If we had worked

If we had worked
would I still be in awe of you?
the light catching in your freshly washed hair
before I wound my hands in it
the arch of your back when you’d
wrap yourself around me, sweaty and clinging
the knots and kinks between my shoulder blades
you’d find and rub out without asking
God your hands were wonders

Your pink nipples between my teeth-

We were relentless;
whole days and nights together,
spent without talking

And I wonder
did you ever find the bra I lost in your studio
that first night and
do you remember the feel of the wood grain
against your skin from fucking at the front
door the morning of my divorce
and is your type still half straight married women,
or have we both grown up by now?

Abacus

There were
months when I wouldn’t get out of bed
until you called me at 8:30
every morning.
Not because I was asleep-
I didn’t do that, sleep,
but because I would lie there all day
or at least until two
when I’d crawl out of bed, shower
rush to do all the things
that made it look like
I hadn’t been in bed all day
before my partner came home
the partner I didn’t trust
& who didn’t trust me but
how do you untangle ten years
and how did I even get here,
in these rumpled sweaty bedsheets
which wrong step in my childhood
led to this,
living in a trailer again, isolated
& dependent & wasn’t I supposed to be
all full of promise
If you didn’t call.

I’ll never be able to pay back those
endless phone calls and
all the small hundreds of ways you
kept me alive,
but I’ll keep trying,
for you and your daughters,
my goddaughters,
(and how did I earn those
wonderful creatures)
even though I know
you’d never keep score,
there aren’t ways to tally
a lifetime of favors and friendship
not even in the abacus you
keep in your brain to do math,
and yes, I will teach them their fractions,
and you will teach them to be whole, and
do you still have the cheat sheet I
made for you, when June was first learning everything,
and Nora still split the bed in half,
napping totally sideways with her
elbows in my armpit
and you were taking accounting classes
at night?

Off Linden

I was thinking
about that place where
you used to screenprint,
those old buildings, off Linden.
We’d watch the sun go down out the
wall of windows with the plants.
The air in that studio
smelled like warm dust and crayons
Old wood.

We’d get real high.
There were so many
colors
up there, the spilled inks
and stacks of t shirts
Your red hair.
You’d put on hip hop
or podcasts and I
always learned something new.

You don’t print t shirts any more, or live here, and
that shop
is in a whole other building across town now

But that was a happy place,
up there at nights
stoned, hot shirts
folded against me.

Class (warfare) of Covid-19

You know that old saying
you can take the girl out of the trailer park
but it’ll just track her the fuck back down?

I don’t know about you, but I’m real tired
of running the socioeconomic poverty trap rat race anyway.
Do not pass go;
do not collect your welfare check.

And it doesn’t seem to matter that I’ve never seen a hard drug
up close and in person
because my neighbors have
and that shit’ll get you by proximity all the same

the way we’re dumped in here, cheek to jowl,
in the trailer parks and the hollers and the goddamn west end,
the poor and the poor bastard who can’t stop, the have-nots.

And they write us off, and hold us down,
the people at the top
of the ladder while they wax nostalgic
about their hypothetical bootstraps
and hand us down crumbs
like they’re chunks of gold and we
should be grateful,
groveling across the widening gaps
of an unraveling safety net.

And maybe it’s a lesson I missed
with my cut rate education,
but where do I sign up
for some of that trickle down privilege?

I’m only asking you to gaslight me

The problem with empathy
is I know why you do
what you do to me

The problem with empathy
is I already think of myself
as a burden

The problem with empathy
is I let you walk all over me
if it fixes you

The problem with empathy
is I accept emotional abuse
as love

The problem with empathy
is I was raised not to have needs

So how could you possibly meet them

Luxury Vinyl

I’ve spent three days
trying to find a way
to tell Upper Middle Class White Client
that installing luxury vinyl planks
in his entitlement flip
isn’t essential.
He thinks
working in an empty house
can’t possibly
break quarantine.
The people in masks at the gas station
might not agree.
And maybe I’m hooking up your
double vanities
but that doesn’t make me a plumber.
I could stop turning up,
but there’s always someone else,
and if Shelter-in-Place
is violated
it might as well be me
gets paid.

inadequate

I thought about
posting you a letter
or walking it the
fourteen minutes
to your door

but it gets dark early
in november.

I considered phoning but I
only called once back when
and I’ve lost track
who’s not talkin’ to who
but I

debated every day
what and how to say and
when and if you’d
wanna hear;

all I know is after
three months texting
“can we be friends”
feels inadequate.

I hit send.