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You are not dead but the opposite of dead
is not flightless. I feel bad about all my
apostrophes and want to speak in clipped
syllables to my friends, to sleep
on the black futon in the afternoon again,
even as the flies gather. No, no, the flies
literally gathered, freckled the windows
waiting, tap tap, legs against the glass. 
Why am I telling you what you already
know? Because some light is terrible
and blue and there are only so many kinds
of fruit to like about summer. Your friend died
and I pretended to be her touching
an expensive white dress. I put on a coral
pendant and remembered the poem
you wrote about rich women and statement
necklaces. I am not trying to make
a statement. I am trying to enter a way
of speaking that means out loud
if intimate, lips near an ear, or us
on a bench, not looking at each other
but at the ragged topiary, rats
the size of dachshunds. I have no
theoretical positions to explore
in this poem. I have no ideas about
anything. One way to avoid an afternoon
appointment is to pretend you are dead.
You don’t have to go to the meeting
if your heart is stopped in your chest. 
You can lay down with a spoon
in your mouth and practice not breathing.
But I want you to know this isn’t
morbid, not this time. This is like a girl
knocking a knife from your plate
then getting you a new one. I don’t want
to marry any afternoons, to get married
to a color, even blue. I am writing
this poem in a basement food court
and it’s not that teenagers in pink
T-shirts are ineligible for poems, 
but that no one here is listening
like you. I am homesick for your hair, 
friend, even if it needs cutting. All the bedrooms
cost the same thing here and at home
but we wanted to go nowhere, and/or
Wyoming. Wanting to zip up into
space with no one noticing is not
terrible, exactly. We try to describe the bass line
without comparison but then a heart
appears, beating, and someone begins
to cry. In retrospect, the problem
came from trying to listen to just one
instrument at a time. I think you would like
the way so much glistened, or
how to look outside without noticing
branches. That it was raining
more than it wasn’t. There is no way
out of this poem because I want
the poem to go on going, like
nothing. No simile or example, 
just us together, pretending. 




I walk around like a murky riverbed

A six-foot sunflower and a dirty mattress

Just okay-looking and a little saggier

I like the way a hip can droop
I like it on other women


I changed the baby’s diaper
and it became a cat, wriggled away
from the table

If I live to twice this age I’ll have outlived

How to be not-very-beautiful

My therapist says to call “anger”
“feeling muddled,” if that’s easier


Not wanting to write poems about
the stars, whiskey, whatever
was lovely

Undereye circles, black half-moons

Wince at having to become
something else now, unwanted


Each clockhand signals
another strand of hair to be plucked

All the women sun-fresh, framed
with curls, a yoga mat

A beautiful girl struck down by
a sorrowful chain

A beautiful girl I knew appearing in photos now
with a scar, a lumpy throat


It wasn’t the living forever but the becoming
so ugly it terrified that thrilled me

Standing naked on the roofs of houses

Pretty sure I made a mistake
and the mistake fatal
though slow-coming

I couldn’t get anything to come out
funny like it used to, or
torn from newspapers


In an essay a woman said
this is the bad place women
start bad poems from: fashion, etc.

How to get a line that accurately
reflects the condition of
unending inaccuracy

I loved the movie with the girl
floating in a pool all day
and then haunted

Sharp click of a high-heel, pink
clasp of a locket


A book inside a seashell
clamshell compact, powder pink

I don’t understand what happens,
and how, and why it hasn’t happened yet

I thought it would feel, one day, real

I buy a pair of pink glasses, I buy
a pale shadow at the drugstore

I lay in bed all day but nothing
comes toward me







Stephanie Cawley is from southern New Jersey. She currently lives in Pittsburgh where she is an MFA student at the University of Pittsburgh. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The BoilerH_NGM_NBirdfeastThe Adroit JournalPrelude, and Phantom Books