THIS TIME THAT YEAR
I sprayed a perfume called Le Petit
behind my knees and under my breasts.
On the couch in my mother’s house,
where she slept through her diagnosis,
where I threw up steak nachos,
you couldn’t believe even my nipples
smelled like me. It Must Be Something
You Eat, you said. Maybe, I lied,
turned off and obsessed with the way you bit them,
my perfunctory buttons, perfumed for you,
your teeth reaching farther than your lips like a horse for a peppermint,
the bucking of me, the barbed soprano.
I lilted back to rest.
The nipples I prepared for you then, this time that year,
have served me well. They practically claim social
space, and they take to hardening for pictures, to sheer
shirts for your successors. Yes, they have changed,
the right one now with a steel bar through it, the left flat
in heat. Babies who are not mine still root,
long for a cream miracle, I say I Have
Nothing For You. Nothing There.
They are still salmony, dotted in raised, paler polyps.
You may or may not recognize them,
if given a sample,
and I would not be hurt.
I can recognize my mother’s left nipple
anywhere. Just the one, having known it my whole life.
It’s darker and wider than mine. A pomegranate, a sand dollar,
a collection of full blood moons.
When they buried 1.2lbs of her,
the lost right breast, sister to its sister,
the diagnosis having caught up and raved,
the breast, but more so its face: the nipple,
my first plate, fertile coin of her significance.
Where did it go, the small body and its mouth?
What beetles fed from it, what weeds
deepened with its help?
There are things I leave alone.
The espresso cup with a pattern of red balloons.
The cat, fast asleep and flat as a fish on the couch.
My wounds, to heal.
My lipliner, to pout.
I leave alone my stepfather when he doesn’t want to talk
and the developing mound of trash in my backseat.
I leave alone the laundry, for days, and the memory
of my actual father, bleary with morphine.
I leave alone the windows locked to winter’s cold.
I leave alone the flowers that do not wilt because of a miracle flower food.
I leave alone my sex, and my sex’s hunger.
I leave alone my neighbors and each of my exes, in different ways.
Sometimes, when I am bored, I chuck misshapen rocks into the sea
which swallows them, then stills to something I can leave alone,
so I do. Like this, I wake in the night and remember
how it felt to be loved for my body’s volume, its shameless need.
How you broke something beyond repair that I will never get back.
Then I close my eyes to sleep’s dull numb and see a marble, what remains.
And I leave that alone, too.