There are too many poems about anxiety
and not enough poems about walking your dog
The bright slick of sun on the kitchen tiled floor
as he scratches at the door all leash-promise and new day bright
Tell me
this is not the spinning match to your 3 am doubt
your middle of the day wine and vacuum cleaner depression
Tell me this is not the flip side of the coin you have been tossing, hoping for heads
or is it tails that wins
or tails that wag hoping that you will remember how good the air feels
when you point your face right into it, like leaning right into the good smells
and the bad,
fur thick enough to twitch off bugs and protect against sticky fingers always trying to pet more pet more
This is more
than a pet
This is the way he waits for you in the morning
every time
Picks up his rubber toy and brings it to your lap, dropping it like the truest love poem anyone has ever written for you
paws annoying the kitchen tile while you scratch and yawn and wait for coffee he
is just licking your toes and nudging you with his warm breath saying come on come on
come on day, come on sun, come on life, this is the greatest day ever!
And you, you want to curl into the fuzzy blanket and keep your pajamas and your glasses on but you
believe in the way he believes and you
get the leash
bring the coffee
You find that his galloping heart becomes yours, his chase becomes your flight, his big stupid heart becomes the most intellectual expression of delight
You think
there should be more poems about dogs



I’m not angry anymore
I buried the hatchet a long time ago
I buried the hatchet thrown by all of them, not just him, but a society of men,
teaching women how to behave like they’re ashamed
Calling us by names not meant to praise but define us, don’t align with us
and when their contempt hits my skin, it stings as it sinks in
Knife strokes I pretend not to notice
Nice girls don’t notice
So I
Buried the hatchet a long time ago
Long after
His mouth said “yes” and “I promise” and all the words I was taught to receive like valentines
All the words he said a thousand times
The fled,
went somewhere far enough away that my cell phone signal couldn’t reach him – he said – where women, those whores, threw themselves at him – he said – where it wasn’t ever his fault – he said-
where I couldn’t follow
not with my wounded heart bleeding so frankly,
so openly, like the conversation i was always trying to have,
so full of holes, like the way in which he responded,
So I stuffed my fists into the holes in my heart
and pretended I was whole
So i healed, what choice do we have
but to pretend we take pride in our scars
and I buried the hatchet a long time ago.

Now you sit here, with your wide open love and your innocent eyes
And we are hours and miles away from my hometown
And I am not what happened to me
But I was born out of my history
and now I am made of stone
Anger is a feeling I don’t own, being taught long ago that it doesn’t belong to me
So I let it go, moved on,
but now I have this hatchet
buried so deep in my chest
that I can’t tell where the hurting is coming from,
if it’s something I’ve manufactured or something I deserve or if it’s an echo of the thousands of times I have been educated on how to cry
We all take comfort in the familiar don’t we?
So when you say “don’t worry”
know that I am carrying the weight of weapons i once needed in my belly and I am tired but I don’t know how to set them down without ripping my guts out
When you say “trust me”
know that I want to respond but my tongue is being nicked by the blade and my throat is full of steel
When you say “I want you”
know that the handle of the blade is pressed into my pelvis
So when you thrust, I parry and when you say “I don’t want to fight with you”

I say “then teach me how to unlearn everything”
and when you say “why are you so angry”
I say
because nice girls don’t say
much of anything
and I wish I hadn’t learned how to heal so well
wish I hadn’t buried the hatchet so deep that it grew roots, learned it’s way around my body until it touched everything
I wish I could plunge my fingers into my chest, knuckle deep, and show you that my heart is not guarded, it is made of steel
I wish nice girls didn’t all smile so bright
like they have blades behind their teeth

ocean that I am


You say you must have a heart of stone,
and you’re empty,
anchored here, on the sandy shore
And I am dry eyed but full of salt and deep currents
I am an ocean
that you could never dive into
the depth scared you, your ears popped just thinking about it
You stay on dry land with stone feet and a faraway look in your eye
the horizon looks promising you say
as I lap your feet,
try to entice you with tales of fish that can see in the dark
the deep is not so scary with a flashlight stuck to your head
and some of these fish are badass, have xray vision and electricity in their scales
I know, you say, I’ve heard
You see a ship on the horizon and think it’s yours
but i know that the horizon is bent and nothing comes straight at us
not even heartbreak
and I am having a hard time leaving when the tide keeps returning me to your feet
The rhythm of return beats the sand into the shape of waves
You leave footprints in them as you walk the shoreline
You say you can’t breathe if you can’t see the ocean
but you say too much
and you never learned to swim.  

