on having an anxiety attack in an empty bathtub

i didn’t               think    i could                whimper

like a dog –                                  tears and snot

dripping             toward the drain

between gasps.                             i shake

against                the curve of tub.


          the faucet drips –

     knob broken.

stop. stop.

          worms fill

the tub –             rising like water.

they burrow under                       my skin.


they aren’t                        real. they aren’t

real         but still i wonder           why

even a worm    would want

to be in               this        body.




i’m jealous of infants

          who haven’t developed

object permanence yet:

          a toy, face can disappear

behind couch, hands.


          but the baby boy isn’t

the only one to know

          when someone in the family

is gone indefinitely. he knows

          how often we die here,

how common the causes.




keep telling me what isn’t

real—my fear unfounded,

trauma ignorable, no time

to mourn, dying to become


dead like racism is dead.




the child finds an earthworm

on the sidewalk in front of

his house after the rain. he

prods it, remembers hearing

at school from another kid

how a worm split in half will

become two worms. he digs

into its center with long nail

until it becomes two, watches

to see it writhe with twice

as much life as before.




these thousands               of pink bodies

filling this ovoid space:

the worms         around my legs

squirm faster. they say

there’s no air      down here.

the worms on top say

there’s plenty.        you’re fine.

          we’re all in the same tub.




older, the boy is online and sees

a video of a man with his face

pressed into ground. he thinks

it may be harder to see the dirt

layered on our faces but it doesn’t

mean it’s not there. he sees the man

squirm under the pinning of uniformed

arms. he wishes the man could free

himself by splitting in two. he wishes

the man’s severed neck could have

become two men, twice as thriving,

rising into the sun after the storm.




lying in bed    i feel one

of the worms     in my ear,

want to stab it.


tell me the worm           isn’t real:


it won’t stop      the knife

from being metal, sharp.


Marlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit and is a poetry student in University of Michigan's MFA program. His writings have been given homes by The Journal, Word Riot, The Puritan, and CURA, among others. You can find him online at marlinmjenkins.tumblr.com and @Marlin_Poet.