I’m stupid. It’s okay — I can say it. I’m stupid; it fits like a stone in the mouth, stretching my jaw til it pops. I’ve learned to breathe around it, through the spaces between my teeth. It’s not so different than his fingers. No need to make it more complicated than it needs to be. God knows I’d hardly understand it if I did. I’ve never had the hands for untangling things. So I’m stupid. So I thought, or maybe, I wanted. Maybe I needed — and I didn’t mean it — maybe the need was something that happened to me; like a car cracking my sternum. I had no control. I was a small thing held in your palm. I was hopeful and I hated it. And maybe it was lesson — my lesson — and I never seemed to learn it. And maybe I still haven’t. Maybe I never will. I have to say it: I’m stupid. It fits like a stone in the mouth; it didn’t taste great at first, but now I don’t mind it. After a while, it doesn’t taste like anything at all.

For you, whom I love,
a long goodbye.

I bless your feet for kicking
the crab apples in the orchard
of my heart –
for cracking their round
and sour –
their too soon –
their not-ripe,
not yet.

And maybe I meant it,
at the moment of the lie
when I told you I was leaving;
when I walked away,
turning the lights off, one by one,
like stars burning out.
Maybe I asked you to hold me too hard
and you didn’t know what to say
when my soft oozed sick
like gore between your fingers;
the sticky rot of it;
the bitter tang.
Maybe I just wanted you to miss me.

For you, whom I love,
a long goodbye – this could take years.
Please, keep kissing me.

Sometimes I still pull gold coins out from under my tongue. It’s not as often, only when I’m short change. Only when I have a story to tell, and even then, it never seems to be enough. My fingers have memorized the motion – the plucking and wiping off of wet on my sleeve. I have to wonder if they’re worth more because I find them less and less, or if rather, their rarity only echoes at extinction. This is how the notebooks have turned to photo-albums; how each poem has become a snapshot that radiates nostalgia as pain through a bone. And perhaps, like men once passed from mouth to ear and back again, such things will steal your soul. But we were greedy. And God, I was so greedy – documenting everything. I try to avoid thinking about it, but it’s hard not to wonder if my soul will stay, and if it does, just how much I will miss it. So I pull the coins out when they come, for fear of choking on them. I pluck and wipe and pocket them. My movements have become no more than mere maintenance – the silent barter for my body to keep breathing, because despite everything, I know I cannot afford to lose myself.

I sent you down the river,
arms crossed over your chest,
stood guard on that rock like a siren
using the absence of song
to push you further away.
And when the townspeople called me murderer,
I smiled;
lips full and red like a wolf eating her prey;
I smiled in a way
I knew you would’ve loved.
Brother, how I miss you.
How I still haunt the forest, barefoot,
and howling my grief to the moon;
how you swore you’d come home soon
to lick your fangs with me –
but I cannot sing you back to my side.
Believe me, I’ve tried.
It’s only ever me and this damn rock.

In your story
I am the harbinger of doom;
hardly named,
I am namely a naked body
in your room.
Or a ghost.
Or a sound drowned out by rain.
On your page I am made
no more than the sum
of my parts.
In each one of your retellings,
you rebuild the breasts,
but not the heart.
I mean, I envy your precision,
but I’d hardly call it art.

This is how to throw yourself
to the wolves.
First, render your body meat;
sweet venison
Second, do not bite back,
or be alarmed at
how dark your blood is
against their teeth.
Third, kneel.
Let the bones break
like the sweet pop of pearls
coming undone.
remember, you are doe,
butchered brutal.
Remember, you are gift,
you are meat;
sweet venison
on their tongues
– eyes rolled back,
still smiling.

I gave my body away like a gift wrapped in newspaper
— impulsively —
wanting nothing more than to see your face at the moment of opening.
I’m sorry if I disappointed you.
If you expected my heart to be a Hallmark card rendering,
and not the cut of muscle you now hold in your hands
— beating, still
— bleeding, still.
Maybe you wanted something not made of teeth,
or hair, or nails.
Maybe I shouldn’t have skinned myself
thinking every lover would want to trace my veins
like rivers leading to open shores —
maybe you just wanted something more
Like a poem.
But even my poems were like being brought bones
and not knowing what to do with them.
It’s okay that you didn’t know what to do with them.
I never did either.