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Kim Addonizio

Weaponry

I used an arrow to kill the spider.
I used a steamroller to flatten the worm.

For the ants I called in an air strike.
Bee that found its way in through the screen:

blowtorch.
The mammals were easier—

a bucket of water for submerging the cat,
a poisoned word thrown to the dog.

For love, only a kitchen match. That
and a stove leaking gas

and waiting until the dinner
was good and burned.

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Mermaid Song

for Aya at fifteen

Damp-haired from the bath, you drape yourself
upside down across the sofa, reading,
one hand idly sunk into a bowl
of crackers, goldfish with smiles stamped on.
I think they are growing gills, swimming
up the sweet air to reach you. Small girl,
my slim miracle, they multiply.
In the black hours when I lie sleepless,
near drowning, dread-heavy, your face
is the bright lure I look for, love's hook
piercing me, hauling me cleanly up.

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Lucifer at the Starlite

—after George Meredith

Here's my bright idea for life on earth:
better management. The CEO
has lost touch with the details. I'm worth
as much, but I care; I come down here, I show
my face, I'm a real regular. A toast:
To our boys and girls in the war, grinding
through sand, to everybody here, our host
who's mostly mist, like methane rising
from retreating ice shelves. Put me in command.
For every town, we'll have a marching band.
For each thoroughbred, a comfortable stable;
for each worker, a place beneath the table.
For every forward step a stumbling.
A shadow over every starlit thing.

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My Heart

That Mississippi chicken shack.
That initial-scarred tabletop,
that tiny little dance floor to the left of the band.
That kiosk at the mall selling caramels and kitsch.
That tollbooth with its white-plastic-gloved worker
handing you your change.
That phone booth with the receiver ripped out.
That dressing room in the fetish boutique,
those curtains and mirrors.
That funhouse, that horror, that soundtrack of screams.
That putti-filled heaven raining gilt from the ceiling.
That haven for truckers, that bottomless cup.
That biome. That wilderness preserve.
That landing strip with no runway lights
where you are aiming your plane,
imagining a voice in the tower,
imagining a tower.

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Eating Together

I know my friend is going,
though she still sits there
across from me in the restaurant,
and leans over the table to dip
her bread in the oil on my plate; I know
how thick her hair used to be,
and what it takes for her to discard
her man’s cap partway through our meal,
to look straight at the young waiter
and smile when he asks
how we are liking it. She eats
as though starving—chicken, dolmata,
the buttery flakes of filo—
and what’s killing her
eats, too. I watch her lift
a glistening black olive and peel
the meat from the pit, watch
her fine long fingers, and her face,
puffy from medication. She lowers
her eyes to the food, pretending

[...] Read more

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You Don't Know What Love Is

You Don't Know What Love Is
but you know how to raise it in me
like a dead girl winched up from a river. How to
wash off the sludge, the stench of our past.
How to start clean. This love even sits up
and blinks; amazed, she takes a few shaky steps.
Any day now she'll try to eat solid food. She'll want
to get into a fast car, one low to the ground, and drive
to some cinderblock shithole in the desert
where she can drink and get sick and then
dance in nothing but her underwear. You know
where she's headed, you know she'll wake up
with an ache she can't locate and no money
and a terrible thirst. So to hell
with your warm hands sliding inside my shirt
and your tongue down my throat
like an oxygen tube. Cover me
in black plastic. Let the mourners through.

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Poem for the New Year

So far it's suspiciously similar
to the old year: the same wild cold

wind circling the yard,
and that oozy substance

still clings to the carton of orange juice
I lift from a shelf in the fridge.

Also, I notice that my face
in the bathroom mirror,

fresh from the bed's wrappings,
looks a bit worn.

Last night, in my neighborhood,
a few guns went off amid the firecrackers,

surely a sign that something new
was entering the world,

[...] Read more

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Salmon

In this shallow creek
they flop and writhe forward as the dead
float back toward them. Oh, I know

what I should say: fierce burning in the body
as her eggs burst free, milky cloud
of sperm as he quickens them. I should stand

on the bridge with my camera,
frame the white froth of rapids where one
arcs up for an instant in its final grace.

But I have to go down among
the rocks the glacier left
and squat at the edge of the water

where a stinking pile of them lies,
where one crow balances and sinks
its beak into a gelid eye.

[...] Read more

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What Do Women Want?

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what

[...] Read more

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The First Line is the Deepest

I have been one acquainted with the spatula,
the slotted, scuffed, Teflon-coated spatula

that lifts a solitary hamburger from pan to plate,
acquainted with the vibrator known as the Pocket Rocket

and the dildo that goes by Tex,
and I have gone out, a drunken bitch,

in order to ruin
what love I was given,

and also I have measured out
my life in little pills—Zoloft,

Restoril, Celexa,
Xanax.

I have. For I am a poet. And it is my job, my duty
to know wherein lies the beauty

[...] Read more

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