First Kiss, by Kim Addonizio

Afterwards you had that drunk, drugged look
my daughter used to get, when she had let go
of my nipple, her mouth gone slack and her eyes
turned vague and filmy, as though behind them
the milk was rising up to fill her
whole head, that would loll on the small
white stalk of her neck so I would have to hold her
closer, amazed at the sheer power
of satiety, which was nothing like the needing
to be fed, the wild flailing and crying until she fastened
herself to me and made the seal tight
between us, and sucked, drawing the liquid down and
out of my body; no, this was the crowning
moment, the giving of herself, knowing
she could show me how helpless
she was—that’s what I saw, that night when you
pulled your mouth from mine and
leaned back against a chain-link fence,
in front of a burned-out church: a man
who was going to be that vulnerable,
that easy and impossible to hurt.


once your worst fear comes true, it all goes
out the window from there. once you see that
you can survive what you thought would kill you,
you discover a resolve, and a freedom.

you will not be lonely; before long a new
worst fear will come to take its place.
but instead of letting it inhabit you,
you will inhabit it like a summer house:

you will visit it regularly, use it for a 
fair-weather muse, momentum. you will re-
member that you are the curator: you select
the temperature, the view, the furniture,

the food. you choose which flowers to
bring in from the garden; you choose
the garden. you entertain guests at
your leisure, and spend countless hours

completely alone, staring up at ceilings,
out at horizons, in at dream selves. and
at the end of the season, when you have had
your fill of dinner parties and mindless novels

and beach sands and pool sides, you
pack your bags, sweep the floors, board
up the windows, and head back to the
mainland—where you make your living.

Art: Summer-House, Paul Klee


In the Bois de Boulogne, Vincent van Gogh

this is the time of transition, of reflection, of decay and death,

of summer trying to hold onto the days while the mornings and

evenings already belong to fall. the crickets are in their mourning

phase, calling out to their ancestors to make way. through the sharp

air, sharper skies: the cries of migrating geese, the ramping up of

falling leaves, the putting on of sweatshirts, the long sleeves re-

assuring, rubbing up against my skin like realization, my cold hands

and cold feet waking me, keeping me ticking above the lull of heat—

i relish the shivering. everything is becoming thicker, heavier; every-

thing is taking on more meaning, forcing me to burrow down into it,

into my self, into these sacred days numbered before winter sets in.

october is my favorite month. i will not let my father’s death detract

from her; she becomes an aching bittersweet that i roll between my

fingers, hold between my teeth, suck down to her last acrid nub.

Art: In the Bois de Boulogne, Vincent van Gogh

it’s about damn time

it starts to rain and i think:
it’s about damn time.

i don’t know where i’ll go from here, but
this wet space is a good place to start.

i can’t write a goddamn poem—and
i keep thinking about bukowksi and

how he said don’t try—but if some
thing doesn’t come out soon i may im-

plode. i keep walking around the house
saying: i don’t know what to do.

i keep walking room to room know-
ing what to do and not doing it.

procrastination is an act of
rebellion: against the

system, against
expectation, against self.

there’s a world inside my head—
and even i can’t access it.

every thing is happening in another
language—a non-language:

visions spinning in spirals, surrounding me, closing
in, cushioning at times, but mostly suffocating.

i don’t expect you to under-stand. i don’t
expect to be able to see into yours, to climb up

and into for comfort. what are we together?
what do we do in these moments?

push? pull? hold?
hibernate? run?

getting in the car and driving through the hills
while blasting tom petty seems enough for now.

i drive by every place i have lived—except that one:
tucked up too far into the mountains, into the memory.

some days we cannot love our neighbor
because we do not love our selves. we shut up

into our houses. we lock our doors and windows and hide.
we are trying to love our selves; but we are lost. we are

trying to love our gods; but we are tossed aside
again and again by our own minds.

how do we get so far out of alignment? why does it
feel so good to snap back in—like one of those car seat

buckles with four sides that you have to line up just right
to feel the click while the kid kicks and screams and fights?

sitting with my adult-in-training after an argument—in which
nothing is solved except for the yelling and the receiving—

and watching law & order and laughing occasionally and
continuing to exist side by side seems enough for now.

do we let ourselves drift further away
so we can feel the relief of return?

do we have any control over any of it?
should we? or are we just rolling

along on the wave, letting it carry us to
the next destination? who are we to try to

control the sea? perhaps the moon goddess within.
perhaps you are my muse. perhaps a muse is just a

long lost love—or one never fully realized—who
triggers us and prompts us and provokes us and

pushes us—painfully far and prosaically wide at times.
perhaps you are part of my cluster, following me through

these sacred lives as we teach and learn and grow from
each other. when i think about my love for you, i want

to bring you flowers; i want to plant my forever in you:
inside your head, inside your hands, inside your heart.

give & receive

taking and receiving
are not the same.

receiving requires open
hands: waiting, breathing,

trusting; it’s
softer, slower.

taking is
like a jab:

in & out, getting
what you need,

reaching in with
one hand while

keeping a fist up
at the face.

are you on
the take?

hungry to

or are you listening,
watching, breathing,

ready to wait; to
linger; to hurt;

to bleed: are you
ready to receive?


the first time you
play out the skele-
ton of a song, you
hear the flesh be-
coming; you

dress the beautiful
bones like a doll. the
rush of blood and
breath comes last, once
it’s all assembled and

cast into the world
for her to sing along.
then, it will never be the
same; then, it will never
sound like that very first

time. your job is to
create, to not think past
that, to let it all happen, to
feel the full measure; whole-
note stomping in—then, out.