Kristin Abraham



Her whole body was

one bone, a curved rib.

Clarity was elsewhere,

afterward, after the story

rolled over in its sleep,

when everything spilled

across the table (in her center,

where you wouldn’t expect it).

Then she was a jar, upset:

I’m learning that

innocence again.

My ear is stuffed

with it.




You are snaps & lozenges, Helena,
again and again, all slope-shouldered
sad scissor legs. All Helena of the smell
of wet towels & urine, look out
from your bangs, you tit-of-a grub, you
always the start of, you one step down.

Worm-gutted Helena, again and again,
the key is under, behind
the loose brick. Make this home, Helena,
make you lovely, Helena, try.


Helena, your sighs. His loss. My zip. Sick with
canned-perfect, faithful like potatoes,
Helena the wish, the shrimp-plump inferior, shrimp-
pink mouth, your date-book interior: one & one &
one day, budding tooth & tooth. His loss & loss.

On your stomach, zipper down, you are a darling
dismal thing. Helena, make your hand go
this way. Helena, go hush.


Helena, you’re writing infected. Again and again,
liver soured by doubt or guilt, you’re well-
heeled and groomed, could slice it out, if you write it—
still warm—for dinner. No more, Helena,
simpering pleaser. Is served. No more curtsy,
happy home-made. No stutter, no gasp. No
Helena, no no.


Brockle-faced Helena, dishonest constant
lapse in the—shame, tell yourself, Helena,
for shame, Helena.

For again and again panties soak
in the sink. You know best to clam
up, be the saucer; save your blushes.


Your ball-gag post-discard, careful discretion, poems
bound in fiber, poems tuck & hide. Gnaw
Formica, Helena, gnaw on love. Teething
shock & awe, again and again, that diary: dentin,
enamel, cementum, denial: this way you lie often
or not at all.

This day you lie often, knotting it all. X off
the weeks, weak jaws. Don’t say. You hate you
hate, again and again, you sharp
little monster. Don’t say it.


So swallow the cod liver, Helena: Formica
& love. Swallow your archetype & mineral
oil. Helena, again and again of the cupcake
eyes, deformed ignition & violent endings:
No need to be sorry, just do forth:
Write a poem about not
writing, write a poem about not needing.


Kristin Abraham is the author of two chapbooks: Little Red Riding Hood Missed the Bus (Subito Press, 2008), and Orange Reminds You of Listening (Elixir Press, 2006); her full-length manuscript, The Disappearing Cowboy Trick, will be published by Horse Less Press in 2013. Additional poetry, lyric essays, and critical essays have appeared in such places as Best New Poets 2005, American Letters & Commentary, Rattle, Court Green, LIT, Columbia Poetry Review, and The Journal. She currently teaches English at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, WY, and is editor-in-chief and poetry editor of the literary journal Spittoon.