love song


When I said I loved you it wasn’t a warning.
Let’s become all the things we are afraid of
Let’s be too proud to call it when it’s over
I will go back into the kitchen and cook you something that will make you cry
bake love and muffins and new hope, forged in a crucible of butter and sugar
We’re better than this
We’re better than our parents
Take me out to the backyard and show me the tree you picked out
and we’ll use the rope to double dutch jump rope
jump the the broom and sweep our history clean
there is no more use in remembering
We’ve bled our past dry a million times already
teach me new ghost stories
Let’s haunt this house until it echos back a new history
Let me carve our initials into the tree
give it something to remember us by
I am bigger than you thought
and you are deeper
When I said I love you it wasn’t a promise
It was just the truth
And you are my truth
Let me show you where it was on my body when I decided to live
unravel my spine
dissect my wrists
prop up and peer under my ribs
this sunlit clearing in the forest is my heart
And you are welcome here
And the space between our bodies is just a metaphor for time we still have left to spend
Come, let’s give it away, and sit here awhile, with nothing to be but together and here
letting the stars wheel about above us like the circus freaks that they are
sweet empty pits of light, let’s forget our past and lay in the grass like just being here is creation enough

a scene from Dobra Tea House


They sit on pillows,
order the big frothy drink that looks like beer, but isn’t
settle into the new space of being near each other
the way the air forms and moves around knees and elbows
He wonders
if he can sit closer
Decides not to chance it

He says
I want to say some heavy shit
but maybe it’s just the psychedelics
but maybe it’s not –
She laughs, shakes her hair out of her eyes
He say well anyway
what’s your family like
She says my sister is so strong and so smart and always makes the right choices she is just like a beautiful human being and I’m so happy I’m not her, you know?  My dad is recluse, never leaves the house. He’s happy.

The corners of the room twitch, he feels like he could scratch a new itch if he were just a bit closer
is drawing him in with the crook of her neck, head tilted to receive he
has nothing to give so he reflects instead says
Last night was was so ignorant you know?  My friend was like Hey I have a hurricane, do you want a hurricane?  I said yeah and he said “I only chug hurricanes and
I only drink in the shower so then I chugged a hurricane in the shower then my friend was like hey do you want to go to Warren Wilson and I said yeah sure and he said there’s only one hurricane left, are you done in the shower?  so then we went to Warren Wilson and ended up in a long conversation about dolphins on fire, it was so
you know?

She knows by the way she dreams her eyes past him
I don’t want to say goodbye to the conversation but I do want to say hello to art can you be
He says if I try then does that mean I’m not
She says look
at my paintings
and pulls them up on her phone, holds her arms out to show him that her art is big enough to step inside
He thinks he could live in there.
He says I’ve made so many mistakes

Across the cafe, a baby starts then stops crying
The couple next to them order bubble tea
and the barista brings them a fig cake he says
I’ve made so many mistakes

His knee touches hers and his breath is caught somewhere between his knee and his throat
He says I’ve come to a loss of questions and words
She keeps dreaming past him
He says Now, I’m just breathing
She says good, keep breathing
puts her knuckles in the honey, puts her mouth in the shape of Africa, puts her palm, a slow pond, on the table, open, he drops in a penny, makes wish,
remembers his french teacher, wishes he could say I love you in French
or in some other language
He says the majority of the time I’ve been here, I’ve been moving around just trying to find a way to be comfortable
She laughs, says this is my favorite, lying down, see how i put my feet up
Her head is almost level with the low table
honey dripping from spoon to cup

He knows at some moment he’ll look at himself in the mirror, wonder what
The fuck
Was I doing
She says you’re fine –  so maybe he said this out loud or maybe his face couldn’t hide it or maybe she can tell time by the way his eyelashes shimmy back and forth when he is nervous
You’re fine she says
This is more important
He lays down next to her in the cafe
Shush she says
Maybe if we think about other things, it’ll be like a lullaby
I can tell you about the giant dome construction sites, the largest buildings in the world
the crazy airplanes and all the languages being spoken at once
That is where I grew up
I miss that
I never knew how to talk to people, what words they would understand
and all the metal noises of the city, it was horrible sometimes
but the sunset
I will never get over that fuckin sunset
I miss that, I miss that so much
but being lonely is as absurd as trying to hold your breath
as ludicrous as trying to be still when your heart is always pumping fresh blood and oxygen
put your head in my lap

