When you drive you don’t talk
so I pretend your mind is the Polly Pocket
I longed for all of 1993—those T.V. girls
so cool with their pink pocket dollhouses.
I would snap your brain open to investigate
each room aerially. Maybe find tiny
bob-haired girls you never mentioned,
a deleted text, your slyest lie, other plastic clues.
But you insist the silence is due to men’s
inability to multi-task. It’s true,
my mind moves like passing grooves
on a guardrail at highway speeds. Forgive me,
but the uncertainties are endless. Like,
is multitasking a skill written into DNA?
Are those T.V. girls married with children
now, or was child acting too much pressure
and they cracked? Do you wish I were more
like them—blonder, smaller? Will I ever
erase Polly from my psyche? And how
close are we to crashing? Is silent driving
a sign of romantic doom? And if we all
stopped on the off-ramps to have a BBQ,
would that be what world peace feels like?
And is love just a replacement
for having the answers to all of the questions?
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*** ** ***
IN OUR BED, ALONE
Outside our apartment two owls coo from separate trees, reaching.
I’m up from a dream where you left me strapped to a surgery table,
you had pressing shit to do, couldn’t be troubled to stay. This is to say,
you’ve been filling me with such nothing, parts of me are falling off.
In this dream where you left me, I’m strapped to a surgery table
and strange men discuss how best to remove my left breast, infected
by what you’ve been giving me— such nothing. Part of me falls off
on the floor. The men don’t notice and I don’t scream, I only plead
with the strangers—deciding how best to remove my infected breast—
to stop, to wait, it’ll heal on its own, I won’t let it spread
to the core. But the men don’t notice and I don’t scream. Please
roll over in bed and look straight through my eyes to inside my head
and don’t stop. If we wait, it won’t heal on its own, it will spread between
us like cracks on a frozen lake, swelling our mouths shut like old windows.
Roll over in bed. Look straight through my eyes to inside my head
and you’ll see I am here lying open, waiting for you to come back
unfrozen. But the window between us swells shut like an old mouth.
Outside our apartment two owls reach from separate trees, cooing.
Do you see? I am open. Lying here waiting for us to come back
from this shit. We could press through the trouble. We could stay. Say it.
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*** ** ***
A PANDEMIC OF BOATS
Some time ago a boat started to grow around me—wooden
beam here, curved slat there—without my notice, so I sat
& floated farther, farther out to sea. Water knocks on the slick
wood, salty & calm. I can’t say how long I’ve been here, but I see
other small boats around, ebbing, people counting
on their fingers. We’re a strange fleet. We are here, & there
is the land. Light glints off the water with the sick-
pretty tint of a late-night computer screen. Somedays I cast a line
down to see what I might find: aluminum cans, mucky
reports, a faded to-do I wrote from before. We have lost
our knack for estimating how much ocean there is between us
& land. A boat near to mine has a child learning
violin, I hear him practicing—minor triad, perfect
triad—so I know I’m still alive. Sometimes there’s yelling
from a few boats down, parents I guess & a baby crying,
I can’t pray so I sing, hoping they might hear. It’s easier
to watch the people decorate their masts—strings of beads
& colored fabrics—than to watch the shore. We are all watching
the shore. Even the flock of seabirds that has formed
near me (I read somewhere they’re called a rookery,
a rookery of albatross), they’re wading & waiting. It’s easier
when someone chuckles, from far off, just a chuckle
that swims from boat to boat, the people silent smiling then
grinning then giggling, then we’re all laughing,
even the rookery, all laughing & watching for the land
to laugh back.
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*** ** ***
There is a field of briars,
& in the field there is a well
& in the well there is a voice.
What if I squint, & see nothing?
I reply. No echo,
I could run screaming,
but it’s after noon, & my sister’s
been conferring with her demons
all morning –blue-lipped,
muttering their slick
Deny to the death
they tell her.
at her freckles, her thinning
hair, she paces her kitchen
linoleum, she tries again.
I’m not high, she says.
I squeeze my red eyes,
I press my hot face,
I don’t cry. Then tell me
again, I reply.
My big sis, who used to fight
bad-guys for me— ghosts & warlocks
knew her name. Big sis, who I called mama
more than once. If Meth was the bad-guy,
I’d push a blade to his throat til he broke,
I’d draw a bath and watch him drown
in a foot of water. But, the bad-guys
are in her now.
Tell me again!
I yell at the well, but it’s no
exorcism, no saints or rosaries, just me
versus my sister’s slick new team. Outside
her kids echo the sound of sirens in the distance,
throw their voices like lassos at the sky.
& the well in the field
is a liar. & the well in the field
should mind its damn
business. And the well
rises now, hard to our eyes
with a thousand stones
we had been drowning
with & in & though drowning
now our hands are on the spring.
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Lizabeth Yandel is a writer and musician based in Los Angeles and originally from Chicago. She is currently a poetry MFA student at UC Irvine and a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal. Her poems are either published or forthcoming in Rattle Magazine, Lumina Journal, Popshot Magazine, Nashville Review, BOOTH, The Pinch Journal, and The Los Angeles Review.
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