Think of those dumb letters slipped in the gills
of her locker freshman year.
She was the toughest catch,
the dearest homecoming queen-to-be,
Remember when twenty-six cats slept under the skirt
of our trailer, behind the front steps
where the hem was torn.
No one wants to be known as the kid with fleas
jumping off his MC Hammer-pants.
When my dad disappeared he died quickly in me.
And when his outline was pressed
into the leafy floor, half
eaten in those three years, of a naked October
forest, he awoke in my lungs
and has never left.
He was awkward. I think he sits in my bones
and makes me awkward, too.
My mother says
I’m growing into his face; though I took her eyes
I can’t give mine to my own.
The eyes come from the mother.
I am okay. I willingly give up this body, like a sexual act.
Its delicate badges, the ease of bruises blooming like spring;
I would rather dress myself in the river
and its repulsive currents. I’d rather be a river
that carves its way again and again,
and never settles enough
to have a clear face picked
from the day’s criminal lineup.
Wear the narrow stories of me on your tongue
if you must.
Leave me the roots. Leave me the forest
floor. I’ll give you anything else,