looking 34 right in the eyes

guest post by sweetie o’leary


I will reveal
that I am here,
that I am indeed building
a canoe
out of brown bargain thread
and that I am not
who I used to be.
all the rest,
is not worth
any longer.


it’s not uncommon,
to live to 68.
this means, I have
34 more years.
I am back
at the beginning
and none of this
has happened.


it will all start
with me
nipples as garnish
the only one
with this kind of crotch
and this kind of life
at a men’s naked yoga retreat
on black sands
with a checklist from my therapist
of possible triggers
and the first thing
I ever wrote
on my 100-things-to-do-before-I-die list
when I was a little girl
back in the bronx:
“dip body in see-through water”.

when you say your name his face will soften

tonight you will go walking

you will stop outside the tall and long church
glowing with yellow light
and you will turn your ear
to listen
it will take a minute
but you will recognize the song
o come o come emmanuel
and ransom captive israel

you will sing along
mumbling the words you can’t remember
thinking of advent wreaths and purple candles
you will remember
how much you liked this song
maybe because it was about a kind of liberation
maybe because it comes from a somber place
but offers hope
at the end of each verse
you will feel pride about knowing this song
about having carried it with you all these years
a sense of history
a sense of ritual
a sense of coming from somewhere
even though you refused to be confirmed
at age 14 and used to show up at mass
every second a protest
lips still when everyone else prayed
lips still when everyone else sang
a refusal to line up for communion

tonight you will go walking

and introduce yourself to the man outside the corner store
when you say your name his face will soften
as if you have just blessed him
his name will be mark
and his son will yell from across the street
about squashing a smelly bug

tonight you will go walking

thankful for what feels like spring in november
your hands bare and not cold
your head under two thin sweater hoods

tonight you will go walking

it will be a sunday
that feels like a friday or saturday
and the dark street under a starless sky
will unwrap itself before you
like someone peeling back their chest skin
cracking open their rib cage
and calling their heart out
like one calls a scared kitten

the heartbreak of bus stops

a hurdle of sadness

we muscle ourselves over it
determination hijacking our bones
tenacity holding our hopelessness for ransom

though it is the same ache
the specifics differ

it may appear first thing
while sharp bright lines
slice through the dark meat of night

it may live in the warm light of a pizza joint
at 8th and dekum
golden glow that recalls snow
and the gloveless man at the bus stop who made you cry
not because he did anything violent or angering
but because his hands and head
must have been
so cold
and it hurt you
to think about
how long he had been waiting
not to mention
the heartbreak of bus stops
in general

it may surface in a song
one you thought you could play again or
never realized was on your don’t play list
in the first place
until it enters your gut
with the weight of lead
lyrics about
being nineteen
pups in the pantry
love in this club

it may embed itself in back porch concrete
radiant with combustion of summer sun
or in a bike lane on the way home
the one where you said
hey wanna go on a date in november?
you might discover
no geography or season is safe

triple ginger spice

1. if all the anguish and brutality of the world
exist for reasons other than
to bring us extraordinary poems,
i fail to understand
what those reasons are

as in:
honestly, i don’t think i could rationalize
any of the violence
unless it was self-defense, survival
but it helps
to try to build a framework
around something
so senesless

2. triple ginger spice cookies
i want to paste a link here
that instead of a youtube video
or image
would connect you to this smell

3. line picture line
with live go go dancers
paula abdul pandora station

4. home-baked crackers
and carrot butter

5. first day
of all rain
as we dive deeper
into the too thick darkness

6. i’ve been thinking about resilience
how brave living can be
choosing to move forward
through the losses

7. fever ray
on repeat
sound provides structure

8. and still
we don’t know what to do
with all the genocide
we mention colonialism
but we have not found a way
to reverse history

the undeniable mathmatical scientific approach to poetry

1. paul and john
noo wayy
most of our way
through the monotony
and when that doesn’t work
i’m locked into the bathroom
singing beulah land

2. burning walnuts
for the pesto

3. sheet tray of potatoes
450 degrees
meets bare arm
shock of heat
pink patching and spreading across skin

4. the undeniable
and scientific approach
to poetry
including charts and

5. how quick
sun slips
halfway there
to fetch bike light
from bag
to be seen
in the thick dark

6. the poem
that killed
the whole room
with sister in the last stanza
i don’t need to tell you
what she’s doing
in the doorway
at the rescue missison

7. this is not a love affair
but i am tortured and passionate

8. the essay
that refuses
to write itself

9. gelato for dinner
kitchen laughter for dessert

10. scalloped hanky
of so many feathers
tucked into
back right pocket

sequin theory

1. pleading with gray fabric of sky
unrolled above me
please let the sun come through today

2. yoga for those
with closed up throats
skeleton toes
split stitches
tight hips

3. breakfast in 8 million parts
white rice
roasted brussel sprouts, red peppers, mushrooms, leeks
the thought of an egg
rice crackers
the consideration of hot tea

4. needles in my head
mini epsom salt mountain on my
tears in eyes
the moment i allow myself
to lay down
dreams and body twitches
running the conduit
of this body

5. discussion of
the drawbacks of meccas

6. smell of sugar on fire

7. in four hours
we discover
everything we have in common
but not limited to:
interdisciplinary tendencies
scorpionic propensity
statements of purpose
inclinations towards sequins
isolation vs. public spheres
sex positivity vs. personal boundaries
school vs. not school
school art vs. friend art

8. a theory
that those who love sequins
also love the movie

9. retelling of a story involving
a gold belt and an antique shop
on the roadtrip that we didn’t break up on
the one where you said
we did good, hey?
we’re golden.
i could do this for a long time.
while we rolled along the glitter and
expanse of the columbia
just after
we assembled and ate sandwiches
on the steps of a standstill caboose
overlooking the grass and sand of a beach park

three teacups

coconut and double chocolate
three teacups
three spoons
plus pecans set afloat
on dateboats
with orange zest and 3spice mix
making room
for three pairs of feet
under the covers

fistfuls of wet earth

1. a tsunami
must i name what kind?

bulldozing in on glass bottle sea
antique shop colors
opaque and transparent

i felt you in my legs
before i ever met you

shore boats grabbed and splintering
foundation pulled out from houses
palm tree roots curled tight and

me and the ocean
we share a vocabulary

she offers herself
to the edges of continents
where land and water have agreed
upon this perpetual state
of forgiveness

she the original sequin
shines when angry
hurtling and collapsing hurtling and collapsing
at 600 miles per hour

2. something about home
something about erasure

3. the second to last letter
included photocopies
from an astrology book

fistfuls of wet earth
tossed on top of
the great collaboration


1.  dijon
the color not the condiment
warmth i lean into

2. wind
digging its nails
under roof edges
to peel it

3. quick quick slow slowing
exhaustion manifesting itself
in my throat

4.  coffeehouse five advisory committee
the importance of computations

5. michael jackson thriller moves
over rainwet sidewalk
the bad romance

6. phone calls
from my favorite office
(the bed)

7. fried green tomatoes
roasted delicata, onion, apple
roasted brussel sprouts, red pepper, mushroom, leek, garlic
too few minutes
to eat
chairs placed
in front of open oven