There’s Honey In The Paint: four poems by Melissa Stein


In the night, fear’s stepchild: all hail
the thinking brain. And ash in the fireplace
and in the stove. What am I doing with these
old-woman hands? They don’t belong to me.

There was one perfect moment of détente
where you called me the love of your life
but you were stoned and possibly on pills.
Your touch, iambic, when we met
and the rest, sheeted mirrors and grief.

Next door they’re perpetually building a house
of schadenfreude and light. They’re draping it
in butter-yellow paint. The bees will take up
residence. There’s honey in the paint.


Control was all
I wanted: a handle
on the day, the night
when it curved,
when it swayed,
when I could sense
the teeming stars
in light, in dark
the sun’s bare wire.
Some switch
to turn it off:
each shadow
pinned to each tree
like a radius
of some infant’s
milk it spilled.
And the leaves,
their gossip
of claw and beak
and wind and heat
and wing. Tether
lake to bank and
cloud to peak.
And weather it.
Weather it. All this
to say I’ve
taken off my ring.

Love Letter

I don’t know when the boys
began to walk away with parts of myself
in their sticky hands; when loving
became a process of subtraction. Or why,
having given up what seems so much,
I’m willing to lose even more — erasing
all this body’s known, relearning it with you.


Blue dragonflies buzz me like warplanes.
Their wings taste of rock candy,
smell like cellophane, hum
like a dentist’s drill. I want it
in my palms, that isinglass, I want it
rooted to my bones. I want right-angled
flight. Their only cargo’s that long body, the burden
of flight itself—I had it once. The plank
gave way; the bridge was tall; the wind
was stiff. And I resigned. Because it was over
I was quite safe. When water came up
like asphalt I barely splashed. That was it.
I still feel that wind and the ache
in my shoulderblades for want of wings.
I still feel height and the clarity of it.

The drowned women in my dreams
have me at last; weed-strung hair,
weighted feet. Hope bloats:
I’ll carry them home, numb limbs
and all, tuck them into my sound
sheets. Comb their snarled hair
to silk. Stir them soup. Stoke
the woodstove. And sing, sing
lu lu lulu lu, hush-a-bye and
tie a yellow ribbon and this train
don’t pull no sleepers. Till they’re dreaming
in their soggy beds, dreaming of me, parched
field of brushfire grasses, bleached gold
and dangerous. Wave after wave
of heat, wave after wave of bodies
colliding in midair, torn wings still
better than ours, better than ours.

There’s Honey In The Paint: four poems by Melissa Stein

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