He is quiet
She strokes his hair
He thinks maybe
he’s crawled inside one of her paintings and
the drugs and tea and the honey and giant airplanes are all part of the world they made together, just by being in this new space, fresh air parting around their timeless bodies, so still, moving so fast, so fast, they appear to be not moving at all just a couple of statues, remembering the shape of love

the bones of the birds are empty


You ask if it’s a waste of time
I say whittle time down to the simple in and out
to the wind in your body, you animal, you still breathe like other people.
A minute becomes a diamond under the scrutiny of your focus
Exhale, you angel, you still live
pause at the top of the breath
count backward to birth
to that time before you existed, and spoke words and grasped with your little hands
Go back, to the damp quiet of the pause in your mother’s throat
Go back, you animal, you were born just like all the dying

You ask for the truth
but you know the skin lies, the body is misunderstood, the world turns and you lie down
becoming earth, you are always being born
These wrinkles tell tall tales, tell me they don’t, tell me you aren’t still the child you were
back before you stretched and turned and stood up to greet adulthood
tell your skin to tell the truth
tell the lines in your palms you believe in them
tell your reflection it is a shapeshifter, don’t trust it, tell me I’m wrong
Keep saying words like they hold an idea any better than your hands do

You ask if we are mourning or celebrating
I can tell you it is both
I can pretend to know the answers
You can pretend to understand,
There is no darkness to frighten us, it is welcoming you, each breath is welcome back pretend you know this
console the body, count backwards to before fear
to the warmth of the womb, the emptiness between the stars, the pause at the top of the
read the history of this body
-you smile, you still have one,
you still use this vehicle to navigate through time, when will we leave it behind
When do we leave here
move on to the unimaginable dark center of the throat of the universe
I wonder what singing sounds like there
I wonder where we are going
All the adults facing forward, surreptitiously checking the rear view
Catch your reflection looking back, you child, you look back like all the rest of us
-taillights in the dusk, the distant crack of baseball meeting bat, the deepening summer night, the scent of memories, the dust of the stars in the lines of the palms of our hands
Breathe in
The body remembers
exhale, pause, wonder, you ask, like all the others
where are we going?
you know
the bones of the birds are empty
that is how they can fly

Group Therapy


On Monday, in group, Brandon says
“I just don’t think I can go my entire life without drinking”
he says “some days I’m thinking obliteration is a rational
that when the world is this fucked up, why is it so bad
to drown our sorrows every so often, every Friday, every Thursday, every – Day
in  tequila, why’s it so wicked to warm what’s left of our bodies
with wine and the familiar feel of a stranger”
I remind him that in group, we don’t use the F word
I tell him that today we’re talking about powerlessness
that maybe he could contribute to the conversation
since clearly his power is a reflection of his reaction to apathy
Brandon  shrugs
says group is bullshit, but he’s mandated to treatment, so he’ll stay,

On Wednesday in group, Brandon says.
“sometimes? I think maybe heroin is the only way in, the only entrance to my head that doesn’t hurt
this is the price I pay for comfort
and that seems fair.”
I ask him  can we
take it one day at a time
stay in the moment
do the next right thing.
he says “last night I thought about how hard it is to live
how awareness brings responsibility bring weight that I am not strong enough to carry, brings social interaction and it is not a sign of health to be well adjusted to a fucked up world.”
I remind him again that swearing is not allowed in group, ask him
can you express one real emotion without quoting someone else
He says quotes make sense
that he can’t articulate or understand this world
so this is the oppressor’s language but he needs it to speak to me
I say, I know that quote too
I say what are you actually feeling right now
He says sometimes I want explode,
like I’m disappearing,
a black hole
sometimes I want to die
I say sometimes we all do
welcome to early sobriety
he says fuck group
and leaves

On Friday in group, Brandon doesn’t say anything
group is quiet, soothing
and it’s not until he doesn’t come back after break that I realize to us
silence is how we begin to die
silence is the first gasp of the last act
so I call his PO after group, I try to get someone to talk to me
I leave a message on his voicemail that starts out
with I’m not mad
and ends with please come back
and in the middle somewhere I remind him that we all have those days
I promise him that I’ll carry his thirst in my throat
that if he hangs on, some day he will be asked to hold someone else’s wrists closed
that his thumbs will count heart beats, that he will understand the rhythm then
that he just needs to believe that I believe

On Monday, in group, I say the first person who can scream the loudest wins
and they look back at me with puzzle piece faces
I say today? maybe fuck those self help therapy enthusiasts that teach us acceptance and
maybe fuck me for being one of them
maybe you should accept nothing
because nothing is what we are promised
I say first one to disagree with me out loud wins
and they say nothing
I say tell me one true thing even if it doesn’t belong to you
and they say nothing
I say prove to me that that you’re here
they say Ms. Emily, you’re acting weird today
I say then tell me
can’t you see how easy it is to disappear
and they say
Ms. Emily speak up, we can’t even hear