The Boiler

Alyse Bensel

DEAR DISTANCE

I’m a smaller woman than I used to be
                smaller-minded, too
and generous         with myself     pouring coffee
               licking banana bread batter
       staining my hands with graphite

                              I cherish carbon-on-carbon
      the kind of action you’d like to see
shedding cells mixed
         with mite dust and pollen

my castoff life is
                             leftovers I forget
    to slough off in the mornings
                I’m trying to reabsorb the world

take on mass and give my flesh
                a thrill from the inside out—
   those gaps where you’re still there

digging in, dirty fingernails and all
               that suppleness attempting
      to push away and down


DO NOT CONSUME RAW

At Target I browse the seasonal produce, eyeing
the warning label on the shrink-wrapped rhubarb.

I think about tearing open the package right there
and chewing the stalks like a cow with her favorite cud.

Those precautions signal the kind of rage in me
that ends with me screaming in my car. Sometimes

I let the man I’m seeing in there with the sound
to see if he’ll stick around. They all have—it’s usually

something, or someone else. I always have another
lined up next, like I’m playing pinball and have

50 cents handy for each silver ball.
A thousand quarters, that many scoreless turns.

I push the button as many times as I can. I poke holes
in the plastic. I want the rhubarb to age, the balls to keep

moving. I’m tired of trying to pause time. One of these
days I’ll stop with the night cream, face masks,

hemp lotion, argan oil, BB and CC and SPF. I need
exposure to speed up the process. Rinse. Repeat.

_______________________________

Alyse Bensel’s poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Zone 3, burntdistrict, New South, Bone Bouquet, and elsewhere. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks Not of Their Own Making (dancing girl press) and Shift (Plan B Press) and serves as the Book Reviews Editor at The Los Angeles Review. A PhD candidate in creative writing at the University of Kansas, she lives in Lawrence.