I’ve hummed your goodbye song
so many times I can’t feel
the right side of my face.
Now, I’d rather be gagged
with guitar strings & dragged
behind a hotrod than sit
deadlog in a wheelchair.
How many times will you
push a needle into my thigh
before something more brilliant
than my death wish wakes?
O, whistling skin
of a pierced & patched body,
stumbling through life
I gasp like a kicked dog.
How many have dropped
wishes in my skull? Dipped,
then pressed wet-
tipped fingers to their lips?
When the body quakes
& pink bubbles crawl lips,
push the chest down—
squeeze & plunge the knife
so the tongue is frozen & bit.
You think I’m lucky, but tell that
to my pit-bull soul. Bruise-bit,
it dreams of sunlit concrete & steak.
Squeeze its tender neck,
hold hands like explosions. When it licks
your face, you’ll see, under the tiger-star,
the Toyota flip & roll. Constellations
of face-cuts, then flames. There are
names for this burning: winesap, still-life
with three skulls.
Can you imagine my hands
welcoming pain as I tried to help? “That’s all
I can do,” the dentist said when he pulled
the slivers from my gums, holding
the mirror up to
my emptied smile.
Lemon’s poems are published or forthcoming in Pleiades, Black Warrior
Review, New Orleans Review, CutBank, Sonora Review, LUNA, The Jabberwock
Review, Octopus, and typo magazine. He teaches creative writing at Macalester College in
St. Paul, Minnesota.