Before, After, During | Tufts Observer
Poetry & Prose

Before, After, During

Are you just someone new I might wake up to for a while?

The touch of your fingertips

a spell to conjure worth

from wasted breath

I used to lick your pelvic tattoos 

expecting the blue skin to taste

different

I’ve never been good at igniting tenderness

fighting sad with worse sad

using the bone of one whale to harpoon another

isn’t beautiful

The bloom of your cheeks 

like all living things 

had a season 

I lived here once

I need not return 

Would you do it in the woods?

I have learned to throw myself

down and pin back my own shoulders

split the black lace on purpose as I 

rip 

Between the unseen 

bird’s sweet beckoning 

I swim 

down myself

A river filled 

with thick cotton rags

Dry as licking

cinnamon and sand

You swim behind me

and whisper wetly

I taste skinny dipping

in a glass of bourbon

Brass knuckles and blush

Pop stars eating poptarts

Finger fuckin’ good

I bet I

taste like your mother does

like a small knife

taste like your favorite cock-

tail spiked with antifreeze

Taste like you can try it 

love it 

but it will kill you

After

you slouch spent against the rock asking why

do you love me?

And my anger shrunk to an egg 

I could swallow or drown

You’ll wear yourself out you said 

I’m sorry I was drifting

Maybe I could be expelled from my body

follow a few feet behind it

like a scolded child

No better way to curb my addiction (to what?)

than to martyr

to dance 

in ankle-deep glass

I was lovely for a moment wasn’t I?

the second before a scratch turns bloody

the time before water turned lands muddy

Why how do you sleep so fucking much?

The way you curl up

too big even on the guest room bed

too tall you always lie

in a diagonal

And rub

your chin against my thigh 

the most endearing most ungraceful vibration of air

I dreamt you were with him

you’d wake up and tell me

And myself

I dream of nothing too often

Rows of ovens unbolting

one by one their large 

bald concentric throats

Or dirt’s blunt bitterness prying 

my mouth open 

to lump itself inside

sprouting pale roots from limp limbs

And me grinning all the while

as though I kept catastrophe

cupped tight in the heart 

All selves are quartered flayed severed 

into fillets

plated to be saved

sliced well beneath the belly’s protrusion

I dreamt I was a fish

receiving c-section

I’d never wake up and tell you

———————————————————————————————————————

Before, After, During

Are you just someone new I might wake up to for a while?

The touch of your fingertips

a spell to conjure worth

from wasted breath

I used to lick your pelvic tattoos 

expecting the blue skin to taste

different

I’ve never been good at igniting tenderness

often fight sad with worse sad 

and using the bone of one whale to harpoon another 

isn’t beautiful

The bloom of your cheeks

like all living things

had a season

I lived here once

I need not return

Would you do it in the woods?

I have learned to throw myself down

Pin back my own shoulders1

Split the black lace on purpose as I 

Rip 

Between the unseen bird’s sweet beckoning 

I swim down myself

A river filled 

with thick cotton rags

Dry as licking

cinnamon and sand 

You swim just behind me

and whisper 

wetly 

I taste skinny dipping

in a glass of bourbon

Brass knuckles and blush

Pop stars eating poptarts

Finger fuckin’ good

I bet I

taste like your mother does. Like a small 

knife. Taste like your favorite cock-

tail spiked with antifreeze. 

Taste like you can try it. You can love it. 

But it will kill you. 

After,

you slouch spent against the rock asking why

do you love me

And my anger shrunk to an egg 

I could swallow or drown

You’ll wear yourself out, you said

I’m sorry I was drifting

Maybe I could be expelled from my body

Follow a few feet behind it

like a scolded child

No better way to curb my addiction (to what?)

than to martyr

to dance 

in ankle-deep glass

I was lovely for a moment wasn’t I?

Like blood in a vial

You were too

Why how do you sleep so fucking much?

The way you curl up

Too big even on the guest room bed

Too tall you lie in a diagonal out of habit

And rub

Your chin against my thigh 

The most endearing most ungraceful vibration of air

I dreamt you were with him

You’d wake up and tell me

And myself

I dream of nothing too often

Rows of ovens unbolting

One by one their large 

bald concentric throats

Or dirt’s blunt bitterness prying 

my mouth open 

to lump itself inside

to sprout pale roots from limp limbs

And me grinning all the while

as though I kept 

catastrophe cupped tight in the heart 

all selves are quartered, flayed, severed into

fillets, plated to be saved

sliced well beneath the belly’s protrusion

I dreamt I was a fish 

receiving c-section

I’d never wake up and tell you

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