Say bones break. Say love is expensive: seven poems by Jeanann Verlee

The Believer

He said “bruja” and she tended the kindling.
She heard love. He said women are sulfur, she offered
her teeth. He said itch, and you have good nails.
Said he was a forest fire. She heard ocean.
Heard troubadour. He said he could dance.
She purchased new shoes. He said pearl,
she prepared oysters. He said anchor, she bought a boat.
Said olive, she made of her arm a branch.
He said secret, she kept it. He said harlot, she spat.
Said hungry, she bought the bistro. He said tequila,
she gave him a grove of lime trees. The sea.
Said veal, she brought a field of pregnant cows.
He said loyal. She carved his name in her thigh.
Said open, she cut off her legs. Said kiss, she mailed her lips.
He said that one. And that one, too.
She delivered pipe bombs to their stoops. He said shank,
she carried the gaping bodies. He said she said
and though she never said it, she nodded.
He said Everything I’ve said to you is true. She knelt
at his feet. He said It is you who are the liar.
She put a shotgun in her mouth.


For the Woman Who Loved the Predator More Than His Prey

“I wanted to sing you a curse song.”
—Marty McConnell

I would wish on you the knowing—knowing
with your own good body, but I am incapable.

You are made of flesh and nerve and thought,
of heart and love and wonder and grief, as I am.

Let me wish for you this: a deep sleep, trust
in the man at your back who has promised

sanctuary, and you have sipped of the sanctuary,
rolled your milk skin in it, leaned your eyelashes

on his breastplate, removed your bones for kindling
to warm his hands. And he has drunk of you and you

are almost whole in the clumsy wonder of maybe he
is the one, though he appears a strange divergence

from your girlhood imaginings (they say this
is always true). His mouth is filled with the world

and he is giving it all to you and you believe. I will not
wish for you the bruise. The leap in the throat, shriek.

The shock and scramble in your own flowered sheets.
His glazed eyes, the sudden property you’ve become.

You, a scatter of chalk dust beneath a heave of muscle.
You taste its singe. How he culls your pleas into a storm

of thrust, grunt, drool. How you, here, cannot move.
You are nothing more than your wit and your lungs

and neither seem enough. You are the torn cotton,
wrenched thigh, the perfect stone-colored fingerprints.

You are the scrub and the sob, all his countless
hands. I do not wish you become the night terrors.

The flashbacks. The grief and grief and grief.
Insomnia, delusion. The disbelief. The holy holy

holy holy wreck. The awe and burn. I do not wish you
stay. Stay and forgive. I do not wish you forgiveness.

Do not wish you cordial. Polite. I do not wish you his
manipulations, nor the mind’s trickery. I will never

wish you “liar,” as you have christened me.
I do not wish you answer why or how or show me

evidence. I do not wish you silence. Shame. Whiskey.
Box cutter. Xanax. Do not wish you erase. Erase.

I do not wish you anything to erase. I do not
wish you this. No. I will never wish you this.


Lessons on Loving a Prophet

One.
You know how this ends. There’s nothing you can do to change it, so make peace with it now. Ready your hands for the callus, shred the cloth for bandages, prepare the rosaries.

Two.
When you meet him, outside the grocery, along the boardwalk, beneath the overpass, you will not know what he is. He will be neither too charming nor too handsome, not thunder, not polish

Three.
The day you fall in love, his mouth will spill your name. He will repeat and repeat. He will not touch you. He will watch your hips, study whatever ample you have, will ask to watch you dance. When you turn to leave, he will use your name like a choke chain.

Four.
He will call you miracle. Your face will unravel. This is his magic. When he begs you promise, say yes.

Five.
When he offers his lips, take them. Take his arms, his throat, take his toes when he offers. Gorge. Swallow everything whole. Gag. Vomit. Swallow more. Do not hesitate. No time for polite, or coy. Take.

Six.
When the minions call you whore, nod.

Seven.
He will tell you of the others. How they went crazy in their sleep awaiting his return. Do not flinch. Do not doubt your thickened fingertips. Stand upright. You promised.

Eight.
When you find him in his room, thrashing the sheets, pressing his palms into the walls, howling, his face a river… close the door. This is how he makes wine. Leave him in his sorcery.

Nine.
When he explains that he cannot love. That he will never be yours alone. When he tells how the meek, the gluttons, the tempted, the proud are his angels, do not mourn. Smile, feed him, wash his hair.

Ten.
He is a king among thieves. The leeches will hollow his skin, the crows reduce him to bones. His own heart will empty him. Allow for the bleed. Be ready with tourniquet and prayer.

Eleven.
In the dry burn of dawn, after the last of the lashes, the thorns and the spittle, when his limp body is laid at your feet, remember the night you loved him, the ember of his eyes and the way the words came like honey.

Twelve.
You were made for this.


Good Girl

Every morning I sit at the kitchen table over a tall glass of water swallowing pills.
(So my hands won’t shake.) (So my heart won’t race.) (So my face won’t thaw.)
(So my blood won’t mold.) (So the voices won’t scream.) (So I don’t reach for
knives.) (So I keep out of the oven.) (So I eat every morsel.) (So the wine goes
bitter.) (So I remember the laundry.) (So I remember to call.) (So I remember the
name of each pill.) (So I remember the name of each sickness.) (So I keep my
hands inside my hands.) (So the city won’t rattle.) (So I don’t weep on the bus.) (So
I don’t wander the guardrail.) (So the flashbacks go quiet.) (So the insomnia
sleeps.) (So I don’t jump at car horns.) (So I don’t jump at cat-calls.) (So I don’t
jump a bridge.) (So I don’t twitch.) (So I don’t riot.) (So I don’t slit a strange man’s
throat.)


