discovered

struggle quietly
in unremarkable fashion.

What you did
just minutes ago,
nestled in the cracks
and webs that we hoped
were not of the brown recluse.

We weren’t ready for infants on doorsteps
so we heard you arguing in the dark,
mocking those selling chocolates
for the young and partitioned
are universally nodded at.

spring to the porcelain sky
and timelessly yawn.

Cat No. 52 of the 500 Cats Project

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such is her finesse

she told me I was a lovely girl
and that her son was lonely.

I was twenty-two,
listening to an almost-widow
apologize for my empty apron.

they told me not to expect anything,
so I didn’t, and told her I’d be fine.

she told me her husband was happy
and that he couldn’t read letters.

So, he couldn’t read “tip,”
but again, it’s not such a faux pas
when we recall the doctor easing cotton out the ear.

recently, I’ve been collected
though I never learned to organize.

truthfully, I’ve never chosen to
as I grab my backpack before the day.

After five, I searched for news
while staring at a love letter rolled up straight
and taut, written in ballpoint ink without any sound of my name.

eyes on the collar, I pawed at my keys,
gaze reciprocated when I pulled out a maxi pad two weeks early.

bloom

I receive like those cheeks
of captive pufferfish
children poke fun at
while adults fish for crabs

greeting anyone with an open mouth,
those locals – calmed and drunk
on strawberry coconut water
swishing at the harshest inclines
against the sides of cracked red cups

they blink as I stretch my neck
to find a pigeon’s story
in terracotta planters
I sometimes assumed were homes

Cat No. 51 of the 500 Cats Project

Back-To-School Shopping

I threw my shoes in a rusted trashcan. The one that accepted empty water bottles unconditionally, though the can for recycling stood less than a foot away. Two years old, with holes at the heels. Indeed, the passing of time suggested that like most women at crowded bus stops (the ones loudly pleading for their children to be quiet as they finished their back-to-school shopping), I would never pay my debts as a foot model. My hammertoe, bumpier still, would never traumatize those poor men waiting for hours at the urgent care clinic. Nor would my ingrown toenails command a second look as teenagers bitched in packs, walking home from the magnet school.

I always insisted that flats didn’t hurt. But Lori, with her Sharpie, had points to make as she traced around my calluses. I just returned home, in front of the Travel Channel, which reminded me that if I cared enough, I could seize a promotion and finally, buy gray plaid shoes with memory foam so I wouldn’t ache so much. Lori just wanted to remind me of ways in which I was cruel. Mainly, to my bones, and the scarred fishtails on which I stood.

Teenagers, again, walked before my indifference. Commercial after commercial, best friends smiling with those huge retro headphones blaring in some department store. I argued with Lori that it didn’t matter, that my toes were less than ordinary and life could be lived barefooted. She laughed, mentioning downtown potholes.

I conceded, seeking heels.

“life”

oil and water
across your pavement.
I hear it’s called “life.”

let all suspense
enamor the thoughts
rustling in struck trees.

I watched as your sister
grabbed the sugar
and poured it down like morning milk.

she opened the door
just after you left
and clutched her sides, engorged.

you carried the hose
pointed at an angle
while she told you the diet worked.

Cat No. 50 of the 500 Cats Project