Originally published in Elimae

In the kitchen they discovered the instruments. A flute under the sink tucked behind a rusted silver pipe. An oboe on the floor in the pantry. And a violin across the ice tray in the freezer, now dark.
“Not ice,” sister said, holding it up by the neck.
“We never had ice,” brother said.
“In the summer?” sister asked.
“No. Never.”
He wrapped his fingers around the flute and pulled it out with a pop as if he had plucked one rib from a whole skeleton.
“The first flute was made from mammoth tusk,” brother said, brushing the metal over his lips. “Then, the tibias of people.”
“Do they really use cat gut to make the string?” sister asked, fingering the broken threads.
“No. Sheep,” brother said. And it was true.
They braced the instruments underneath their arms and approached the oboe together, stopping on adjacent large tiles. The pantry was empty except for the instrument, three cans of oatmeal and a crusted jar of vegetable oil.
“She couldn’t have played all these,” sister said.
“Just that one,” brother said, head tilted towards the oboe.
“Did I play any?”
“Too young. But she bought you the violin anyway.”
“And you. The flute?”
“Me. The flute.”
“That must have been nice.”
“Who remembers,” brother said.
“No one, I guess.”
“Take it,” brother said, gesturing to the oboe. And she did.

With Ariel in Their Hands

Originally published in Unsaid Literary Journal

Sylvia Plath killed herself while her children slept upstairs, breakfast ready at their doors.

Anne Sexton wanted to do it, but Sylvia got there first, making Anne just a little less remarkable, although she tried often enough, her death like a song put on repeat.

Anne wrote about it later calling Sylvia a thief, stealing, how did she say? “Our boy.” Suicide compared to a date for the prom. The high school quarterback.

A boy in my school killed himself. Jumped in front of a commuter train around 8AM. I, like all the other 7th grade girls who didn’t know him, wore my most flattering black the next day. Did my best to convey emotion through black stockings and sweaters.

The boy in front of the train meant to do it, unlike Sylvia who they say was a little charlatan. Knew the maid would be coming over.Would be able to pluck her head out of the oven like a gooey halfbaked tart.

Then the children could have opened their doors, found breakfast, brought it downstairs and told Mommy how silly she was to have left it there, getting cold on the thin wooden floor. But the maid didn’t come.

They studied together you know. Anne and Sylvia. A poetry workshop with Robert Lowell. The man who wrote about graveyards. I can picture them together. Two girls talking about death like sex. The longing for it. The need. Suicide like masturbation.

Another girl in my school jumped off the George Washington Bridge, high on Ketamine—special K—or so it was said. I was a little older by then. Could begin to understand. Had begun to get an inkling for it myself.

In 1974 Anne finally decided on carbon monoxide poisoning. Over ten years after Sylvia had placed her head in that oven. But no one  remembers Anne’s go round like they do Sylvia’s. She was the first confessional. The first one to give us an idea of why. Specifics.

The boy who dove in front of the train could have gotten the idea from Sylvia. He could have read The Bell Jar. Sylvia’s words egging him on. I’m sure she’s done it for others. Thinking about their own deaths and taking a deep breath knowing that brilliant little woman did it. And Anne followed. All of them with Ariel in their hands, in their thoughts before making the final decision to walk into silence. Her legacy giving them strength. It’s not so wrong, they’d think. Sylvia did it.

The Fish

Originally published in Used Furniture Review

Getting closer to nature
as it turns out
means death
for someone like you
or if they’re kind
just a punctured lip
to see your size
release you.

It’s what we do
for the twitch of life
in the hand.

After all,
if death is the art,
we must at least
dangle it between
our fingers
bending it towards us.

Your great gaping jaw
slick and wide
is just the method.

You aren’t actually
here at all.

In Defense of Profanity in Poetry

Originally published in Used Furniture Review

If Ginsberg had written
penis instead of “cock,”
or anus instead of “ass,”
it would be as if,
clawing closer to his partner’s body,
he said, “Let’s have intercourse,”
instead of, “let’s fuck,”
when frankly, fucked
is what he intended to get,
crass and common as the flu,
lovely and plain as salt.

Canadian Geese

Originally published in Used Furniture Review

Moving ahead of the rest she glided into the engine that cut her into mulch. The others followed through the feathers, thin bones and blood. Such an unusual cloud.

Those engines could take a sparrow or even a crow, but a Canadian Goose with her large body and thin neck clattered through the machinery breaking the fan blades as well as her body.

When the passengers looked out, they didn’t see the fragments of birds that pulsed through the turbines or the bits of bill and feet that must have clacked against the metal like teeth. Instead out the windows they saw fire, held their breath as their vessel skipped over Manhattan and hit the icy water with the ease of a kingfisher.

The next day the paper called for the slaughter of the birds who live near the runways of JFK and Laguardia saying they “threaten air travel around New York.”

Canadian Geese with bones like hairpins, perhaps sea gulls and raptors for their larger bodies and need to be by the water. Cull the birds that grow too great to splinter easily through the jet engines and make way for human flight, now blessed with a solitary sky.

Because Your Partner Asked You To (an excerpt)

Originally published in Puerto del Sol

Because your partner asked you to, you will schedule another MRI and see another doctor. You won’t stall making the appointment even though you’ve already had twenty appointments in the last two months. An MRI doesn’t hurt, and though doctors push on the bottom of your feet so hard that it feels like someone is smashing a rock into the tender part of your heel, they could have a new idea. They could say that they could fix you. Take away your pain.

When a doctor suggested taking an antidepressant to lessen your pain, you tried it without complaint, but stopped the medication when one pill made you feel nauseated, fatigued and left your eyelid swollen like it was hiding a pebble above the lash. Be proud to know that you were not willing to sacrifice the parts of you that feel good to fix the two parts that hurt. Your partner understood. And besides, he was already on to the next treatment option.

When the new pain therapy you tried gave you a moment of relief, you smiled and acted hopeful while your partner cried, hugging you. You talked about how you might be able to experience pregnancy without a wheelchair, or walk hand in hand through a park. You spent the next month driving to Connecticut each day for electric pulses through your feet, calves and lower back to retrain your body how not to feel pain. Because at this point, pain is the reality. The constant. What you feel with every step. The pain that settled in at twenty-five and is still here at thirty.

Secretly, you had hoped the start of a new decade would mean no more pain. But that was hope without expectation, like buying a lottery ticket. You try to convince your partner that you should just get that wheelchair you’ve been eying for the last two years. The one that’s titanium and would allow you to move about in a world that was built for people who don’t have to think about walking. Maybe you wouldn’t have to sit on the ground in line at the post office or at Staples. Maybe you could roll around the supermarket instead of waiting in the car while your partner brings out the bags. Maybe you wouldn’t have gotten drunk at the bar while your partner was working the room, and then on the way home vomited silently in the Tupperware you found in the back of the car, so that no one heard.