Everyone around me utters
phrases I want as my own.
My stomach is a bag, and I worry
I have made holes in the bag,
and that is why my sentiment
pours out of me for others
to lap up like they are dogs,
eager and carnivorous for me,
my inner milk a disastrous fruit.
I study paintings, moving closer
until all form disappears into
flailing strokes, and then I am
a painter too, my eyes red
and veined with sleeplessness,
my hands somehow worthwhile
again. Some paintings are raw
the way the inside of a cheek
can be raw from gnawing,
opened and blooming with
persistent attention, the way
my knees were raw after
a fall while running, how I
went down so hard, my body
already forward before I knew
to brace, the way, also, I saw
paint on the ground and thought
it could be my insides, but actually
the fall was not too bad, just
open knees. I kept running.
My insides teach me
an earned vulgarity. Nothing
so pretty, so sculptural. Entrails
are what I’m made of, so sorry.
Also I am made of stardust, our
earth the result of a star’s collapse.
Stardust does not sparkle; it bleeds.
I bleed at least monthly. I am quiet
about it. At least I am still alive.
At my worst I plan my route to every
place over and over in my head until
I arrive safely, and then I live
a little, and then I replay my day
until I can finally sleep. At my best
once is enough.
Alone I move about the house
as if someone is watching. This
is how I define productivity. From
imagined creeps I earn lunch
and TV breaks. Sometimes I wake
up so sad I do not even want
to pick up my holds from the
library. On these days I cannot
write but I pretend; I sit
at my computer and watch
trash until I feel so angry
that I can tell myself
what a luxury it is to feel
this sad. Sometimes I wear
my body like an ill-fitting,
on-trend garment, and the day
feels like a way to remind myself
the weather is still too hot
for my getup. I get a bad
haircut and want to pull
all my hair out of my head. Instead
I try lipstick like a big distraction,
and men want to fuck me because
men are like barracudas, and even
with bad hair I am shiny, I suppose.
I don’t want men to want to
fuck me. I just want to like my face
in the mirror. Why is it so hard to conceive
of vanity this way? I will not say
not all men because I am tired
of cow-towing to the obvious.
The sun came up and made
the clouds pink again today.
Not all clouds is something I might
add, as a postscript, not all clouds
were pink. But still the sky lit up
remarkably. That is the impression
shaded into my memory until
the next sunrise burns the clouds
some vibrant color again. A man
at the beach will remark to me
about the color of the clouds.
Sometimes he will also want
to fuck me. This I have learned.
Caroline Cabrera is the author of Saint X, winner of the Hudson prize and forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in January 2018. Her previous collections are The Bicycle Year and Flood Bloom. She is editor of Bloom Books from Jellyfish Magazine and teaches with two nonprofits, Innovations for Learning and the O, Miami Poetry Foundation. She lives in Fort Lauderdale..