Conch

Most women want to be loved,

not just fucked. I have

been cursed, as one who

men can’t fuck without

falling in love.

 

Time and again, he says I’m Her,

the first choice,

one who makes a heart

sick, beat like a snare;

I’m the metronome it needs.

 

But, when he sees me,

it’s all diamond rings and wedding gowns.

Our ephemeral eyes contact in lust,

but his head fills a scene-

clean baby bottles and dinner dishes

drip on the rack, devoted dog wags

between us, lazy dessert chat

of a vacation on the beach.

 

Inevitably, those words break free

before he can think to stop it.

A day, a week, never a month

before it poisons him.

 

To repeat that sacred saying-

and to act as though I meant it-

would be to hold

a sea creature’s calcium

carcass to my ear,

and to act as though I

am mesmerized by the magic

of an ocean in my palm;

I listen to the swirl

of red in my skull.

 

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Andrew’s Wall

They lay together in his room,

bodies close but minds adrift.

Both showing off their shiny white pebbles,

perfectly polished, arranged by height, resting in pink

gums-Too bursting with childish joy

even when the other isn’t looking.

Staring at the wall, she admires the bright, shining glare

Artwork in itself.

The wall so remarkably white where

The suspended bright bulb reflects

and refract its beauty

into her own two wet spheres.

The bumpy paint an orange so vivid

She could peel it off,

imagining her thumb nail sinking into the

think, bumpy skin. Cool on her cuticle, stinging in yesterday’s hangnail.

Tasting the citrus burst as it flushes through her mouth,

washing over her tongue.

An acidic carwash forever wearing

tough enamel protecting her teeth.

He laughs,

the sound breaks her thoughts,

Their eyes catch, he asks

“What are you thinking about?”

Pepperoni

The tupperware bowl sat

in the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.

From there, it mocked everyone-

Daughter and her family:

the visiting vegetarians.

Married couple:

the embarrassed hosts.

But, mainly, it mocked the stepdaughter;

the offensive salad’s creator.

The peculiar swirls of multicolored pasta,

mimicking vegetable patch’s variety,

leave oily skid marks on plastic’s side.

The pool of Italian dressing slowly soaked

by rotini’s thirst- mixed in are

bits of feta, chopped pepper, skinny sliced onion,

and the vile enemy-

tiny, round pieces of pepperoni.

The salad had been made a week before,

the upcoming visit far from her mind,

by the hungry step daughter- she fumbled in

what she could find, in pursuit of her

favorite summer snack. When others arrived,

however, the large blue lid was peeled back

to reveal the tragedy it held.

“We’ll have to make a new one” the step-mom commented,

but let the atrocity lay on its shelf, an

open casket for all to mourn.

Each day, a shower of new comments

circled around the salad’s scandal-

each accompanied with a glance of

annoyance threw her way.

“Pasta salad would go well with this,” daughter’s husband

would comment, his plate feeling its absence.

“Make sure Aunt Jude brings vegetarian salad,”

the daughter would say, adding with her glance,

“with no pepperoni in it.”

The stepdaughter sat, head hung

knowing Clinton could sooner forget Monica

than them let slip away her meaty blunder.

Four adults between them could not produce

another salad, but instead created in her the deep knot

of knowledge that she sat at their family table

as unwanted as her carnivorous creation.

Rebecca

We wake to hangover’s daze

on a slow Sunday, the first hatchings

of Summer noted by haze on the lawn.

Lay three feet apart, his childhood bedroom

stares down at me. I am stuck in the web

of little league trophies, basketball posters,

cleats that fit when feet were much smaller.

Last night’s clothes left on, bunched

and tangled under sheets and blankets.

He stirs, smiles. Hand on my waist,

pulls me close in our familiar, friendly

cuddle- commonplace in our days as

housemates, now our short time together

is sacred. His head dips, aligns lips,

contact births thoughts of the unspoken

ghost- She, my best friend.

She, who was his.

She, who ended their relationship

with our lease.

Forbidden smooches send me to Manderly

living in the shadow of Rebecca,

and I cannot stand the skeleton

sunken somewhere between us.

Like a wave upon the sand,

I collect my belongings

and am gone.

San Andres

Her hair had gotten longer,

it always did,

those sudden auburn inches

a reminder she was no longer

a part of my everyday life-

its new length always a shock.

Her raincoat matched the pastel

blue of her car, I’m reminded of

when we sang The Decemberist

in our kitchen, that rainy day

so long ago. She was so calm,

fingers danced across the stereo

to find a suitable station.

She asks about my day,

as if she’s just seen me yesterday,

as if we don’t live two worlds apart.

I can only stammer.

She drove us into town,

the new grass just green fuzz in the dirt.

Her legs weren’t stockinged under

a dress, a surer sign of spring.

Hands migrate to my knee, greedily

I grab it, too fast. I should not have been

so eager. Slight smile passed her face

like a wave, I’m taken by the undertow

of our memories.

I forgot our destination, our divide,

let myself get lost in the softness

of fingertips, the cadence of words.

“Boyfriend” rang through her mindless speech,

I looked at her again, the fault

between us reappeared.

I reminded myself,

her hair had gotten longer.

Dinner and Dessert

A small splash captures my attention

on a night that swelters with stagnant sunset’s

promise of cooler air in hours to come.

The culprit is a beaver, he fishes in our bay.

I savor my sweet, cold dessert as

I watch him catch his own dinner.

He disappears again and again until he strikes

the gold of silver scales, fish flashes from

his mouth in dying sun’s rays.

He swims past me, across the small harbor.

Ripples form an aquatic cape behind him,

spread until spans from my dock

into the vast channel, deep enough for

the monsters of freighters to travel.

His fur forms peaks, matted and wet,

the questionable brown of blonde’s eyebrows,

too cautious to fully commit.

Ears flat, two black eyes just above

river’s watercolor surface, they do not see me.

Behind him, inky black tail propels his body,

workmen’s pride; his flat, wide paddle.

I watch him swim, prize still held

by two front teeth. Past neighbors’ docks,

cape’s splay must be across the river by now-

the miniscule waves break on Wellesley rocks.

He follows the shoreline,

around the bend, out of my view.

I take my empty bowl inside and

turn on the light.

Graduation

When I was a 21, I began to

question my mother’s love,

that silky dust grown and born with me

as much as my placenta, umbilical cord.

She lathered her love on me as

an infant, red haired and dependant.

 

That was before I could lift my head,

travel by foot, speak with those

unexpected noises that slip past

my toothless gums. Now, that sacred

substance runs low in the mason jar

hidden behind a shoebox.

 

For years she had scattered it over

my pink bedroom, floral bed set;

smeared it over my blushed cheeks

as she dropped me off at middle school;

speckled it in every day’s bagged lunches,

drives home from school, goodnight kisses.

 

But, for her daughter with no grad school plans

or full time jobs- when she reaches her hand

into that glass jar of rare love,

fingernails scrape the bottom.