The Poetry Project

Three Poems

Ru (Nina) Puro

The cemetery’s full up, but the ghosts sleep late.

I’ll wake one more time in the dappled room & still feel capable.
I’ll miss that. That sea is dazed by itself. A moth bashes the pane

like the sea, then quicker—hummingbird heart—then slower,
the head of my friend after she heard. I’m not supposed to think about
that death. I’ve been given this gift of being dazed. For the Board, our girlhood

wars were cobblestoned, suburban at worst, fringed with guttering candles.
I want to walk onto the ice floe. Or I want an intern with a clipboard to approach

and tell me the use of the medal handed to the old man & the metal
in the forearm of the saint & the glass in the stomach of the child.
Remember when in the meadow we all laughed so hard we bent in half?

How even our bones looked white and straight? Folks want so much to walk
to the top of the hill, to be held in thrall at the wave’s peak, to look out their big windows

at their kingdom, to be seen. Bach’s mother beat him terribly. My replacement
will hear acorns pinging faster. As they listen, their death will also grow
in a different murky bit. What’s the use in nostalgia for the reprieve as it occurs?

In bungled truth-to-power I can’t take back? Grief’s always got arrows quivered,
quivering. I’ll have mile markers to unstitch summer, then that flint-eyed

winter reckoning will mushroom up in a garret garbled with moth-eaten slights wretched
or wrenching. The march of centuries. Green-eyed brown soldiers. Contrails from planes
that almost struck trailed into my hips. He lowered his fist slowly. Time a thread, a threat

coursing through me. Dawn a wash of ripples. Yarn pooled from my pubis
I nipped in the bud. I wake up ashamed. Ships burn faster across our newly renovated

Middle Passage. I don’t ask for much. I know I’ll ruin what I’m given by not following
instructions. I sat up quick, gasping. I didn’t stick around to return appropriate gesticulations
but I was letting you hold me long as I could. I can’t hold still. Mid-pic I’m zooming out

to our ancestors’ shackles. I can’t be held. Before rain starts, poplar leaves shake: faces
burned from my reel. I rotate my contrition toward the dominant populace. Her ankles the blue

of moldy fruit. I swipe my card. In small increments I try again. Rain nods apolitically,
throttles harder. I snipped the strip of that evening out of me like a seam. My stitches have always
been too big. The Counsel holds that my mistake has always just been made.


I have come to realize the body is its own pyre, that degree
rises from within, the fatty acids a kind of kindling
—Quan Barry

We are elaborate holes. Tunnels all lead somewhere, que no? Even if into their own dead
ends only? No one can be always scaling Annapurna, hands same-sized & trembling
never. Or: I can’t quite align cause one thumb slots best into the other

hand’s knuckle. Or: I rumored my body crooked into more than
a receptacle. What’s it to exude? I wanted no centuries to slam through me: my summit

perpetual peak. Yea I was sewn to be unzipped & razed—silk on skin weft-labor; worm-labor;
sweat-rising-from-under-it labor; chewed mulberries; boiled picked gone kingdoms:
our idiot epoch’s Himalayan salt-lamps & that ad for a life I swam deluded towards nightly, eyes

winched to smeyes wheeling up to name each constellation he taught me: Orion
& Orion & Orion. You’re his laser star-fingering, O beam me me to lightning

bolt my name on. Your hole blown through my name matches my tongue & that rabbit
paw you finger, which if alive would match that incessant thump under my bra: a cheap door slams
and slamming & slammed. (I mean salt grits a trachea. Home is here & I’m not unless alone.) I mean

our crown’s melting. My job’s to open & not ask what opens in the greasers’ palms.
(Pocket-watch, wallet, switchblade, book.) I’m not supposed to think of

rooms I’m not to go into & find myself wandering in, tunnel out the wrong end, glaze-white
shame-slicked with knowing I’m falling: am fallen: false-walled: dug my dumb feet out
from under me. (I’m scared I’m how S. got & flushed bleachwater over her page

till she was silt.) We know summer’s noble morning orange creeps purple
until blackout. Iron no-color here hovers: gray silt. (I never told her.

