Winner of the Driftless Prize in Poetry


Spackled yolk this morning.
The dawn a moth-plague
called down.

Salt, old hair. Sweat.
Sprawled across the floor
in thick nets, body a slack   

tangle. Newsflash of neon
in the windowpane—
Woman come undone.

Scales withering
in the heater hum, lips cracked
despite the pomegranate.

What myth. Sweet allegory ungifted.

What bitter vision tides the mouth.
The heart’s shuttered stem,
blue-veined with drought.

December drinks itself to silence.
And even God in his thick brocade
has cast me out.

Frayed bosom taken out to trash.
Legs thrown to rust. The damp craw
of bougainvillea sewn shut.

Could I open wide
the sore uvula, browned with age,
to find the whole day used-up,

throat-white with wonderment
at what had passed? That he
was a reptile, vile enough,

scavenging at the gash—
but for a sticker with the shelf life
he offered cash. Black teeth,

black heart. Black vice.
Ruin comes at any price.
A livewire of birds, the whole sky

ripped out. Woman, wound,
dragging the star of archangels,
unwheels in midair, stoking

the white-hot clamorous oxides,
charging ions, charging
white bulls into spring. 



Child of the colonies. Carrying the swift waves of oceans inside of you. The wide dark of centuries, the whole world plunged down, sewn through the needle’s eye, the old crow’s glisten in your gullet. Eyes beetling through black. You wear your mother’s face in the mirror. Your mouth closed around all those pills like teeth, each one so heavy your tongue falls numb. Think of your friend who only wanted you to find sleep, whose face asked you not to choose the worst. Dull wretch, slack-jaw orphan, you always feel sorry for yourself. And swallow each capsule like the last pearl your grandfather pressed down into your palm. How he had dived three whole days for it. Your grandfather who loved you but could not say it. All the men who love you and cannot say it. Jamaica, old fur sticking to the roof of my mouth, the one long dream that holds me underwater, black centipede I still teethe on. Ruined train clattering through my track. Here, I could come up for air. Here, I could wake to a name I can answer to. Where Thomas Jefferson learnt how to belittle a thing. How to own it. He created the word and wanted my mouth to know it. He wanted the whole world pulled through me on a fishing string. Where I will find my fingers in the muscle of my throat, where I will marvel at the body asking to live.