A night like other nights. Beer cans
dot their apartment, a constellation
of aluminum: a few crushed ones
in the wastebasket, a near-empty
or two on the counter, a cold one
pressing a water ring into the nightstand.
My father’s DNA is smeared along
the rim of each one. My mother’s is caught
in the teeth of a comb, the stubbed out
cigarettes in the ashtray. The analog TV
is turned down low, the grainy screen
just slick enough to catch the silhouette
of their movements. I was a shadow
crossing the room. I was night advancing
blindly between sleep and third shift.
All over town, men punch their cards,
glasses drain, fill, and drain again;
in the creases of buildings, water turns
quietly to rust. He puts on his blue collar,
his work pants stained by oil fingerprints,
leaves. A sitcom laugh track drains into
her dreams—its tinny swell, its chorus
of voices, one fold of the wave
ending as another rises.
ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF A LOVER’S DEATH
When Death sends flowers, I slash
off the heads with rusty scissors.
Sometimes living things arrive
cold at the door. This time, peonies. Red
as a fresh organ. I cut the stems in every
direction, shred petals to pulp. Isn’t that always
what we’re doing here? Shearing the pretty thing
from its root? Slicing down the recognizable
until we see its parts eviscerated?
I stuff them back in the oblong box
they came in with a note—fuck yourself.
I don’t send it. Instead I light them on fire
and watch smoke pour from the mouth
of the thing, that mashed up casket of soft
red matter, that fire eating through the floor.
POEM AT THE END OF FEBRUARY
What is permanence? I walked you
to your car, my street still ravaged
from the weekend ice storm, magnolia
branches crisscrossing the sidewalk
like symbols in an inscrutable equation.
Tell me about love, the velvet curtain
of your heart rising. I kissed you
goodbye, said good luck for one reason
or another. You wore black, carried
a black bag. Behind you, a power line
hung slack across a picket fence.
And grief? I could see trace marks
of how it was, how every branch,
gutter, windshield wiper was covered
in an exo-skeleton of ice, how
frozen rivulets between shingles
made every roof look like the ribs
of a slow, beautiful animal. What
is the difference between sleeping
and stepping into a silent room?
I searched for my keys, feeling for
their jagged metal, that home shape.
You shut the door of your car, and we
were back in our own inner museums—
the roped-off walls and floors
of the mind, the bones arranged
just so, the private booths from which
we watch ourselves. Tell me
what you were in the life before
this life. From a broken branch,
a crow peeled back a ribbon of wood.
On the wall, a white moth
shook the cold from its wings
and rested along the brick.
Regina DiPerna is a graduate of UNC Wilmington’s MFA program, where she served as poetry editor of the award-winning literary journal Ecotone. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Boston Review, Redivider, Cincinnati Review, This Land Press, and others. Her full-length manuscript A Map Of Veins was a semifinalist in Saturnalia Books’ 2013 Poetry Prize.