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I am the last american wolf
I am scrubbing lavender lipstick
off the bathroom’s mirror
I don’t want to kill I am
staying quiet in a field of bodies
with missing skulls
my horoscope says I should wake up
at 3 am and eat pie so I do
a woman in the elevator
hands me a twenty she is sorry
for all the blood on the sheets
her husband’s green robe
I am sorry too
I only smell the weeds
the hot air coming from clouds
a group of wolves ready
to run through the bones
of a tired flower
I know I told you I couldn’t feel
a thing but I stayed up
researching the width
of an elk’s thigh bone
a theory involving snowfall
on the Red Planet
wild wild wild I am
driving towards an endless
spring this place
between the insects
and the bottom of cups I am
not strong enough yet
• • •
Put your hands on it
What angers me is you put your hands
around red skylines. Held tight to trunks
of blue mountains until I became the dirt
underneath. My words, where no oxen are,
my words like clouds stripped of rhetoric and rain.
This unwanted smoke. Some noise behind the door.
This song of gibbons. Because listen: if my words are ugly
then shooting stars. The solar nebula.
Even in the dark. People rearrange every part
The morning it rained, you left for Klamath Falls.
I saw the loneliness of edge, columbine branch
made holy by tusks of beetles. By love-
like burden. Unless you can stay yourself, leave.
I touched the sides of every light bulb,
I started carrying names of abandoned bridges
and heard the woods fill with bricks. I’d run
down the halls of stolen cities and feel the scatter
of you coming back into the empty buildings.
I’m in Chicago. You’re my lyric. I’m in Minneapolis.
You’re the ending. We’re in Seattle. I hardly know myself.
People tell me my words are beautiful
and I turn into nine planets shaking.
I peel bark off the sun. My words the sun.
Let them soak into tree stumps. My words a stump.
My words 24 feet in diameter. My words the dance floor,
a bowling alley. Let them stick to the breath, to the dust,
to the black hole ripping herself apart. In San Francisco
my words become a limb of some rotten sycamore.
They spill like bobby pin coins, like ball-point erasure;
watch. These words melt with New York City.
I am tired of the river inside, I have more paint than walls.
I was sitting on the train and you were gone.
Every day I try not to cry into mouths of honeybees
stuck together, my words like dirt locked in the stream.
Morning after morning, I burn toast to remember trees.
I take my stanzas into fields of frozen buffalo,
how it is easy to follow every spillway of language.
I push my verse through the ugliness of windmills,
every hallway of repeated hymn. These words this hurt,
this lyric you leaving.
I follow the veins of dying wasps into the ugliest parts of me.
Sarah Helen Bates has an MFA in Poetry from Northern Michigan University and currently teaches at Southern Utah University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Pinch, Best New Poets 2017, Seneca Review, the Normal School, and Hotel Amerika, among others. Her chapbook, Tender, is available from Diagram/New Michigan Press.
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