I thought I was done,
but now I have big molars
pushing through my gums.
The pain wells up slow, dull,
with an antsy itch in the jaw hinge.
I gnaw, I wait. Sharp-ridged,
a new tooth rises behind my face.
In college, an adult once told me calmly
not to worry because this life is long.
FIRST APARTMENT NO. 1
We stand on the porch, holding shoulders. Smoke moves
between the cactuses, then blends with bay fog that touches the bridge.
At night, we don’t even draw the shades.
The sound of the rapid train is ice scraping down a glass slide.
In hard wind, the panes shake and the walls might be cardboard.
The ground’s plates would tremor through the carpet, dissolving it.
What if we locked the door and never left? We’d eat everything in the fridge
down to frozen peas and parsley salads, lasting for weeks.
The room rises like a hot air balloon above the street, the sycamore trees,
as we lay on the floor by the coffee table, listening to the cars.
I catch the fall on my lips.
Jaw opens loud into the asphalt.
First the sound of plates breaking,
cringe of blood, teeth splinter
like a shattered cabinet of china.
You arrive to see me on a stiff bed
covered in towels, smaller,
jagged nerves exposed.
I cover my mouth with my hands.
I can only imagine how purple,
unkissable, the lips two oven mitts,
the teeth—just gone.
But you’re not screaming, your breath
makes the air in this half-room warmer.
Still I cry, mumble something
about taking prettiness for granted
as if pronouncing words will help.
Today I wrote hungry,
just around six, pricked
shivery with the salt
of nothing on my tongue,
blood thinnish at temples
and fast in my hands,
throwing the last
of the day on a page,
as on a hot oiled pan
till they softened and cracked.
Then I closed the book,
stretched my hands,
Dress for work before dawn,
sometimes while he’s asleep,
and see the apartment drip full with light.
Lose your front teeth twice,
once the normal way.
Plant a cactus without gloves because
the spines prick less
if the pressure is distributed
all across the palm.
Drive a car. Ride a bike.
Take off your clothes.
Hold the cat on your lap
even when her claws
press and break the skin of your legs.
The mirrored cabinet
in the new apartment
folds out like wings
so I can see my profile.
Her nose is a strong triangle, leading
into the bluish light. Her cheek is an expanse of sifted sand.
She’d wear turquoise all over, strands and ropes.
Her lips have contour—they’re impolite.
When I was ten, I saw her
in a JC Penny’s dressing room in facing mirrors.
She frightened me—she was older,
she had the look of a girl who’d kissed
a rough face under a streetlamp
with the full curl of lip.
She still scares me—
her eyes like cones
taking in the light
and changing it.
Windows cast shadows onto a picture of a galaxy.
Minimize them, watch them thin and disappear.
Get slow like a cold lizard. Go outside to press your face on your hands,
stare at the bottlebrush tree with the hunched trunk.
To draw a bottlebrush flower, you’d make a cluster of quarter-pixel lines.
Group the strands into one shape, grab the handles, rotate. Click to fill with red.
Trace curves of a northbound road into vectors. You’ll get in your car at three
to move your static thighs over bridges that cast real shadows.
Your spinal stitch grips and the tendons of your hand are taut wires.
Lean into the screen, flatten, feel unreal.
Come on, you need depth of field. Think of eucalyptus trees receding into space,
stretch arms to the ceiling, feel the blood load slowly up your fingertips.
Paradisal green is thick in the air.
Sweat beads up sugary and effortless.
I find a cave with running machines
and start the belt, headphones buzzing.
Through tinted windows, palm trees sway.
Silently, I mouth Top 40 rap
to the deserted hotel gym
and pound more blood and ache into my legs.
I leave fatigued, in pain—relieved.
Languid palms bend in wind. They aren’t guilty
over this lush excess. It is August. I could lay out long,
sunning with the bathers. But I won’t.
Today on the beach
I become aware of the softness
of my stomach against the flat ocean.
My elbows dent the sand, which is like soft bread—
malleable, slightly warm.
All the bellies are out. Taut or with folds.
Hidden all year—now here they are. Crass.
Moving along the sand. Breeds in an outdoor
cat show, one that’s whisperingly judged.
Countertops inside display Brazil nuts,
dill havarti sliced in strips.
I traipse, I develop fear of snacks.
In the fridge, chickens wait for dinner
while kale soaks in coconut milk and humid wind.
There are three pails of ice cream, I note, to avoid.
I lean on the kitchen island barelegged, picking
at a strand of grapes, consumed
with a worry to fill five more long afternoons.
I bike so the blood in my thighs
pricks and itches, spurred by
a hurried grip that clenches
around my shoulders
to the store.
I count out enough fruits
for mornings, afternoons,
worry how many avocados
will spread five days of bread.
The groceries pull on my arm,
the basket handle cutting in
as I add a yam, a can of beans,
the smallest cabbage globe.
I want the golden raisins
and peanut butter—but do I—
I’m out of garlic. I turn back
and touch each of the peaches.
The load is a brick in my bike basket,
nearly tipping the machine.
I eat a handful of almonds
then kick off to the street,
so fast the almond oils
can’t stick to my neck
and won’t weigh on my thighs.
FIRST APARTMENT NO. 2
Went outside to bring in those plates
and paused. Fingers on the lattice,
heard the froth and snap, the fake laughs
of some party downstairs, thought about
how we live against a freeway on a grid of lights.
Then I looked up to stare at this
square of our apartment untethered
against the dark, a yellow painting
from a distance, and began to miss it.