I can’t now.) Wan days falter in like a teen from a party: wrecked already, & bad
at hiding it. Your REM rolls to theta to beta & your torso flips up in on
in the dark back of our railroad apartment as I lean into a stranger’s parka

on the subway, spindling away. Opening under fridge-yellow is gold grease you’ve bell
-jarred to augment your day, days like today: your glowing suns I refuse

to swallow. The body’s tallow is the kindling; our fury the catalyst. Turrets
of plosives we push out braid the wick. So I stand back, penny-tongued, my own satellite.
I agree I’m in a tunnel under your mountain & now too deep to hide it. I’ve stopped

hoping I’ll get out. I’m sorry. That’s why I blur my eyes & keep you too far to touch
my seams: I like to lie that I’ve your light down towards the end. It’s rain-sealed below an echo

chamber that decrees what to slot into that tunnel my tongue’s keyhole to. Each day’s
botch is a ribbon inexorably purpled, current rolling rush-wave forward, my face plugged
in & steering, & I can’t call what’s unfurled back. None of it. The tunnel recedes behind us,

trembling. The year gets broken-zippered, plastered over. The tunnel doesn’t think us
broken. It thinks of us not at all. It’s a receptacle cut in the hill. Animals crawl off

to be sick. Once I buried a blade in me. Part of me never returned. You’ve this peephole
& I’ve a silhouette that acts as your porthole. Ripped silk shows the swarm above a silueta pressed in
dirt. You’re knocked & knocking. One hole punched in the wall shows sky. The boiling cocoons

spin. I shudder & hold your door open with the knives my shoulders have. Walking, I smoke,
lean out of my body as from window to tunnel. Hair whips around my face.

