These cracked yellow legs and this warbling throat
Yes, I of all girls should be wise to the growth
Of the hair birds, here, soaked in the lemony dark
Why crouch there all haggard and purposeless young
Still cradling the peelings of mean little fruits
Dank echoes gone dry since the creek has run off
The jealous wasps settle down deep in my dress
They suck at my legs like a thickening sea
That paradise – legs warm and dry – never came
Now whose smug approval keeps this ship afloat
And who lets the cardinals sing as they drown
I’m clipped, I am stung in what’s left of that room
I know I’m uncombed. I’m a dumb animal.
But there is no hallow that’s here left to keep
No clean sheet, no balalaika, razored hand
No, Peter. There is a whole stack
of you on my doormat. There is a
chain of Peters from the outside knob
to the mailbox and none inside it.
Get off my porch. Get out of my poem.
Peter standing on the windowsill. Pyotr
in the laundry breathing orange
in my socks. Pierre, don’t kill anything
until I leave. I don’t want to hear
you folding clothes. Bits of your
beard last year are growing down
my shelves catching nest smells
swelling with salt. Lick it up, baby.
You’ll never in the knots. Your
mocking knuckles. Pedro with your
nipples pointing at my outstretched
palms as I stand bare-legged on the bed,
accused of wasting time. And I do still cry
at pigeons. I cry at the childish wet
knitting of syllables. I cry indiscriminately
because of buttons in the water
and nobody laughs so why Piers.
So praise in the margins. So beige.
Take your skin out of a cabinet. Stay
for once in your braid. I will be salt
before I write again. My feet will
never touch the water. Black mouth.
I’ll run. I’ll coat myself in burnt
remains, I’ll believe in ghosts.
Pietro thinning into smoke like
a goose dream, you are all six pieces
of a suit that hangs like meat on
my shoulders. Go on and be worse
for a sister. I carry each one.
Are you contiguous? Do you bother
looking up the coats? Do you perfect?
Is anyone your piles? No, no.
Father of animals. At least look away.
Yes, I have been spitting cherries
since the first damp April evening
when I went out, yellow-jawed,
with all my legs as fresh as grass.
Not just pits – I mean whole cherries,
black as sheep’s eyes, lit from inside
with the embers of my blood,
and when they leave my lips, they do not die
but sizzle on the sidewalk
drawing looks from all the neighbors
just as though I’d dropped a hive.
Since that awful day, they’ve fallen
from my face, one every minute, never ceasing –
only drying up when half the street is stained
my gory purple, in a trail that always points to where I am.
That first day, the neighbors counted
every fruit I left behind. And I, embarrassed,
tried to swallow them and choked,
because the juices had expanded
and were bigger than my mouth.
I didn’t pick them, but I know they won’t believe it.
And the juice is bitter, so I’ve learned instead
to hold my breath and pulverize
the glowing fruit that rolls beneath my feet;
and those I cannot crush, I eat.
Lynne Peskoe is a writer and teacher based in sunny Boston, Massachusetts. She can usually be found somewhere in her room in a nest of dog hair, writing about her feelings. Follow her on Twitter at @lynnepeskoe for some really bad ideas.