chalk dust beneath a heave of muscle.
You taste its singe. How he culls your pleas into a storm
of thrust, grunt, drool. How you, here, cannot move.
You are nothing more than your wit and your lungs
and neither seem enough. You are the torn cotton,
wrenched thigh, the perfect stone-colored fingerprints.
You are the scrub and the sob, all his countless
hands. I do not wish you become the night terrors.
The flashbacks. The grief and grief and grief.
Insomnia, delusion. The disbelief. The holy holy
holy holy wreck. The awe and burn. I do not wish you
stay. Stay and forgive. I do not wish you forgiveness.
Do not wish you cordial. Polite. I do not wish you his
manipulations, nor the mind’s trickery. I will never
wish you “liar,” as you have christened me.
I do not wish you answer why or how or show me
evidence. I do not wish you silence. Shame. Whiskey.
Box cutter. Xanax. Do not wish you erase. Erase.
I do not wish you anything to erase. I do not
wish you this. No. I will never wish you this.
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Madness in the Form of a Question
after Kimberly Grey
because your body still flinches, even beneath your husband
because the rise in your heart rate, whenever
because your body is a permanent record of all it has survived
because tattoos and wrist scars and toe nails grown too long
because it’s only part of the story
because we are only part of the story, and we keep on
because a rush hour subway car is always a mine field
because you lost count of the times your body has been not-yours
because all the ways we take from each other
because they’ve got your name in their mouths
because they don’t even bother to pronounce it
because the heat’s out and the oven is all you’ve got
because the neighbor’s radiator leaked down the wall
because rust and roach and lime stain
because meat is violent and so is the kiss
because nothing you say will ever un-make you
because the DA turned down the case
because you finally reported and the DA turned down the case
because you waited too long
because blame and blame and evidence
because the river
because the boy you loved as a girl is an urn of ash
because the lamp flickers and your hand reaches for a gun
because there is no gun
because your hands and sin and survive
because money is low and rent is due
because money is low
because a house is just another mouth to feed
because the phone never un-rings
because the dolls are full of gossip
because someone you love is always running out
because your mind is a kaleidoscope of ghosts
because your mind
because your body/mind/sin/flinch/heart/money/gun/wrist/name
because the story hurts worse each time you tell it
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Polyamory, with Knives
Just because you fell in love with the river
doesn’t mean you must feed it your bones.
You can take new lovers. Wine, for instance.
And bread. Difficult shoes. Little blue pills.
The first boy’s knife. The bowie, the buck,
the chef’s. Switch, pocket, butcher, butter.
You can submerge in a hotel bath, drainage
ditch, Newton Creek, East River. The sea.
Eat the whole pan of lasagna. The entire box
of Thin Mints. You can go down in mimosas.
You can lose yourself in Clifton, or Sexton,
Walker, Hooks, Rich, Atwood. Or Hughes.
Even the boxer whose poems sewed you shut.
Whose hands pulled you from the red red tub.
The boy who became boxer who became
man who became poet who became husband.
Yes, you can love the river. The knife. The pills.
The wine. You can love a thousand lonelinesses.
You can love the man and each of his hands.
Love the brine and the meat and all the tiny ruins.
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The Riot Kings (of Apartment F9)
Untamed, we are godless & malformed.
We unearth & fight our whole lonely, our
despicable traumas, in curses & slammed
doors & we shun & shame & fuck & surrender
nightly to the bottle & this goes on. For me,
the endless promise of pills & the threat of pills,
the promise of leaving or being left &
the scathing ache of failure upon failure.
All mine. & how the hell did I get to be forty
& learn to put on clothes & wash my back &
paint my toenails but can’t coherently move
a sentence from my lips among strangers
or ease my sister’s hurt or keep from injuring
the man I love in remarkable & dangerous ways?
Me, a rusted hammer. Me, a sweet & lovely
disaster. How much beautiful must I kill?
Experts warned. Books & lecture halls, shrink
after shrink. Hospitals & psychiatric wards.
Kind strangers in dank pubs & subway cars,
offering tissues & hotlines & somber advice.
Here we are. The bed we share. It is the dark.
Truths offered in the dark are always ugly.
There are always ghosts where we think there
are none. There are no children. This, too,
is a ghost & we are the ghosts. We cradle each
other & rupture. This ruin is a thing no fists
can answer. My boiling brain is a flood of disease.
It never stops, it can’t. It will always slaughter.
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Your Mouth Is a Church, I Forgot How to Pray
It’s raining ice despite April’s promise and
………somewhere a bloodmoon hangs in the sky.
Now, morning. We made it, despite my cruel
………wishes. We were children once. Guiltless.
There is a war in each of us. Yours has a peculiar
………scent. Mine is dead wet, the color of sickness.
I am a mouth of mettle and iron. Godless.
………You are brawl and fang. Courage, code.
Though battle keeps us, we die a little
………each day. I’ve lost the word for prayer.
My love, take these walls, these wars.
………Dull my blades. I am tired of the hunt.
I’ve laid my only words at your feet. Open for me.
………I want to know, be known. Want and be wanted.
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Header Image by street artist, Hyuro. View NAILED‘s Artist Feature of Hyuro, here.
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Jeanann Verlee is author of Racing Hummingbirds (Write Bloody Publishing), recipient of the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal in Poetry. She has also been awarded the Third Coast Poetry Prize and the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry. Her work has appeared in The New York Quarterly, Rattle, and failbetter, among others. Verlee wears polka dots and believes in you.