In the morning a storm like breath dimming in dread, twists like silver around fingers, a bit too tight so it leaves a mark, almost stops
blood but faintly quivers back–
larger like smoke from a house fire–blacker–heavier like colonial brick. Part of surviving is to keep moving, grow up
& ignore the distance where
dogs sometimes bark–most people will try to write a novel without using their hands, praying to a sack of human bones dug up
in the sand, asks WebMD if
we’re hypochondriacs, if a man’s hand at the base of a woman’s vulva is haunted with alien symbols, is a weapon salting infertility,
is an abandoned Victorian decomposing
in Louisiana heat, his hand over her mouth stales her desire for anything, her mind sets an ultimatum: Heaven or Brooklyn? When she
gets home she tweets #StruggleCity
& cuts an apple like sun lighting the holes between maple branches, a voice wafting a million years homeless like burning garbage the shape of
woman’s first body, a hole drilled down
the middle of a long damaged earth.
Mother in Law
Most things mean nothing
What is your favorite time of day? A separate reality Coming into being Silverish & freezing As a foul abandoned By it’s mother & tasting Fresh cherries for the
Have you seen the dead?
What can’t the body do?
What was the first word you spoke? A shed in the woods holds Roots deep as the sky
But not the heart
Sometimes ghosts eat the hands Of the living Covering their tongues In decadent moonlike mystery
Masked as worship
Driving to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring They did the math: the road was torn up & underneath the roads, there were cities where boats dug at sand, where sailors wanted to be
thrown head first. A lover told me poverty is like a swan—dangerous
but too beautiful to go unwanted. There were three sisters in that car looking out the windows past the glass, wanting to get their money’s worth out
of every episode. They were surprised they were still on live syndication.
Before she died, their grandmother told them a love story: a man had come into her parent’s restaurant in a navy suit & hair already the color of dust
& ordered a grilled cheese. He described three star-crossed lovers
who had gotten lost in a forest. They fell in love wrong like moths circling a dwarf star, enveloped by rose thorns, each puncture a dead lover. Have you
ever made love before? he asked her. The rest was history.
They, too, wanted history. It was there in the middle of the street, just passing the double-yellow lines. It stood with open arms & smiled
for the longest time. Reader, can you see the crush of their minutes?
Can you see their lame bodies?
Every time I listen to D
in my car down route 80, I stand naked
as a fetus in the road as a teen learning how to insert
a tampon for the first time.
Walking down 5th Ave in Sunset, I hear the young boys in my gym class, again
say the word fags.
I remember the ring of ringing and all the sounds ringing off the walls,
a broken phone.
Sometimes strangers undress me like a dog in a pink raincoat, address attached.
Do I walk with my keys out like rusted nails?
Or do I pretend to talk on the phone,
bring someone with me as live pepper spray?
Or do I bomb my cunt until it floods out
teeth, a full stove?
In the azure light cutting jagged spaces
between the pine trees, your morning
hands are paint brushes bursting with heavenly light, yellow
teeth sinking into white peaches, juice dripping out.
It is only this moment that stays.
Before your body begins to age
again, turning into something else—incomprehensible
to me like a child who hasn’t learned hot, who hasn’t
If your body could stay untouched by time the word fag, the sound of betrayal
in the ocean beating as a clogged heart.
When I bring my hands back up, they are covered in a white film—I
dug so far in the sand that I reached wind,
newly wet on either side, identical trees lined
like guard dogs
stretching to the eyes’ eternity— there is only a dark pinpricked cosmos,
a nothing worse than hell.
We live as if the earth is already dead.
© Joanna C. Valente
Joanna C. Valente is a human who received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press). Some of her work appears in The Paris-American, The Destroyer, The Atlas Review, El Aleph Press, La Fovea, The 22 Magazine, and others. In 2011, she received the American Society of Poet’s Prize. She founded and currently edits Yes, Poetry, and is the Copyeditor and a staff writer for Luna Luna Magazine. She resides in Brooklyn, New York. More can be found at http://joannavalente.com