Mom, I remember the first time you walked

out of the shower, all steamy, smoke
goddesswith a soft-serve swirl on your head
and my seven-year-old self was all
ewww. I looked down
at my chest and up
at yours, between my legs and between yours
and I’m pretty sure I said, out loud, 
gross, Mom. Because
I’d never seen boobs nor bush
and my boyish body was tough
and fast and could swim better
than any of the neighbor boys
at Pequot Lakes and I liked my body
bare and soft and clean and you scared me
a bit, Mom, or something did. 

I think about if I have a daughter
how I never want her to think she has to be clean
or beautiful or fast. I’ll tell her how I’m bad
about biting my nails, about the time I didn’t shower
for nineteen days and it was The Best. About piercing
my nose at a street shop for five dolars, 
about learning to make myself come,
with the lights on, about writing poetry
to my hips and head and hands and neck
and feet and hands because they
are great and hers will be too. 
I’ll tell her about hating wearing underwear
so I don’t, about how I ditched the guy at the bar
who told my I would be pretty if I lost
20lbs, about how my feet stink all the time
about how scarves are fancy bibs. 

Back to you, Mom. Mom, I miss the you
who uses a bar of soap as face wash. The short brown
hair and that awful red head band with the knot
in the back. The boyfriend jeans and track
jackets and holy gardening gloves
from the baby-days, the days you smelled
like garden and sweat—no hairspray. The crumb
covered kitchen. Watermelon seeds. Drive-ins.
Walking around with only a towel
around your waist. The do-not-disturb pillow. Did you
ever think you needed to be beautiful
for me? Were there too many Victoria Secret
magazine’s in Dad’s bathroom? Did Mrs. Hogan
bring fruit salad as dessert again? Did you forget
how it feels to have someone tell you you’re
beautiful with the lights off? With the lights on?

Nana Feeds Me Tapioca Pudding

We’re at the old house, on the plaid couch
and she’s telling me the story of coming over
from Finland. She accidentally bought a bushel
of bananas from a man walking alongside 
the train. I ate bananas all the way from New

York to Minnesota she said I was bursting 
with bananas.  I would watch spots on the peels 
turn brown as I mushed their bodies between 
my teeth and cried out  the window.”  She peels 
back the red and silver top of the tapioca snack

pack and wipes a spoon clean on her blouse.  She
reaches for my hand, points to my wrist and says
you’re like tapioca. All nice and white and delicious. 
She pulls a chocolate pudding out of her purse 
and taps on the top like a telegraph. Black

people are like chocolate pudding. Good, but not
quite as tasty.  Mr. Rogers is on in the background
wearing a blue cardigan today, holding up a red-
faced puppet. Nana peels back her silver top, squeezes 
it in the middle, and slurps it up with her tongue. 

Cinquains for Amber

The sun 
spot on the left
corner of my twin bed has
followed me from home. Teases me,
old friend. 

Old friend
took me to her
bed. Said, have you been touched
here? Pointed to my there. Yes, once, 
I lied. 

I lied. 
Said kay instead 
of stop. Played house under
the covers until her brother
found us. 

Found us
in photos. Us
wearing matching baseball
caps. You have a baby. Bet you
forgot. 

Forgot
how truth and dare
warmed me, a sunspot. For
an instant, felt wrong and good and
awake. 

how to poach an egg

visit your grandmother. tell her, Grandy, 
I think I left my heart in the backseat 

of my Toyota Camry, which my Dad just sold 
to a hippy wearing off-brand Birkenstocks—

he said he liked my bumper-stickers.  Grandy, 
I’ve always wanted to poach an egg.  Get

some vinegar, a black-bottomed pan, an egg. 
Add water half way up and boil.  Ask her how

her day was.  When she answers, do not listen. 
Watch how her mouth moves. Watch her hands

open the chamomile, look at her empty house, 
the taupe-y-ness of it all. When the water bubbles, 

swirl the pan with your wrist, crack the egg
into the eye of the tornado. Fold the milky edges

like a blanket, tucking.  Pop a piece of white bread
into the toaster oven.  Today she saw a movie.

She said it made her very sad. Made her think
of you. Thought you might like it. Pull the soggy

bundle out of it’s bath with a slotted spoon.  Lay
it down on the toast. Sprinkle with salt. Maybe

pepper.  She sighs like you. Holds her knife like you,
over the egg, slices through, lets the yellow out. 

When Hunger Comes

He sits me down.  He opens
my mouth, like this he says,
all intimate-like, my most trusted
teacher. Tugs my hair back slightly.  
Grabs for the graham crackers,
the feta, the Marie Callender’s
chicken pot-pie, a bag of fun-sized
Butterfingers. Rolls his fingers across
my chest,
swallow—the bird kind I hope
—no, makes me gag, makes the spit 
come, makes my body hate the wanting,
the hate wants the body. He takes off
my socks first, then the belt, leggings,
dress, bra, earrings. Traces the underside
of my belly, the softest part of me, sticks
his finger down my throat, smiles as I bend. 

You told me this afternoon, over bleu cheese burger bites, that you’d like to buy some black-out curtains

and it makes me wonder whether you remember the morning
we woke up in my bed with sex in our spines and the sun, ugh
the sun was like a blood rush down my cheeks and we ate fried 
eggs on toast, two each, hot sauce, no water, no orange juice 
and you smelled good that morning and you touched my neck 
and it was after the moment you began to love me but before
you knew how to say it. And I have to tell you, I miss those days
sometimes, like right now, thinking of you waking up alone,
with curtains, and me, with all this Sun, just sitting inside of me. 

my mouth is a fire escape

Prompted by Andrea Gibson’s “I Sing the Body Electric, Especially When My Power is Out”

 

my feet are revolving doors 
that are temporarily out-of-order. 
my tongue is a rip-away poster 
selling cleaning services. my eyes 
are busted side-view mirrors.
I don’t use my street-lamp
arms enough, I’ve forgotten how
to lift. my hair is in a dumpster 
off of Lake and Lyndale. my wrists 
are everything—my breasts, less. 
my knees shine like morning tea
light candles. the insides of my thighs,
I stuck them at the back of the freezer. 
my ears look just like my father’s, 
crooked T.V. receivers, can’t hear 
the buzz of a lightbulb, can’t hear 
Rocket Man over the radio, can’t 
hear the lunch is ready. my Father
is windshield wipers. my Mother
an arching sprinkler. my Sister, 
a screen door. my Screen Door
is my finger tips. my neck, a rorschach
test. my lips were once knick-named
unforgettable, that’s what you are. 
my palms, a memoir. my chest 
is a high school loud-speaker. she
blurts out, like the air-bag she is, 
what are you waiting for now? 

Mmmmm….doing the damn thing.