a woman cornered finds a tooth to sink even
if they’ve been whittled down for others’ comfort.
I knew I truly hurt my mother when she held the belt.
I crumbled watching her let loose silent tears in search of comfort.
praxis creates the muscle for self-care. she wasn’t always
a cherry stick lit hospital; she sucked her thumb for comfort.
she wasn’t a heavy drinker. Enjoyed a nice wine. a spritzer.
don’t recall a lot of water bottles. she chewed ice to my discomfort.
we were all as sensitive as my teeth. three cancers in one house.
the other? two and the reason I see geminis and seek comfort
because we all get a bad wrap eventually, I try to show my true
nature first. don’t ask about my bite if you want comfort
ask Her. see if the wind howls a cheat-code for my nerves. she
gives what I try to- patience for your comfort.
if I show you my browser history, the amount of receipts tethered
to the corner down the street, will you show me your comfort?
maybe I’ll learn something. give me an interview to try, an error
bottled, a carrier blood vessel sifting through clouds to your comfort.
if not off; if not away- the ledge as fashion statement. ignore
the spaces seen through me. all my greats have this comfort.
the bruise we joke about being invisible; the many ways we learn
to clean a cut: I lay by the pool sweating in discomfort
The Headless Horsewoman
in another poem from another
world ago I mention
an axe in my face.
I never told you about the hands that threw it
there. funny story, a woman with a raincloud
for a head actually believed her mother
when she was told I was a dirty
motherboard. when I survived her
I asked of what another bark-toned
nose like mine did to hers.
her head dispersed. I don’t know if
my eyes melted but I could feel my face
painting my toes red. told my momma;
she said my mouth was closed and sent
me back to her- I asked the headless woman
what happened. she said I blew on her
too hard and wielded her sword.
I would’ve popped her but there was nothing
there. I had no weapon, no tools
from another poem with an axe in my face
Pack A Day
She sits on the patio holding a dollar’s worth of life.
or maybe tapping the opposite; the cool breeze
meant to air out the house splitting the smoke
between grass and couch is more honest. If I
asked for a list of names leaving her face drifting
in furrows she’d giggle. somewhere an ungrateful
farmer became a tool rusting in the rain. Gods laugh
at those who think themselves lightning; caress
the scorched earth with two fingers knowing
somewhere the soil is still good.
the scorched earth caresses Her with two fingers; still,
the soil is good. She is held on the patio. sitting. a dollar’s
worth of life. or maybe believes god is laughing at Her
lightning. the cool breeze slamming the door
between the living room and outside is just as honest.
being outside reminds her She’s free to cry but a halt
cannot exist where rust will take its place in the rain.
when I asked for the location of hands to be crafted
into good luck charms she giggled.
I’d drape the living room with the hands of bill
collectors like christmas lights just to hear more giggles.
next, the palms promised as thrones - two fingers
snipped; shoved into the scorched earth - She’ll caress
during the rebirth of the good / die wicked. the wild die quiet.
the scorned and depleted are born outside waiting for rain.
She is a patio holding a dollar for safe keeping for life.
at least natural disasters are honest. torches have
no reason to complain to lightning.
ever ask a fool the difference between a solar beam
and a strike of lightning? She asked me this; nervously I giggled.
one has already lived fully, the other, spur of the moment; both
are honest. one’s impact is based solely of that, a force, the other’s
not seen as bad or good. just a necessary experience, a part of life.
I guess both are, huh. you smell that? finally, rain.
somewhere an ungrateful farmer is putting a rabbit’s foot to shame -
his hand dangling around my neck as I play in the rain. my mother
sits on the patio waiting for a second strike of lightning. She is a god.
a majician. almost feral; testing one of her theories about life.
when she finished her cigarette and nothing happened
she giggled. I ran to the patio excited, how’d I do? my first
attempt at flying. you did good. even when she lied, he was honest.
in her eyes I won’t always be honest. I don’t think she minded
if it meant I wouldn’t have to be a souvenir in the rain,
or dead to be good, passionate without the lightning.
to be - to be the face - to be in the face of fire
and softly giggle. to be - to be in the eye
of any storm and still in awe of life.
the cool breeze slamming the door between the living
room and the child who smells like outside is just as honest
as them laughing like a god discovering lightning.
being outside reminds them they’re free to be dirty
and laugh about it in the rain. they tell their mother
they already showered. she giggles.
the child soaking the carpet doesn’t make
them good or bad. it makes them young.
She remembers that life.
Joshua Merchant is a native of East Oakland exploring what it means to be human as an intersectional being. They've had the honor to witness their work being published in 580Split, Eleven Eleven, and The Rootwork Journal.