A Case Study and Experiment: A Series of Poems

The illustration is an abstract drawing of a multi-hue brown mountain with trees running up the left side. Bright green and yellow rays are coming down from the sky, which is mostly turquoise.
Image by Camille Coy

A CASE STUDY AND EXPERIMENT

The only fight we can’t resolve: Beyoncé—
if she’s doing good
or more harm than.
We sling articles and lyrics around
our kitchen, breaking
dishes—cracking our Chemex—of course, it was an accident.
We gnash our teeth
and tighten
our mouths and grind
our jaws between claim and rebuttal and go to bed angry
silently running
through everything we said
and didn’t say about Beyoncé, making sure our backs don’t touch.

Soon, my thighs and your thighs will strain under the rhythm
of our looping mouths
that can’t stop asking: who bows down?

***

Let’s pretend to be sexy for just an hour:
forget our daily exhaustions:
you on your knees scrubbing tile
and my tongue tripping, discontent.

Let’s pretend we didn’t study Irigaray—
pretend that we’re not stuck in a theory
of separation when we say Baby, I’m sorry—
we’ve been so busy.

Let’s pretend we don’t flinch—
no need to apologize for the music
calling me your bitch
from the passing cars
outside our bedroom window.

Let’s say for an hour
this is all we want.

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UPON CONDEMNATION, GUINEVERE SENDS WORD TO PENELOPE

Someone saw. Ripped my bed apart, found

his blood—smelled him

in my hair. Someone told.

 

I know you didn’t let that body of yours stay 20 years cold,

and I know he’s gone again.

We know the order of things—

 

this is how the table stays round. But you kept your secrets

so beautifully. I’ll die tomorrow with a tight mouth. I’ll die

 

in flames the way his eyes burn

hollow roses into my chest.

Cover your white shoulders

with my ash and love

violently for me.

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I’M SORRY I THOUGHT YOU DIDN’T COUNT

I used to inhale pheromones
on those muscles and veins that twist together, stretching to the jaw,
of women I said I wanted because I could have them without telling—
no requests for eulogies
if no one knows how well you know a mouth.

Lauren lies buried outside
Oxford, Mississippi.
She keeps sending me letters
through memories of soft palms
and prom dresses.
I should have gone with her,
but we were the same.

Dear, I can’t embellish
my guilt enough.

You knew I should’ve drowned
because I wouldn’t have believed
in rain if rain did not exist, either.

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