One week later,

I go down to the docks and join the Byrd Gang. They put a patch
on my back pocket and it’s official. We vandalize every brownstone.
We know where to buy the cheapest cigarettes. We throw rocks
through all the pretty girls’ windows and hope that one of them
will come out and show one of us her panties.

A month later, Josue from the Byrd Gang starts going steady
with Christine. He let’s us watch him feel her up. Their mouths
are squidknots. Arms, tongues buried. I tell the other boys
I want to fuck her so hard she forgets his name. It is the only way
I can think to protect what might someday become our child,
currently coughing up its lung in the corner. I do not tell them
how I want to firebomb an ice cream truck alongside
a woman in black and lick the wreckage off her face. And I especially
do not tell them that I want to put my arm around her
and get brunch in Park Slope after.

A year later, Josue and Christine get married, and the rest
of the Byrd Gang plans to try with the women again, this time
forming a doo-wop group. I quit. My tongue is a black cat,
and all the women I loved so far were superstitious.
I never sing out loud.

So I go buy new jeans, without patches, which I try on by myself.
I start avoiding Pennsylvania license plates. I forget how to talk to kids.
I start getting turned on by Jewish names. The phone does
or does not ring. It not being the Byrd Gang sounds the same
as it not being the woman in black. I want to move in
behind her ear and vacation on her neck. I hope we haven’t met yet,
because I no longer throw rocks through windows.

the truth is Helen. poetry is the wooden horse.

I feel like I am tip-toeing a tightrope.

Be more specific.

I feel like I am dangling from a tightrope, strung between Troy and the SitCo where I buy beer.

Are you Odysseus?

I am his heel. Not even weak enough to be notable.

But part of a greater whole.

No, I am not part of it.

Then you are a ghost.

But I do not feel like a ghost. A ghost is loved but does not love back. I am-

You are a vampire. You take but do not give back.

Yes. I am a vampire.

And the tightrope?

There is no tightrope. And Troy has been sacked. There are a lot of banks. There is a silent conch shell.

This means?

That I am worried about money. And that there is little poetry in worrying about money.

Thus the conch shell.

Yes. The conch shell is not a metaphor. But it is not actually there.

So it is a lie?

Yes.

Do you lie often?

Yes.

Why?

When I want it to be beautiful, I lie.

You find lies to be beautiful?

I find silence to be terrible.

And truth?

That I do not yet know.

Were you lying when you said you were Odysseus heel?

Yes. I am Calypso. I have few guests, and I take everything from them, and I give nothing back.

Like a vampire.

Yes. Like a vampire.

hashtag, selfie (working title)

your shoes, more expensive than anything else you wore,
still ended up crushed beneath the bed
with your aunt’s old denim jacket,

a shirt from a friend’s missing father,
every pair of jeans with the same hole in the right pocket,
knees turning white, cuffs still in place after a wash.
you forgot to shave for so long, everyone knew it was on purpose.

you grew out your hair and lost the teeth to your comb,
learning it could be a political statement
if that’s what you told them.

you got a little worse at falling in love,
or maybe a little better at shutting up,
you heard the refrigerator buzz a few more times.

you cooked green peppers more than red ones,
added hot sauce to a lot of things, kept
adding garlic to most things, kept on
with the peanut butter sandwiches.

because you couldn’t drink coffee,
your teas kicked the tupperware down to another shelf.
you used her mug until it wasn’t anymore.

you wrote a lot on the good days, lied a lot on the bad.
Honesty turned you on more than allegory,
but you hadn’t learned how to spot which was which yet.

drinking was reserved for weekends, but on Fridays,
you did it furious. yelled sometimes.
wanted to kiss your friends sometimes.
didn’t.

Pennsylvania license plates made your heart feel funny.
taxis made you carsick. you felt like you could swim to Manhattan
if the water was warm.

it was a good year.
you sat outside and finally loved Spring.
you kicked off your expensive shoes
and let them get lost in the grass.
you saw a bright blue light,
which someone had told you would
years ago…

Strongest of the Litter

I tried so genuinely hard to like James Franco’s poetry,
sneaking verses at the warehouse
while my manager took phone calls,
pulling meat from his thin chapbook,
his full length,
the back of his art book.

he played such a pretty Ginsberg,
read Howl on screen better
than any of my friends in my living room,
even better than me,
drunk on Ginsberg’s birthday,
yelling to the Brooklyn Bridge.

so I tried very hard to like it.
And he slung high school sex around
like the Hercules of cock I already assumed of him
and packed weed smoke tight into his verse,
and knew how to curse like an adult,
writing “pussy” and “cunt” without flinching.

and it all amounted to very pretty
drivel, and this poem too, and anyways,
no one is writing hate mail these days and he
didn’t respond when I mailed him my best
work, so maybe he’ll read this, and tell me
it’s very good, and never of us will ever
get a bigger break than this, because

at least the hate is raw and he caused it,
and I’ll take all the approval I can get,
even on the drivel,
from anyone at all.

Hayah

Hello all,

I’ve made some changes and added a trio section to my original duet. Any as all feedback would be great to get it in top shape for my Sr. Practicum.

Xoxo,
Hannah

Inside the butcher shop

Inside their cages
the rabbits
shit on the ducks shit
on the chickens.
The butchers
are all attractive women,
less blood stained than one would guess,
wearing their white coats too well.

The stench reaches the other side of the street,
mixing with that of a nearby deli
where meat is roasting on a stick.

A young girl raps on the window
and waves to a rabbit.

She probably thinks of it
as a “bunny.”