My future ex-husband arrives late to the haunted mansion.
He carries a fancy cutting board under his arm.
The dream me made bread.
I’m worried about you, he whispers into my neck, but he won’t stay.
My future ex-husband and I leave the bar.
The last call lights made us sheepish and stunned.
We stand in a blizzard and stare at a banker who barfs on a snow bank.
My future ex-husband is a girl looking for a studio sublet.
Preferably in Crown Heights, Lefferts Gardens, or Bed-Stuy.
Not too far from the train.
We met on Goodreads and we eye-fuck the same deejays.
My future ex-husband and I text fight about Duran Duran.
He floats away from me at tripping speed on a puffy hand-drawn rain cloud.
His muscled thighs, dyed auburn hair, and lip gloss
make him the techni-colored star of his own movie.
My future ex-husband is a wolf.
He invites me back to his workshop by which he means lair
by which he means room with no heat by which he means cave.
Let’s take our fat hearts to the bar.
There’s a D.J. who’s got that 90s show, we should go.
Let’s stack feelings, smash them together.
Crush them until they’re gone.
Let’s rack shit up.
Spend it all on Victoria’s Secret underwear and Blow Pops.
Let’s get our little dogs and put them in baskets.
Ignore the yapping and the shit that comes through the wicker.
Let’s not do the kindergarten applications.
Definitely we’ll skip the gifted and talented test.
Let’s hang our broken hearts side by side on meat hooks.
Wait for the butcher to come and turn us into choice cuts.
I don’t need much, I think, just a trip to the Pathmark,
this steak, these eggs.
We meet at the Guitar Center and then I buy you a sangria.
On the corner of 23rd and 8th you give me the limp hug
of the no-longer-fucking.
We stand next to each other at all of the book parties.
The App is all push.
Fear of Winter
The Woolworths in our mall had a pet department,
a fully-realized wing of animals between the toys and the kids’ clothing.
In the center, there was a dim bank of aquariums,
glowing like the milky way I imagined before I fell asleep.
I stared at the fish and traced their flitting incandescent bodies
with the tip of my index finger.
I watched the teenage boy workers scoop them into plastic bags.
The puppies and kittens yipped and mewed behind a double-glass wall,
and my brother tapped at the tarantulas and lizards in their cages, willing them to
He wanted his own iguana, its hot rocks, heat lamps, and live cricket food.
On the way out, we eyed the python and stroked the guinea pigs in their pit.
We were probably on our way to Pizza Hut.
It’s likely that my parents’ weren’t speaking
and that my mother was looking for a new job.
It’s possible that it was tax season,
and that my father was so swamped at work that he slept in the office.
It may be that the heater in our car was broken
or maybe it was working just fine.
It was probably February—the month in Western New York
when the snow turns permanently brown and sky is the whitest gray.
We went to the pet department in Woolworth’s because it was warm and bright.
We went to stare and lose ourselves in the peculiar, hypnotic glow
that comes off of the entrapped and the willing, the passive and the bored.
We went to feel the edges of something else’s cage.
Fear of Water
The swimming instructor, Skip, was a pedophile, but we didn’t know that then.
We clutched at the sandpaper tiles of the pool
and kicked our bird legs against its roiling center.
Or maybe one of us knew.
I was afraid to be made to swim the length of the pool or to prove that I could float.
I was afraid of the communal showers, which were full of naked old ladies,
and I was afraid of slipping and of either losing my clothes or having them stolen or
that in some unthinking moment, I would forget to put on my bathing suit
and emerge from the locker room naked.
When Skip was arrested, they put his picture in the paper.
My parents never asked if he’d touched me.
It was assumed that I’d speak up.
My mother once had to—she told.
But confession has two parts.
There’s the telling and then the response, which has so many variables,
so many possibilities, so many stupid things to say,
and maybe just two or three good things.
My grandmother was overwhelmed, a victim herself,
two times divorced, and desperate for love.
She didn’t know what to say.
Maybe she said nothing.
Skip was muscular.
He wore cut-off jean shorts instead of a bathing suit.
He had a lot of freckles and a beard.
I felt safe the one time he tried to help me float.
He kept one of his palms on the small of my back,
and said, “That’s it. There you go. You got it.”