Lessons in Alone

On your first date, do not hand him your vagina, polished and thirsty.
Do not allow him to rub your back or your shoulders.
Do not overdrink.
When he offers to come home with you, do not think of your ex-lover’s chest.
How it peeked from behind the open neck of a pressed J. Crew buttondown.
How you still masturbate to this.
Over dessert, do not think how smooth this man’s thighs will be.
Do not think how lovely their dark will lay against your sheets.
Do not ask to touch during sleep, it smells like love
and you have a suitcase to unpack.
You have laundry and dishes and a dog to walk. You are busy. Stay busy.
Don’t muddy your days with honey whiskey.
When the boy at the club buys you a beer, yanks you hard
from your disappearing waist, remember you owe no one.
Even if he is all your favorite music.
Keep your tongue inside your mouth.
Stop his wandering hand even if it’s the only thing good in New York City tonight.
Say no. When your boss suggests you meet Nate from Accounting
who is recently divorced, say no. Say bones break. Say love is expensive.
Remind him you have a dog and no time. You’re busy.
When a friend explains, women have children at 45 these days, girl,
you’re good, smile. She is lying.
Press her rosewater skin under your nose. Press hard.
Pretend it is the skin of a newborn. Steal this moment. She won’t mind.
When Friday finally arrives and your friends leave early, let them go.
Keep your tab open. The bar has been your longest friend.
Churns out warm bodies like a factory.
When the bar closes, remember you are busy. It’s time to walk the dog.
When you dress for your first date in two years, don’t call it date. Call it friend.
Do not let him pay. Share a bottle of your favorite wine, you deserve this.
When the wine makes words slippery as butter, tell him everything you shouldn’t.
Your diagnoses, how you have no insurance.
Count for him all the men you used to escape your husband.
The time you almost got a boyfriend arrested on West 4th Street.
The tryst with a colleague. Describe the miscarriage at 13. Abortion at 25.
The train engineer you fucked in Penn Station, how his son had Leukemia.
Tell how you waited six hours at a roof party
in Brooklyn one summer just to take the drummer home.
How you ran into that drummer weeks later and couldn’t recall his name.
Carefully detail your unending appetite for drink/fuck/fight,
everything nasty you keep under your skin. Do it precise. Calm.
When he runs from this quiet grenade, find the bar.
Tell yourself you did it for his sake. Besides, you’re busy.
Smoke another cigarette. Take another honey whiskey. Let it curdle your face.
You haven’t been beautiful in years.


Almighty

His twitch. His gaptooth. His meathook hands. His whiskey.
His cocaine. His lie. His momma. His lie. His girl. His lie. His lie.
His mask. His blame. His finger-point. His backstab. His loyal. His game.
His drunk. His spill. His fool. His freeload. His pass-out.
His breath. His dirt socks. His hole jeans. His unlaced laces.
His laundry but never a thank you. His you-a-thorny-motherfucker.
His train three hours for the dog. His guilt. His you-owe-me-now. His joke.
His charisma. His martyr. His bellow. His take. His not proper.
His cover up. His lie. His knotted fists. His wrist-pin. His twice your size.
His monster. His apology. His sleepwalk. His sweet talk.
His please-forgive-me. His let’s move on.
His wit. His shame. His slander. His pervert. His secret blog.
His secret bigot. His only for my boys on Long Island.
His not job. His not tonight. His better things to do. His lies.
His curse the friends who don’t cover his lies.
His beer bong and fried meat. His football and fried meat.
His don’t call on Sunday, got football and girls and fried meat.
His stoned. His hostile. His high. His reel-back. His snake tongue.
His silver tooth. His rant. His bellow. His heart. His heart. His saint.
His street corner kiss. His barroom kiss. His always in front of a crowd kiss.
His never in front of his ex kiss. His win. His only when he wins. His rant. His formula.
His legacy. His fantasy. His flair. His bathroom stall. His two at once. His brag.
His warrior. His broken. His moan. His she-got-married. His she-got-pregnant.
His lament. His commotion. His lie. His 6AM. His derail.
His marry me. His marry her. His marry her, too.
His not-on-her-birthday. His we’re-just-friends. His please-marry-me.
His I-can-give-you-children. His be-mine. His please please please.
His not call you back. His pocketful of condoms. His lie comes out.
His let’s-not-discuss-it. His details-don’t-matter. His cordial. His victim.
His won’t stop texting. His won’t stop emailing. His wound.
His mirage. His bewildered. His it’s-twenty-fucking-eleven-get-over-it.
His threat. His dare. His sociopath. His stalk. His grandeur. His monolith.
His king. His omnipotent. His everything. His lie. His everything. His everything.
His.


Grief, Not Guilt 

I wish you a tongue scalded by tea.
A hangover. Burnt toast. Stubbed toes. A lost job.
I wish you weeping in the shower. Salt in the sugar bowl.
A wishlist of sorrows. Grief, not guilt.
Hole in your favorite coat. Stain on the good suit.
Arthritis for your joints. A broken guitar string at every show.
I wish each breath a little harder. Each workday
an hour longer. I wish your heart a thousand breaks.
All your sports teams, bottom rank. I wish your friends
go quiet. The leaves brown above your head.
A thunderstorm every morning. Nothing but pearls
when you shop for her diamond. I wish you bad knees,
a sore back. Empty sheets. A ghost to haunt your house.
A tub brimming with mud. Closet stuffed with too-small shoes.
Flat beer. Sour milk. Weak coffee. I wish you
flat tires, soggy pasta, a tax audit to fail.
Bent forks, dull knives. A hangnail for every finger.
I wish you a room wallpapered with my photographs.
A chamber filled with empty bassinets.

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Say bones break. Say love is expensive: seven poems by Jeanann Verlee

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