“You know,” he said to me over his beer,
“The way you remember things isn’t really the way
And I thought, Contrary to popular belief, it all happened just that way.
All night long I dreamed about teeth.
I read about it before I fell asleep, my hands hot and pressed against
the dust jacket, the one I mottled
by carrying it into the tub.
Mary Karr calls it carnal memory:
Breath and touch and nervy feeling,
the raw of human experience captured by a hungry,
“Yes, but didn’t you think it was fun?”
I know, I know, I know – beats my heart.
I’m good at bad ideas.
I held that text message down and deleted it, but not until
I had digested word after cruel word.
They swam down my throat
and landed to churn in my guts.
You had opened your mouth
and bit me with all of your teeth.
Years ago I wore those imprints happily
Rings around my rosy skin, counting
Each incisor and canine underneath my tights, as if I were
an apple and not a girl.
Strippers use Dermablend to
cover up those kinds of bruises.
This morning on the highway I followed a truck for miles.
Each one of its bumper stickers just said “Hell.”
In my kitchen,
I am lazy.
I do not like to do dishes,
or take out the garbage. But
when you live alone,
someone has to.
I can’t handle more than five dishes in the sink
at once, though.
I got it from my dad, I know – he
eats fast at family gatherings, then leaps up to wash
everyone’s dishes almost before they’re done.
A glass in the sink sends him
into a frenzy. He likes to be up to his
elbows in hot suds.
I would rather scrub the floors, choke on
It doesn’t feel like a chore.
For some reason, my Elles, my Cosmopolitans
Have been replaced by Martha Stewart Living and Shape magazine.
They go directly into the recycling.
OK, I’m lying.
I peek at the Martha.
I was talking to my manicurist
Rachel. She had cancer once, but she beat it.
She wears her pink breast cancer pin on her uniform, and her
skin is beautiful and shiny. “Collagen masks,” she says, leaning over like it’s a secret.
She says, “Men, they don’t do pain.
No labor. No pain. They’re babies.
Women, we handle it. We are strong.
If I die, my husband, he will get another wife
So everything I do is for my kids.”
I like my visits with Rachel. Her hands are warm
and I don’t mind when she tells me my shoulders are too tense.
I don’t have to reciprocate her touch.
I tip her extra, every time, in cash.
Nauseous and over-caffeinated,
I sit in urgent care, watching the fish swimming in lazy, placated circles,
pallid as the eggs I ate at brunch.
My right eye weeping as the nurse shines
A black light into it, looking for a little hint of green.
Shows her where the tears are.
It hurts to blink.
It hurts to look up.
“I just need a temp,” she says.
I let her stick it under my tongue.
I do as I am told, of course.
I always have.
The way they teach little girls how to speak –
every statement, every answer a question.
Tilted upwards at the end, hopeful.
“I think these are okay?” I say about my new glasses.
I don’t care, really, at all, and I thrust my AmEx at the man
in a familiar gesture, get it over with.
When I get new glasses, the floor seems
My legs look longer, too.
I throw the old glasses away. The lenses
are permanently dirty after
ten years of occasional wear.
I’ll never get them clean.