you must hush down the voices when entering prison
the mind fears the hyenas stalking outside of prison
if i care for this man with fingers of claw
or harpoon, or blade, or a cage like a prison
when he weeps for his past, can i still love women?
i hold his head to my chest, spit out the word prison
but i know the shame of a body forced to be lived in
broken and haunted, isn’t this, too, a prison?
to what island do we banish, strike sin from our prism?
let’s pluck all the mangos and boat past the prison!
let them drool on our jewels, a new day has risen
grown bold as an oak, I sneak fruit back to prison
who will forgive me my silence
fear of darkness is its own prison
wash in light like baptism
before we die in this prison
don’t let the air fool you
everywhere is a prison
can’t answer why
very word is a prison
WHAT IS REAL
Occasionally I'll argue a lie
to make the story stronger.
My husband says I have not lived
real life and I want to open
my jacket and reveal a smile
drawn on a bomb, round
as cartoon, to paint my hands red
and slap the cheeks of police.
Here's the truth: I care what people think.
I just want our photos on the Internet.
I watch other couples with their draped
arms and sloppy grins, I want a slice of that
motorcycle jacket, hiking trail, Christmas
tree, but I have taken his last name.
He says he cannot make real art until
his parents die, which means we will
silence our lips once we step off the plane
we will slide on endless night, the quieted heart.
Every time he says it I imagine my head
decorating the shaft of a sword,
a monster dancing me into sky.
It seems as silly to me, this idea
that a poet can be dangerous.
No one even reads anymore.
I think he is exaggerating until I see
the AK 47s with my own eyes,
eight of them packed onto the stage of
truck bed, guarding the President’s home.
I slip my camera over the lip of the car
window and get swatted away.
Don’t think they won’t shoot you.
I come home without photographs.
I put a stopper between my lips
until I am swollen with precious water
now I want them all to know I live real
life, too, but cannot unlearn this hush.
Instead I put the single photo of me
and zebras in a display case.
It wasn't Hawaii beaches, I say.
I hide the rest under my tongue.
LEARNING TO ORGASM
(WHEN THE WORLD IS DYING)
mule backed its ass into sunset:
a tiny halo expanding
inside pink as a conch
swimming the river
frightened of the red scar branded
on the chest of a boy, a thick keloid
wetter than a sea creature
I was eight, dreaming
of his zippered chest nude
I tasted something new, summer
it was hot, wet as meat falling
the bone of my rigid form, rusted
it was winter, we walked to see
a deer dangling in its original skin
a long cut down the length of the belly
hung by its ankles from a tree
there was snow on the ground
a fabricated blanket inside me
rattled by the smell of disrobed flesh
breath a wind I could bottle
erect anatomy, a sharpened knife
I wanted to cut me in two
I was young then and I am young now
sunflowers have choked the fields
I return to the same road
in search of a carcass, alone
with the trick of memory, before all
the hands had beaten or clawed
or steadied against, peeling away bark
the mind’s chasm ratcheted open
tell me about when you were ruined
in dark woods his fingers kicked,
a squid beneath the ocean of my waistline
the older boys burning the pages of a Bible
and laughing, his apple breath, sweet
she is not the enemy, bend down,
pull up your skirt & talk to her
I do not want to cry into your cave,
I whisper to the button between my legs
help me learn to push the canon down
the slick tunnel inside until it blasts
silently under water, clearing, showing me
another door, a way to see blue sky
okay. why do you think it happened to you?
why any of us
why the wind
girl in the paper whose entire face
was burned with acid by her own father
I want to say it is men whose feet are
machetes, but I own a mirror and two eyes
I hang up my human robe and run
towards the horizon, but it runs, too
can one be reborn in darkness?
or must something be cut away.