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bird & hand

listen:   you are an eyesore   glitzy
as a billboard   my bluelight
special baby  my-shiny-in-the-rain
but the heart is a homey summer

slippy as a raw egg on my plate 
crumped   open like a torso   my
bloody clementine    pitched 
on the tarmac   under the jizz of stars 

and the street’s gone vacant    vagrant
the lawn unmown   the lawn
a little forest a little savagery
like the one between us darling

a bird trapped in the house   
banging   and banging   and when I
opened my fist to the blueblack  
it was already gone


Dear Imperfect Stranger

                        I will never love winter, as you do
                                    though there is a case to be made
                             for being, as they call it, “in extremity”

                                                         with purple, swollen ankle
                                         or meshed in the breathy dark—

                        and how long must I wait to tell you
                                                   that I love the imperious geese
                                    how they eye me with their small black eyes
                                                                        as I cross the sloppy lawn

                                                that I love the taste of my knuckles
                                                            crammed in my very own mouth

                                                or the way my cringing cities fell
                                                                        as they buckled into flame?


                                    But let us please not speak of what is “bearable.”

                                                And thinking of home, as we were
                                                            Didn’t there used to be coffee cups
                                                        and salmon in a pan beside the stove
                                                weren’t there forks enough for guests
                                         And how many hands are holding us, do you think?

                                                   Does violence make us stronger?

                                         Because I too hate what might be called
                                                   the insistently innocent
                                                         though the truly innocent
                                                                are okay, I guess.

                                                 And how long should I wait to say
                                                                   that our injuries swell to meet us

                                                         (though I am, of course, fully intact)

                                                 that I know you rise from your bed at night
                                                          to bandage the knife in the drawer
                                                          to drink brine from the pickle jar
                                                                                 secretly, without envy
                                                                                                        or regret?

                                                 How long has your mouth been waiting

                                                                                    at exit 24B

                                                                             (skirting you slowly
                                                                             in the roundabout)

                             and what did you mean exactly when you called me “beautiful”?

           (Don’t answer that, I.S. There are some things that won’t bear answering.)

                                                 But remember our horizon line

                                                             all crinkling waves and salt—
                                    how we loved the silver weather balloon
                                                 that crumpled the air?

                                                             I have the wrong kind of wishing.

                                                             And every day my broken bones
                                                 are knitting themselves back wrong.
                                                             And though I cannot chance, as you would
                                                                                              the cold vernacular

                                                             I still want to risk it
                                                             and how many times
                                                             do I have

                                                                         to tell you this?  


Anne Shaw’s first poetry collection, Undertow, won the Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Prize and is available from Persea Books; her new collection, Shatter & Thrust, is forthcoming. Her work has also appeared or is slated to appear in Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, Barrow Street,Hotel Amerika, and Black Warrior Review. Her extended poetry project can be located online at www.twitter.com/anneshaw.