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he’s gonna havta reach inside you.
he’s gonna do it. you asked him to. he’s gonna tell you how old it is. he’s gonna decide when old is too.
then you’re gonna wait.
you’re gonna stand against the wall, in your paper gown. you’re gonna wait in line. wait for him to vacuum inside you.
you’re gonna listen. the other girls, like a sorority, they dont consider this anymore than the Piggly Wiggly line. for all they know, they could be buying lipstick.
you’re thinking this is gonna hurt. he’s gonna havta reach inside, again. whatre you gonna do then?
you gonna scream? you gonna clench your teeth? you gonna say to yourself, you gotta do this?
he’s waiting, too. there’s a window, a TV, two face-to-face rows of stained upholstery. by now, it’d be Regis & Kathy Lee. he wouldnt watch it; he’d be out smoking. he doesn’t smoke inside anymore, not since May.
you’re gonna do this, for him, who doesn’t smoke inside anymore, who’s out there,
wrapping his lips around the filter, his saliva wetting the paper, his fingers absorbing the sweet raw tobacco smell. he, who doesn’t know anything about this, how it’s like an assembly line, except it’s not assembling, it’s taking apart, tossing out, special receptacles.
you’re gonna do this, right?
you havta. you are not, you are not gonna chicken out now, not now. the corridor pans out, thins, readjusts.
you are just not gonna do this. the fluorescents fracture into halos. time spools.
you gotta remember what is now, what is here. the light disco-balls, in/out, light/dark. you cant feel your toes, cant feel your fingertips. the line of girls shimmies, sways.
you gotta dance, if you’re gonna keep perspective.
gotta put one foot in front of the other & dance. you gotta find somebody’s hand. you gotta find their hand & hold on.
you gotta find somebody who’s gonna help you do this, who isn’t chicken-shit, who’s knees aren’t buckling as she keels, who isn’t letting the room go black, who isn’t skipping ahead, to a rust-stained recliner, a handful of Saltines, sour OJ in a Dixie cup & a wastepaper basket. you lean over now, if you feel sick, the nurse says. her voice is centuries away, filed behind a metal desk.
you better come back later, she says. you cant speak because you’re leaning over the wastebasket, because the room smells like talcum powder & citrus, because your womb feels like an argument, because you are,
you’re chicken shit. you wipe your mouth, exhale.
I gotta do this, you say. we drove three hours for this. I already paid. I gotta do this now. I cant send you in like this.
you gotta pull yourself together. the words are like a steel trap, snapping. you gotta explicate yourself. the room bulges, contracts. you bowl over, you
hold your stomach & you forget. she’s standing over you now. her fingertips cool on your forehead, cheeks. this your first time, honey? her words syrup, slush.
you gotta close your eyes to make sense.
you gotta lean over the wastepaper, you gotta wipe your mouth, you gotta swallow.
you havent got to answer. you gotta do it, that’s all.
after Mary Ruefle
my dad says everything
gets hurt coming true. the girl blows
a kiss at her reflection peels off a glove, writes I love across
the smoke-scrimmed window the letters glitter under the arc sodium lamps, with each flicker betraying, like any natural law—gravity & ice, for example—
our precariousness. love clings.
like a hookworm inside us.
eats. you have to know this in order
to live: when crawling out of your skin (as if you could
escape what you’re turning into) that bright sail of being, REMEMBER ME all that distinguishes— the flowers throwing away their perfume all summer the leaves
holding in their red—what humans build from what is human
after Anne Carson
walk away stop wave.
cut flowers, cut fruit. lost
between the kitchen
& the wilderness trying to feed
her hunger by gnawing stone
bought. cooked. lamenting. in the grip of being.
a layered invention looking in
her own window. the heart not even
the heart. to undo the selvedge
in her. spotted fruit, spoilt meat
a dream of distance
in which food is eaten by looking
at it across
the room, in which
the husband can be both far from
& near to
Emily Carr directs the Low-Residency MFA at OSU-Cascades. She is passionate about the sexual politics of meat, the limits of Achilles’ honesty and the problem of Chaucer’s spring, unposted love letters, cannibal chickens and a ship too late to save the drowning witch. Emily’s collection of prose poem fairy tales, whosoever has let a minotaur enter them or a sonnet—is forthcoming from McSweeney’s in 2015. Craig Dworkin writes: “The gods here float, as they did for Pound, in the azure air.” Her second book of poetry, 13 Ways of Happily: Books 1 & 2, was the winner of the 2009 New Measures Poetry Prize. TC Tolbert writes: “If attention is an act of care (and I believe it is), then Emily Carr’s 13 Ways of Happily shows us why a love poet falls in love with the world – its wonders, inconsistencies, and failures.”
These poems were originally published in directions for flying: right side lower arms raise arms bend knees repeat on left. 36 fits: a young wife’s almanac (Furniture Press, 2010).