BY ANNALISE LOZIER
Interlochen Arts Academy, ’17
2016 Adroit Prize for Poetry: Editors’ List
On the edge of the city
somewhere between the two quarters
I dropped that day. One on the far end
of town, under a billboard that looked like Gatsby
same arms outstretched, and the other
underneath an egg carton wall, near a flypaper door.
That was where the time fell in coils
around her reptile feet. That was where
the time fell like an earthworm,
like an umbilical cord around her reptile feet.
Something about the way the sky split open,
and along the edges that pulled apart
like wet paper it sagged, pink
like a balloon, like it had caved in, like a tumor.
It comes out of your cheek, the cheek of the sky,
God knows it’s ugly. You know it too. You say,
“Give your mother a kiss goodbye,” and when we kiss
it feels like breathing. When we kiss
it feels like heart palpitations.
She looked so much like a lizard in the glass
she even licked her eyes, you said.
But if she was half so terrible as you made
her seem then I would have been your hero,
but she opens her mouth in a silent scream
and we are all stuck between two quarters. And I saw you
in that alleyway, the whole place pulsing
with the walls of your arteries.
It pressed into the evening’s skin. I saw you let her
stick her fingernails through you, how good it felt,
how good it felt as it withered your knuckles.
She wears your intestines as rings
around her fingers. You act like you don’t know
they’re yours, play your stomach like a drum.
You act like I don’t smell like her
when I spend too long in the streets at night.
All that’s left is the oily flowers I painted on my back
with no mirror. I was told they look
like naked mermaids, but with goldfish faces
and scarecrow hands. I would watch the clouds
but they’ve burst open like horrible sores. They hurt
to look at and she watches me from corners,
watches you laugh and collect folds of empty skin
around you. You tell me to keep it safe,
keep them safe, your insides are growing thin.
She has patterns on her chest like mine,
but symbiotic— they get bigger every day. A smile
as beguiling as a reanimated corpse.
“Give your mother a kiss,” she says. All I can think of
is that camera; the lizard across the room.
I could feel her poking through me,
dead cells poking out of me, her fingers in the membranes
of my cells. Don’t worry, she says,
it doesn’t cling, it isn’t a mouse, it’s dead.
But we both know what favors
she does you, what things she gave you, and she’s the one
who gave to you. Your voice is gritty and it sits in my ear
like a mayfly larva, your eyes soapy, iridescent with eggs.
You ask me to carry them for you. They slide cautiously
down the drains. You kiss your unborn children
goodbye as I try to lift up manhole covers,
try to slide away. Sometimes, when I go outside,
the sky brushes against my shoulder. Sometimes
when it does, I shudder, like it’s gifting me its sickness,
as if I would want it unwrapped and trembling
in the dark, as if I would want it inside of me
making twin after twin so it won’t be alone, doesn’t understand
why they all swim away, why they all make twins
of their own. I couldn’t survive anywhere else,
but the sky will kill me down here.