Dead Horse Bay

Walk as far as you can empty-handed. You don’t plan on taking much—
as always, ascetic: afraid of appearing rapacious under your
bulging country’s greased plastic. As always, hungry.
Your fear doesn’t mean you’re being followed, even if a man yelled
GIRLS GIRLS from a car & none of you are. The geese aren’t ghosts.
They’re shitting everywhere. Fear’s the old banging in you that bid
you to drive skittishly in the borrowed car. All along will be
fiber-dreck hairballs, unrecognizable as cotton or wool save
the specks that say belt, flag, electrical cord—give up brain’s incessant
yammer to categorize-then-name. Go past the hulled boat, the first
pier’s rotted lines: think broken teeth; Qin’s terracotta army; rows of incense
burning on Fulton; winter-sheathed boats
you’ll pass again before
the grocery store aisles. Skirt the shale mound where trash
turns modern—Cup-o-Ramen, Modelo—because hills
are where we’ve always loved surveying our kingdom, drinking.
The second pier’s curved along the jetty like the orange
reamer you shouldn’t be touching. America, the bad
dream of it
floats through your head, but you can’t remember
where you picked it up. You’re rotating a jug’s finger-handle you’re
imagining a succulent in & turning over in your head
Bill Viola saying if hallucinations are the manifestation of an imbalance
in the brain heat mirages are the landscape’s hallucinations. You’re connecting this
to global warming. You’re steering through your nation’s
post-apocalyptic bad trip. Your whole long highway’s
eerily soundtracked from the left by the recent arrivals knocking
with each wave where the water laps. (Think train tracks.)
Always, there’s the bottles packed into the dunes, smashed
vertical into a neck-high berm by Sandy. (think frontage road,
think graveyard, think strip mall, think test site.) The bottles packed in it
sparkle like glittering bones (think peat bog, think highway over Roman road,
think tarmac, think riverbed, think mass graves, think human epoch). They’re older
because they’re newer leaked from the broken seal. Bones wash up
because they ground horses to glue here, oil because menhaden were rendered
to lamp-oil. After cars replaced horses, the dump replaced the glue factories;
after workers were “removed” from their village in the dump, Moses’ workers
straightened Flatbush Avenue to shunt the rich to Manhattan to cut
Jersey’s Newark profit. Those long mollusks aren’t razor clams. No one taught you
the names of any of the creatures here. One only needs
eyes to understand. You shouldn’t glean the water-line up, the
breakers back. Blaze down the center. You’re squandering
as always, third-personing mistakes like you didn’t pick up
a Coke bottle broken at that familiar apex but vase-smooth
the first second. O each second’s wrong choice is because you know
your bad core. That you’ll keep at it. Your gender’s
resignation is the knowledge our feared future
has already happened irrevocably. Precarity creates self-doubt.
Today your starved magpie instinct’s a liar: there’s enough
in the margins. In the spot where you were going to turn around
with more than you can carry & no cobalt, a hetero couple
will be debating over a heap of clear Karo bottles. Don’t do that thing
where you carry so much setting any down means dropping everything.
You’ll scrub, nestle lights in, destroy the terrariums of one ecosystem to sate
Brooklyn’s aspirational aesthetic notion our ancestors’ discards held superior fluids
we’ve lost & can steal back. Go past the first car-sized driftwood.
The second’s where shit gets weird & cobalt starts, then weirder—
cogged levered object, unidentifiable engine—you weren’t taught
about machines—that rusted sewing machine you know,
squat plugs & stripped cords, lightbulb cores, two,
three squashed trashcans, a suitcase, a radio’s gutted torso,
strips of subway tile, cobalt on cobalt on too much cobalt to carry. You have names
for each because you know twelve thousand brands. Tides are low
& high twice daily because the moon has one pull when it’s nearest
your body & another when furthest. Walking back you’re less nervous because you’ve a
sign to repel, not only a bad secret sloshing: bottles dangle like strange
fruit from your fingertips. It’s a full moon. You’ve started bleeding.
It’s low tide. It’s Christmas day. Walking past the abandoned hangar
you wonder who bought these bottles first, who needed the milk,
sprayed that perfume, & what shape their love took, the cooler
sliding open to mist, glass sweating on a stoop, the shape
of their fingernails. There’s who else they loved & who they hurt. Balanced
on your hip’s a mouth for wind & all the mouths between, drinking,
hauling. Your friend says you look like a mother hen, shepherding charges
re-animated. Once the garbage turns modern, the poem starts. Walk ahead to jot
in the car as they cross the lot. The municipal lights as you coast through
where we’ve warehoused the elderly & poor are reassuring as sun
through a Nalgene. Rattle up Flatbush Ave. like the limos did, the dollar
vans do, towards Manhattan’s terrible glimmer, each lit window
someone’s personal bottle, where you’ll pour yourself
into a borrowed apartment & seal it behind. You haven’t lost the poem.
Hold it for four errands. No one will break in. Please don’t start
to cry at the sunset that also falls on white nuclear families unwrapping
plastic in more central districts: where they grow the wheat
that fattens us, where they fatten the cows for slaughter. The stars
will wheel above them later. Please this year don’t spend Christmas pouring
all the fast-food you can get in & out of you because you’re finally alone
& lonely. You’ve a conduit: make something for people
you don’t want to speak to. Remember what makes the tides bulge
is not earth or moon but the tension between, a rope swinging
around an object spinning around your body, the lean back to counterweigh
the water in you, love tendriling towards your friends, your hand waving
at your dad, who cannot speak, your fingers trailing down
the cat’s back. Don’t speak. Type into your box of light. Even if
you make a poem too goddamn long for saleability, even if
this pouring is where you get to crossed-out facts you only
speak in poems: [redacted]. Imagine your pin-prick’s destructive
weight growing smaller and your love’s light bigger simultaneously.
So you use what broken systems you have long past usefulness, turtle-bag
down your highway: you’ve always had to carry your house. Let go
of what doesn’t serve you to let good in. You’re turning the key. No.
That’s later. Now: stand so far you can’t see yourself. Pick up your first bottle.

Issue 12