Second to Last

26 August 2020

you only know you’re successful
when you have rocks in your mouth

when your mouth is where your chest was
now tectonic-plated, clashing the right-brained

and the left-handed so a new mountain was raised
of a molehill mind—

to brave teacup-storms with,
to balance coffee on,  

you don’t open your mouth for fear of the impending
avalanche, you are the only person who changes the

weather by thinking about it, why don’t you think instead
about how people grow

apart like legs, not human ones separable by force of pain,
legs of a journey, truncated by getting on and letting go,
legs of a past life, running into the present    

smashing into a lamppost
like THIS—because you don’t sleep, your fear
has consumed the chopsticks you call limbs, 

they risk snapping by forgetting how to be used,
the way I am too used to being forgotten by
you, your rocky successful mouth. 

does it bother you,
mercy weighs like wrinkles
and yet you cannot lift it

with your glacial hands,
cannot wash it out of
your honey-pooled eyes
where fallen stars thrash and plastic roses thrive

what else does mercy remind your tongue of,
the one mothering wet sand, stuttering like clover leaves 

what else reels in your attention
while it’s supple and sluiced
and sloughing off to be circumscribed—
a red balloon tied to a chair, deflating, anti-climatically? 

what else whistles
and asks to be taken seriously?

what else rakes through tufts of your bold italic hair,
decides you are almost as worthy as
a punctuation mark? 

can’t you see,
blindingly by you,
have you been begging
for it to bother you. 


she who recycles metaphors religiously,
who insists inventiveness
a blasphemy, who willingly cuffs facts to her ‘poet’ hands
with the damning accuracy of never letting things
slip through her fingers
that ought to have,
the way quotation marks
smuggle her identity
wherever she goes

should I begin to uncover the function of her scarf,
whether she ties it the way she might
a noose, one she puts comfortably, gently,
around my poem’s neck

should I look away from her Medusa eyes,
even though I know poetry holds immunity
for the people who believe in its integrity
to stand on the shoulders of stones 

should I watch her turn and toss,
blissful ignoring
her eyes of dropped mercury,
strangled by the penchant to see things
for less
than they are 

should she wake one day and find
forgiveness, staring her down like
mothball sun, would she crack up
like she might if she reads this?

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