stealing milkweed

I accept the shots with grace,

though I wonder if she can see it on my face:

give Anya my regards; I can’t imagine

finding my husband dead, overdosed

on our home’s floor

bad drugs on the market, my partners keep saying

but there’s so much death lately,

I can’t hear a damn thing


hiding in the other room,

I listen to them talk 

about the man’s tragedy

in my sleep, he cracks my chest

apart with grief; this operation will be brief

I can give him the pump he needs—

it wasn’t his heart that failed, they say,

but the lungs

still, they harvested what they could

if it had been my father 

I would have preserved his organs

in jars

I would have scattered his teeth

under every pillow

and slept, one eyelid split

waiting for the fairy charade

from my childhood

so long as he returned


I escape the station with little said

and I take my old route home

tires spitting rocks on the dirt road

where I experienced my first heartbreak

(that boy is lucky I didn’t push him into the ragweed)

and when I walked, hollow, back home, 

I collapsed into my father’s arms

finally cried to the rhythm 

of his callus-cracked hands 

patting my back


I meet my sister’s cat in the driveway

and I meet my mother in the sunroom

she doesn’t ask, this time, if I’m happy

living alone in Kalamazoo now

the answer to that quest.

alternates daily. Instead, I tell

her about emergency board meetings

about childhood studies & personalities

my new plan, I tell her, is to study

mental illness pathologies

I don’t mention how I sobbed at the stat:

men with borderline personality disorder

are twice as likely to commit suicide than women


I haven’t seen the color green even once

in Kalamazoo—

Plainwell is pea & emerald monochrome

(that’s probably why I still consider it home

and when I fall back into the pool,

I remember last summer, how I’d sit

feet dipped in water, writing poetry

sunning & singing—how much of this year

have I wasted crying

or flushed away with sleeping aids

so as not to experience the pain

of living?

I’m tired of people saying they’re worried about me


at noon, I find myself across my father

he doesn’t notice how I stare

and he doesn’t know about the nightmares,

screaming at cardiologists for fucking up

bread & butter procedures

because now Kevin doesn’t have a dad

I still can’t comprehend

how he made it to work this morning,

made it to work without collapsing

at the sight of our ambulances—

what happens if he has to transport

a patient to his father’s death site?

there’s a reason I tread lightly in South Haven


when I hand my mother the scissors

she doesn’t hesitate to help me lose the weight

and my housemate doesn’t even notice

when I return home five hours late

I’ve never been so aware of my womb’s


I’ve never been so aware of each 


in the house

how the edges would shame

my skin into melted butter

I’m not worried about this bleeding hunger

and I’ve got an emptiness no baby could fill


I message my brother

guess he called our father,

upset about an unknown number

an unknown caller; days after this strange event,

the hush-hush suicide of his old high school friend

I remember when that boy wanted to take

our sister to his senior prom

he got a foreign exchange student deported instead

my brother didn’t answer that unknown call

another case of guilt-spiked-grief

could he have talked him away from the ledge?

I don’t know what it’s like to lose

friends to suicide

but I know what it’s like to lose

to semi-trucks

I’m not very good at comforting

maybe I’ll say it anyway:

at least he didn’t die

crushed under a four-door vehicle, in torturous agony

or riding motorcross, a skull fracture & head bleed no helicopter ride could remedy— 

do you remember what Mr. Grubaugh would say in AP Psychology

about the biopsychosocial theory?

multiple factors contribute to building tolerance to pain

just like how a bee sting hurts more when you’re five 

than when you’re life-experienced and fifty

building tolerance

but then again, 

I’ve lost a full-grown man to one of those before too

the face of his fiancé still haunts me

whites of her eyes popping & vulnerable

what does cancelling a wedding feel like?

I can only hope I never know the answer to that

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