Head shaved
and rounded like
its own planet.
Colors swirling in bruises
like the storm-pocks
of Jupiter’s atmosphere.
Safety tethers
nestled under
the skin,
keeping life
within reaching distance.
A space suit
slowly leaking air,
the sound becoming
familiar until
it is no longer heard.
The impending release
of all energy
of a body,
into all corners of the room,
leaving what
was once something
and making what
was once nothing


when you press
a rectangle of photo paper
into developer—
fingertips just dipping in,
a smell that makes you believe
it’s going to sting
but it never does—
it is a slow fade
for the image to appear.
Outlines of light and dark
like Rorshach blots
gather details form nowhere
until you can see a strand of hair
out of place,
a dimple in her cheek.
The past is slowly gathered
from the place between
light and shadow.
you wouldn’t know that.
you’ve never been in a darkroom.

how much slower is the fade
as the image reverts back
to nonexistence;
many years, most while
you still don’t know it’s happening.
oh, it starts in the details.
the baseboards become
as pale as the walls.
the creases beneath
her eyes smooth,
time-worn reverse aging.
The pattern of her plaid shoes
becomes solid.
you don’t know
you’re losing a memory
until the edges become soft
and a film glazes over her face
like she’s looking at you
through frosted glass.

Slow fade.
moments of time lost.
but you wouldn’t
know that either.
You never kept a photo long enough.

The child

I don’t know the way
she treats her daughter.
I don’t know if she’s teaching her
the same lessons that her mother
taught her.
I do not know
if the little girl
shies away from the touch
of her father.
I do not know
if her mother’s hands
bring her any more comfort.
I have never met the girl.
I was simply told
by someone else
who was told
by someone else
that she had been born.
I do not even know
if she was wanted.
I imagine her face,
the slight curve of her nose,
the long baby lashes,
the bulging cheeks.
I hope she is getting enough food.
I do not know
what her mother tells her about life—
about what she is here for,
who she is here for.
I am afraid
she is growing up thinking
that her purpose here
is to serve a man
she does not know yet.
I am afraid
that there is no one to stop
the lies.
I am afraid
that she, too,
will one day
frantically scour dishes
in the kitchen sink,
looking over her shoulder
at the door,
when it will open
and he comes home.

A Lesson in Ethics

I am wearing
the bloodstains
of worn fingertips.
I am wearing
smog, gnashing teeth,
dripping sweat,
building collapse.
When I wake
in the morning,
I thank God
for giving me so much,
and then don
someone else’s poverty.

I am walking
in my shoes,
but they aren’t
really mine;
they were given to me
by an 8-year-old boy
hoping to eat tonight.
I did not thank him.
I step on his bones
every time I walk.

I flaunt
another country’s
desperation like pride;
I dress in devastation
as a statement
of my rank.
I have not paused
to feel the itching
of the fabric.
Not from the texture,
but the pain,
the exploitation,
the things
my jeans have seen
and I have not.

As She Forgets Everything
I carry her memory, even though she doesn’t.
I was a bushel in her arms and a peck on her cheek. She was a gardener who reaped less than she sowed.
Sometimes I wonder if the house holds more words than she does. If the walls are the only things that could tell me how she felt today.
I don’t want her to die without the memory of me, but I don’t know why that matters.
She matters.
She does not know why.

When I was young, I thought life meant everything stayed the same while you grew and changed.
I would not have changed if everything had stayed the same.
It doesn’t look like it used to.
Not for me, and not for her.
She wanted to end her life before she even knew how bad it would get. Neither of us knows what’s keeping her here.
I don’t know much of anything anymore.
She knew, once.

She told me the first thing she’d do if she ever got money was change herself.
I didn’t realize how slowly she’d change around me.
It did not stay slow.
She taught me lessons that she herself still needs to learn.
She does not have time to learn.