YOU WERE TELLING ME ABOUT VAMPIRE BATS
in the black light of our bedroom—the true
communists who gift gullets of blood to
whosever muzzle tapers open like a cone.
My eyes set on your throat, the shadows
and folds that bulge around the split breath
of your voice. Rarely do I see it, sound
bobbing in consonant-vowel patterns
through each flap of mucosa-lined glottis,
the wet epithelial columns lifting
up like the slow wave of a wing. I trace
your plodded stops and gritty ms, the high
is and low os smoother, subtler than water
swallowed, as if you were made only for this
ebb. I heed hungrily what tones pitch off your lips.
THE SUN SET AT 4:45 LAST NIGHT. I GOT SCREEN FATIGUE.
after Donika Kelly
In this blearing blue-dark I am a body trying
to make sense of its devotions: to pump, to swill,
to excretion & aggregate, to the slough
& sweat of skin, the burp that heaves sudden
up my throat like wind stirring the last oak
leaf from its late autumn perch. In each
eye the night salts sleep the morning then
dissolves. On & on I repeat my breathing,
the slight curl & flick of my pebbled tongue
guiding saliva & crumbs from the fat
nook of my cheek. Were I not to bite, my nails
would talon into chalked ribbon, not to cut,
my hair would gnarl into nest. Alive
I am many an unbottleable motion, the suck
& spew of variegated cell mouths, that gristled
chorus of ebb & flow, in & out, the round up
& down of sneeze, swallow, shiver, blink.
O, when I am open, I am filled—fluid.
O, when I am closed, I concentrate & wait to be.
Stet my parent’s green
CR-V, your old high
school parking lot slated
for demo next week,
the dumpsters behind
which you first learned
the slick inside of another’s
mouth, the gum-sludged glitter
of the rain & scattered end-
-of-the-year trash’s mixed
between which I now sit
while you pace & shake.
Stet your face, the halogen-
angst grinding down your cheek.
Stet my hand’s reach to pad
a sweat-wet stroke along
your jaw, the rough blush
that blotch-bleeds like a tree-
nut allergy under your chin
down the wrinkle-ribbed curves
etched on your throat as you
tense away. Stet my eyes,
their 3 a.m. compromise,
the words I unturn from
my phlegm-clearing ahem:
you can let me in. Stet
the brash rash of your laugh,
its upwards slit, the bit
curl of my lip holding in
breath, the shivers of mid-June
fog skittering on my teeth.
Stet your low lean-back
against the bumper to join
me, the heavy creature
of your skull rounding out
my shoulder’s bony nest,
the plateau of your pulse
slinking up through my neck,
the sink, the lift of your lungs
its terse mumbled
apology. Stet this mess.
What the cicadaed night says
we couldn’t ever change
even if we would.
SELF-PORTRAIT IN SHADOW FEAT. PARTNER, OCTOBER FLOWERS, MISSOURI SKY, BAG OF CHIPS
If you won’t listen to me listen
to the touched and touching earth
its pocks of crinkled Lay’s filigree
its sky the flatline between dry and wet
each bloomed scent unspooling to winter
If you ever were to ask to marry me this
scattered likeness would serve as my yes
the lethed until of my signature
Author Bio: Grace Gardiner received her MFA in Writing from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is a former poetry editor for The Greensboro Review and intern for Persea Books. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Mom Egg Review, SWWIM Every Day, and LETTERS. She’s currently pursuing her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri, Columbia, where she lives with her partner, the poet Eric Morris-Pusey, and one too many brown recluses.