dying blood and patience,
you change your eyelids
because they could not hide enough.
thin skin sits on the diving board,
bikini and cigarette.
you follow the prophet’s truck
and convince him to run for you.
did some part of you feel the guilt
when he did?
time locked arms with him
to keep him close, close.
bullet met soft inner tissue,
pink matter on pink chanel.
the fault belongs to no one
but the blame shifts with the wind.
distended belly and skinny legs,
dressing your living dolls
in complementary patterns and colors.
you put them on show
for the audience you stole them from.
please tell them to be who they will.
when foreign children point out
blue eyes and brown skin,
leave the squared torso and
broken nose alone.
she will carry that hate in her breast
but still bottle feed it to her daughter.
wreckage of skin and bone, you
lie limp on the mattress
in the southwest bedroom.
your beloved knew what he was
because he married you in the hospital.
perfect union of life and death,
you ask him why as he sponges
your neck, caved chest, thighs.
tell him to leave you there
to drown in your own lungs.
he washes your hair and
removes your extensions.
holy meticulous patience.
is this what you imagined love would feel like?
messenger of small town prophecy,
you twist the devils away
for the length of a pirouette,
then shriek for water.
barren mother, pick up the child
that not even the ravens touch
and give her the penny she deserves.
put her in your driveway castle
and pick up the next child.
bright skull shining under green ceiling,
the guilt lines your stomach after the
hate, pride, lust, have passed.
and on the seventeenth day without
food, god made her honest.
twin sister of familial piety,
you told the executioner to taste
his own blood, dance with his own blade,
and he did.
resenting mirror and mother abandoned you
in the desert, summoning vultures
with a seance.
an ambulance without light or sound
leaves a glistening trail of funerals.
give me the night to mourn,
I will pack up your body tomorrow.
Excavation (Dwelling, Circa 1959)
This is a kitchen.
This is a wall.
This is termite trails.
This is cinderblock atrophying purple because monsoons won't let it be. Industrial radio in the
shape of a toolbox and dust settles on dust. The floors peel away. Death comes back to visit. Dog
piss gags tattooed smokers.
How did they live like this?
I don’t know.
The men open all doors and windows, let the gangrene feel fresh air. The house seems bigger
without drywall and linoleum, and I only see me inside the warped window. Cigarette butt on the
sill turns me red, orange, to gray again. I cannot speak, the grief is not mine. The southwest
bedroom gets fourteen extra inches while I inhale the dust of someone else's life.
The fruit trees are dying, except for the apples. The branches hang heavy and drop ugly worm-
filled fists to the wet dirt and weeds. Little bloated corpses melting in the heat, sweet cider
stench. Don't take away the apple tree. I pull up fragrant carrots planted by a lover
in winter, and eat them with grit and detritus because the pipes in the bathroom were poisoned.
And the water has been shut off anyway.
I saved sunflower seeds from the funeral and swallowed three whole. Grow out my eyes and
ears, I whispered, but they didn't listen. Soil of the gut killed two of them. Only one grew,
prickly stalk over hot tongue, holding my mouth open to the sky. For three months I turned with
the sun, back and forth. Repeat the motion, wait for the sun. When the rains stopped, I cut off its
head and smashed its brains on the glass table. A smatter of seeds saved for the end of this life,
and the beginning of the next.
The breeze smelled like cake mix
and peeling bark and death. That spring
killed what grew in the winter,
and summer burned the evidence.
Sister bakes every night
the recipes of dead queen mothers
that call for more butter and blood
than we ever had.
We scavenge for ingredients,
scraggly buzzards scooping up
squashed snakes and beer cans.
My throat is full of canyon tree frogs
who waited to escape when
we were finally alone in the
rusty gorge behind the new house
(that is still not our house)
Desert flood takes Sister back to
a homeland I cannot see,
and I sink in the mud, coyotes tasting
my skin before retching up
bile and poison.
I birthed myself from the stagnant earth
after gunshots swallowed bright lights.
Sacrifice their honesty so
I can walk again, an unfair trade.
I hitchhiked home, or
somewhere that smelled like it,
on the backs of half-known others.
A sheep in wolf’s clothing,
don’t tell Sister or the ancestors
will hear. French curses are not
tender, but cloying. Our bakery
sells its cake mix for cheap,
but I’ll bury myself in the Seine
before I try it again.
The first line of this piece is taken from the title of Diane Seuss's poem, "Do you remember that spring? The breeze smelled like cake mix."
Haley Davis is a pseudo punk from Northern Arizona who loves language. She is an undergraduate in her last semester, majoring in English with Literature and Creative Writing certificates, minoring in Spanish, and taking Arabic for fun. Beyond her academic interests, Haley likes buying plants she doesn’t have space for, being outside, and watching Twin Peaks religiously. In the summer of 2016, she began focusing more seriously on her poetry, and she’s glad her work has paid off. This is her first publication.