Lucia LoTempio

Hometown, Unraveling

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,

a blur of wings like a ghost’s veil.


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”

—Rebecca Lindenberg

:: 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.