Even after frost, that clutch of pokeweed leers
from a gutted bush as I walk by, fruit thick
as a boy’s jawbone on the waning vine.
I’d like to pulp them under the heels
of my hands, drip poison through the faults
lined in my palms. When my dad dropped
like a rotted apple and rolled to another town,
I stared all summer at those dark berries skeining
what used to be his toolshed.
I wanted to fall asleep with my tongue
the same purple as the veins
in Mama’s neck when she told him you will give me
your respect, and so will your ungrateful child.
I wanted to eat. I wanted to hurt.
My college roommate and I discuss how best to slip
our parents their meds. I tell her about crushing
lithium into Mama’s homemade applesauce, still pink
with peel. When I call her for the first time in a month,
she tells me she lost her job – no more pills, no more health
insurance – so I say I won’t be home for Christmas
this year. She’ll be happier without me.
She says your first word should have been “abandon.”
In middle school, I ink lists of black-eyed things
on the hinge of my right wrist: peas and Susans,
a dead wren cleaved with maggots, the girl who sits
beside me in homeroom with her shuttered face
pale as Xanax, no makeup on the blue-black ring
my dad once called a shiner.
One day, I touch her wrist and whisper, you’re lucky.
At least they’re leaving you something that’ll heal,
a hurt you can prove if you have to.
Forgive me, black-eyed girl.
I thought I was telling the truth.
The first time I meet my girlfriend, it’s past midnight.
She flattens my back to a door, teeth at my throat.
I say, let’s count the flares from the gas wells.
There’s a place where the groundwater burns.
Let’s find it. Let’s take a candle and a match.
She says, I love you like a field full of jasmine.
I don’t say, No one could love a girl like me.
My heart is a shipwreck of ice.
Every word I know rhymes with “abandon.”