MEN BY THE LIPS OF WOMEN
I’m in love with a man who doesn’t love me
with the pages of the book he sees from.
He makes love through his syllabic ink, a salted thunder,
leaves me to my own delirium tremors.
I gouge out his eyes, break the yolk across his shoulders,
disembowel the nectar from his liver.
His toxins become a cherry blossom wine.
He sounds in the brain’s eagled hollows
of a soft guitar from a Spanish café
among the mountain peaks in nightshade.
He cannot hide, no matter how many goats he scares
or biscuits he throws at the hunger.
The mother of everyone calls him.
His fright is an orb of Hold me, I’m yours,
crisp and curled with age’s yellow
and the godless sunburn you love across your nose.
I am that love you light yourself with
and my gender is powerless in this.
We are metered only by our own machines,
while the book is a clock that forgets her mechanics.
Her hands can count but would rather wipe warm dew,
the pall from your lips and kiss the lids
of your eyes from sleep. Here am I, is he,
with yoke and shadow removed, she is, her in me,
apart from you, man reading men by the lips of women.
THE WORLD’S BABIES
Stupid café sandwich, I give them periodic Cheerios
and a Hasidic wedding if they ask for it.
And like the babies, the seasons insist on teaching us
even as they change their minds—
Do you mind that I wear every item on repeat,
refuse money for new clothes
and nest like baby bunnies who barely run with wolf packs?
Do you mind that I am woods you never believed
could make sounds beyond our ears?
A poem is a hat with no thumbs
I wear upon my head, night’s cap of fool’s gold to harvest.
So if I when my boat is bleating speak with two accents
between these four walls of breath,
I will sew with buttons
the corners of pockets where you lay down upon your sleep,
I’ll love these lanterns, the paths they swim
to the heart of how the babies know their parents.
Now cottontails absent the grief of winter without seed,
shelters to stop the bombing, and saw the waves
to enable a boat from trees, a moat to swim in—
And you don’t know you are also baby,
until you do the baby things,
begin the sleepless ways and stumble over your innocence.
THE STRANGE POWER OF LYING TO YOURSELF
The absence of casual banter does not require a missing
connection, if only the triangles of our bodies would intersect
where the pupil’s eye returns
our stare. We shook hands in the language we meant
to speak, until God’s mischief caught
us unaware. We couldn’t quite sweep the wallets free
of our museums by then. We let salt
water calm leftover wounds,
we gave honorably in the halls of sailors land-buried,
So much so, I envy the rice to consume sturdy husks
and an ache that sits between pacifists, big as the Loch Ness,
as invisible and paradise—we pat the head, “There, there, is
nowhere,” have sex dreams of not quite climactic
proportions, and awaken never quite anywhere.
I don’t know. A bunch of things. The mail, a bi-racial couple,
songs about a boyfriend who doesn’t understand, Thai people
gathered (mostly transsexual), sushi for the masses, bacterial
moments of half-crazed drunk you know when no one touches
your bag or wallet across the bar, a lovely candle refusing
to flicker, one wind, one shirt, one sky teeters
fireflies asleep between paperbacks,
their names that S.O.S. me,
a painter’s bird red as plumes,
a bodily silence in dead-layered flesh,
and a hole, among other things, as I am a learning actress.
I dreamt myself awake to see the face in her shoes, she
who will carry this parcel world
on its wire waltz in brown paper creased?
Submission is the only window
we can take
the dead moth asleep between us now,
you who fingers its arched back, a spinal keyboard,
and sound out the words, “He’s dead” before
we reach for the needle
that will sew the coffin.
THE IDENTITY IN MY CRISIS
This last meal could not have been my only palette,
could not have been my only easel—
This last sentence could not have been
the practitioners floating in my head,
flowing into yours,
my only eugenics,
my only criss-cross,
my only everything, except your match
in the last whip and crack,
my medium circus, my vaudeville campaign
slurring perfect injunctions, were I ever to slur again—
The Genius Dress was far too small,
a random pie far too gone,
too eaten am I to be holding on
to a product I conduct in the language of fathers,
“We are drunkishness, bric-a-brac, torn saddle, backlash.”
This immersion has made me a model
for your captivity digest, a cavity
just as clean as we birthed from a hole, far ago,
as an embryo buried in the roundest tree hollow,
this slanted night, this aptly-divided radio sleep
on lovely knees, unwilling to burden
our last diorama nestled inside you, a pear tree.
Amy King is the author of I'm the Man Who Loves You and Antidotes for an Alibi (BlazeVOX Books). She is the moderator for the Poetics List and the Women's Poetry Listserv. King also curates the Brooklyn-based reading series, "The Stain of Poetry." Please visit amyking.org for more.