after Kim Grabowski Strayer
I saw a man halfway in his car pissing
out onto the mall parking lot, soft
his eyes followed mine down. Leaving
was a long slow circle. I turned the steering
wheel and didn’t speed. This is just the beginning.
When the snow melts it doesn’t really melt,
becomes a sticky grey sludge and inedible—everywhere
in this place (they say) used to be beautiful. I swam
the wakes—never underestimate how soft
even salt can make. Every night,
the building shrinks in and gets hot.
begins from the cement beams to the bundled
horse hair in the walls. Open up the windows
and the air rises all the way up like a lake in a car
that’s sinking, and sinking past hope for a bridge.
There is nothing I could create. The Easter
market has the same man selling
the same butter shaped as a lamb
since they started it. When my grandfather
took it home the red ribbon was sucked
to its neck the same soft way. More
than once, mailbox a smacked crime
scene of scattered envelopes. A backyard brimming
with men and too-shaken cans.
In my new city there is a sharp quiet.
With a whole group waiting, I love
a bus that stops just in front of me;
spits up rock salt, grey scum at its gills.
I say I am a rumble about to fall apart—
if to pieces, then there’s still hope
for it to all come back together.
This is still beginning. If I could go
back to: me as a girl on the rug,
just seconds before—; when I was
a foamless touch to shore—
empty and ready with promise.
Silverfish in the Shower
My love has too many bones, hard things
you aren’t supposed to see up close.
When my father would kill a bug for me
he’d bring the tissue in close to my face
and laugh. I hated that. I want
a face to bring things close to—you need
to be drunk to make plans like a child.
Water floods up each time
from the drain, all slogged with hair.
When the silverfish came, my love said
you made me kill a live thing today.
Sweet boy, sweet bug—I should have let
You both wash the sleep off without me.
Or at least let the pest have what it came for:
the rough noise of two breathing beasts;
like its split of legs, us two wild halves
going in perfect synchronization.
Tenderness will flare out. When my father
was in college his mother sent him with a cooler
of sauce in old ricotta containers for his Sunday dinner
week after week. When she died, there were
the frozen plastic tubs, iced over and blood red.
It was still a live thing. Just now, the baby
cries out from the apartment behind the wall.
I’ve heard them shower too, the heavy drop
of water from gathered hair to plastic floor.
We think ourselves to be more than separation;
but the buzz of a hummingbird that’s almost
as big as a silverfish, colorful and churning,
The movie has me cry long after we leave
A few kernels spill as I pull on an old shirt
I weep my small self tired
Your head is hard and your breath is hard
My mother wants to build a new house, this one without stairs
In the movie, the mother a house on fire, then lit again
The bees die off in South Carolina
Honeybees, not hornets or wasps or even bumble
Massacre without blood, but sweetness
Smudge of bodies like dregs at the bottom of a cup
I dream of mandarins molding
Next morning mandarins and coffee
Brown mark on the skin like a rot healed over
Sometimes it’s easy like that
When the child is on the horse
When the daisy chain passed from head to throat to head
That is how the sad movie ends
Like Eve, our clothes slough like cooling wax
Our faces patchy, dry, once touching
Fear crystallizes to horror
I know you by scent, a sweet rot cavity
A light of filmic static, shrinking to pinpoint center
“The green all green things aspire to be”
:: Berlin, July 2015 ::
I’m anxious at the handlebar & the Germans, the three Dutch, they aren’t waiting for me
One of us is ready to turn & I’m anxious the tram-tracks will slice me off my bike & when we round
curb, parked cars make me anxious I’m too far behind our swarming pack
This city it holds me like pollen & its roads bruise me like hyacinth & when my guy
lifts feet & slows to the end, he spits on the ground & I want to bless him as if he’s sneezed
This city he says this city is all graffiti & his accent ghosts graffiti as gravity & I don’t say a thing
because I know what he means; because I’m anxious for some extra anchor at the handlebar
We ride—wind through this heat is like when he hands me a plum; like he threads belt loops
& with each traffic stop I think green light, green light
& when we ride I think green light, green light just to be certain
At dinner the six of us are paired off, but my guy is all
beer & sweat & I am anxious of verbs & hand motions & not getting to
the right translation for carburetor or fishing rod or melanoma or plum & that I’ll lose
too many letters when I use words like kitten or patent
The six of us, the six of us we are eager & we are sweating; we are reaching
to each other how you grab a rabbit by the ears, uncertain of butchering or magic
At night I’m all bug bites & sweat & my guy & me reach in our sleep like otters; like one
float reaches for the next in a passing parade
& morning when the six of us breakfast, one of us boils the eggs too hard & I don’t know how
to not be rude when I make them right—deep breath as one cracks into solid white bubbles
On our bikes we are sucked in by trees & everywhere it’s green light, green light
& the forest is too green to be surrounded by city; the forest, too green to have our wheels throw gravel
I am still the last of us & sweating; keep hands on bars, keep head down, keep with
The beer as it clinks in my basket, keep from tilt up to a canopy of green light, green light
My guy takes off his shirt & I am sweating; we spy backyards of stacked bungalows rowed like orchards
So ordered after the shuffle of buildings from our swelling sixth floor window
—so full of things like wonder, like beauty—& at the lake we are intent on shadow; we skid
to a shaded spot, then another When my guy lays on my stomach I’m all sun
until his head In the lake, children slick with sunscreen: uncertain of all the places they will be adults
& all the places their adults have ripened & all the ways in which those places stop them
from throwing sand, from throwing water, from throwing balls, from throwing themselves out of trees
When we are in the water, the water vibrates soft & bright & we can’t see down into each other’s hands
through all its cold green & one of us in anxious to round the edge of the shore
But my guy is swinging from a branch; he turns & water beads off his back, off his shorts
& a sluice of leaves falls in behind him
& when he splashes up, he treads up into their green light, green light
Lucia LoTempio is a poet, SUNY Geneseo alumna (2015), and former Gandy Dancer managing editor. You can find her poems in The Journal, Linebreak, NightBlock, Quarterly West, and more. She lives in Pittsburgh, and recently completed her MFA at the University of Pittsburgh.