Grave Dressing 

There’s a phrase for it, the way
I’m lately loving like a river

is pressed to my door    With frightening
ease I’ve shot sparrows for food

I did not need     I dreamed you
into a stormfield of lavender

bluegrass to say     Remember the old
man who put his soup down

on the sidewalk and eased his wife
into the rain?     They trembled

in their minivan like bees caught
on opposing wavelengths

Most people when given
any foreign object will begin

to chew it     The picture
of the newest boy who died

in the school shooting transposed
across the picture of the newest

boy to die in the border camps
Their fathers teared up like grapefruits

in the heat     All the capybaras sighing
into extinction so wordlessly

it’s now cliché      I know a disturbing lack
of fire alarms is standard    How lately

I’ve been loving like a tornado
shelter enkindled in votive

candles     We are not obliged to fear
everything that makes us ache

with craving for this world
There are flowers and time

for them to look upon us
pained    But I dread caterpillars

munching holes in your tender summer
cherry tomato heart     Sometimes I think I know

how to do nothing well except grieve
men     I’m aware it’s a problem, how lately

I’m loving from within this ditch
peppered with turkey buzzards     I talk

about the fires because language
was invented as warfare technology

and my unruly mouth doesn’t know
any other way to be     But I have

no authority      I eat the cloven
creatures     I recycle

secularly     The oceans still will spill
into cities like screaming doorbells

while we’re busy dousing
ourselves in gasoline and calling

it need     I’m tumbling
towards adoration for the cosmos

lifting its seafoam veil     The sun
snuffing its eye out with its magenta

palm and new awareness of your
approximately six freckles     When

you tell me we will see every place
you set foot as a child slip

irrevocably underwater     Oh ambition
is like trying to catch a moth

in your bare hand and then
catching it


Inheritance

to be human is to be peopled by loneliness / to carry loneliness

like a stillborn city inside you / which is to say I lost my father

young / & flung my mother’s name into a nest of sleeping vermin

tossed the concept of my child’s body to a pit of snakes / rather than rely

on breath to strangle it / which is to say I keep a copy of the book of the dead

between my arm & my pillow / sleep gutted ink-blacken each name

stare in the craven dark so long / they all begin to look like mine

to stumble hateful & blind / to share my shadow like a pool float in the restless

waves of night’s crazed anchor / a bruise is the blood howling

like a kennel of dogs behind a closed door / & each day is a page in a long

book of endings that never come true / every brazen touch a book of leavings

there must be a way to know a heart from the inside / & forgive its unruly tunnels

its failings to teeter the edge / between sheltered & swallowed / which is to say

that to live without context is to live like granite shifting / oblivious as wood

before the saw’s teeth / every stranger is a collection of cartilage

& marrow with undefined intention / every place you have felt loved in

is another person’s grave / which is to say love is a boneless room

full of moons / where the hands stutter & are reborn finally

as lanterns / where we come together / where we sink in

innocent as breadknives


The Beekeeper’s Abortion

I dated a beekeeper that winter out of longing
for spring. Because the days were rough opals
circling a wound & I didn’t care
what happened to me. Because his mutters
of honey — & thought yes perhaps to name
the breathing objects of this life in sweetness
would make a mouth taste sweet. I watched

him pour buckets of thick amber in a house
that smelled like someone’s grandparents
left them too young, & this was the year
the last five men I’d fucked or loved were blue-
eyed, one long nightmare of wish-fulfillment & I stopped
calling myself vegetarian, though still told most people
I met that pigs have the consciousness
of a human toddler. New Years I’d resolved to eat
fewer animal bodies & consumed three bags
of pork rinds the following day. So I bite down

on the absolute freedom of failure, so a beekeeper
works his way inside me like a gardener tilling air into bloom
& my body opens without my permission. In his kitchen
was a black liquor bottle with another man’s name
& I turned the label away while he kissed me.
The mattress on the floor collecting
frantic capillaries, frictionless sparks
of want hiving in my cricket legs

until the room began to smell of souring bodies.
His human name was Adam & he was the first man
I let come inside of me. Buzz of energy pulsing
under my hips, the muffled thud of dead antelopes.
Frivolous loss of judgement, I am able to admit

I am the embarrassing scriptwriter & costumer
of my own life, that in fearful delight I fantasized
a storybook grief that could become, at least,
this title, that it might take scalpel & suction to hollow
myself of him & remembering
he had only daughters, their small hands
stained in ink, captives in a photo hidden
hastily in the crease of his bookshelf.

Remembering the first cold night I stopped
at the gas station & drove home with a bag
of beef jerky in hand, triumphant,
the not-quite promise of intimacy
dripping down my thigh.


Erin Slaughter is editor and co-founder of *The Hunger*, and the author of I Will Tell This Story to the Sun Until You Remember That You Are the Sun (New Rivers Press, forthcoming 2019). Her writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Prairie Schooner, Split Lip Magazine, New South, Passages North, and elsewhere. Originally from north Texas, she is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University. You can find her online at erin-slaughter.com

Featured photo courtesy of Erik Forsberg.