Back to Issue Thirty-One

Psalm for the World Below



“Some day, perhaps, remembering even this / will be a pleasure.” —Virgil

In bed, I rub my legs
against the dirt I brought

into the sheets. The last
man who held me tendrils

thick with old ceremony.
A blight of granules

on my skin. What is it
I want? I should discuss

the sky, trauma’s ocular,
or the basement crickets’

godless feathering. They dark
when I near. I held his

gaze until I couldn’t.
Ascending stairs to earth,

I, a Dido, flawed to love
“a thing forever fitful.”

As in the day a lily bloomed
on my Chinese Evergreen,

white yonic elsewhere,
I showed him this gift.

It leeches energy, he taught me.
Cut it off. I lock-screened

my gift as it withered to spit.
Outside warms whatever clovers

mother the paucity of bees,
my landlord ass up in the weeds.

When did master gardeners
take over my life? Wasn’t

anything grown that didn’t
need his pluck or his pluck?

Great men all stumble
hands grasping wineglasses

undone by figures to cheaply
desalinate oceans to irrigate

the Sahara and Amazon.
All directives require revenue,

a his-pluck to his-pluck to his-.
Pinot soaks the flannels of men

as they kiss my peached skin.
They measure air, they teach me

I won’t change a thing.
The Fates hold no settlement

for us. What is it to change?
Home calls. A father speaks,

a mother listens. They occur
like a sink full of water, voices

a cloth submerged and unclean.
What is it to vow for that

which flaws us together, apart?
What is it to say This is the man

I love? I shimmy off a dress
in the equine rot of night.

My cheeks are still supple,
they assure me. Richter plays.

Listen, he taught me. If he
held me, I held him back.





—after A & D

“People tell me that I am always writing about love. Always, always love. I nod, yes, but it isn’t true—not exactly. In fact, I am always writing about betrayal. Love is the weather. Betrayal is the lightning that cleaves and reveals it.” —Toni Morrison, in her foreword to Love

A window slams open, tears through the house. I know
this one, the chain snapping off the mobile home’s door,

the stucco-beige void. There isn’t enough rain to quit the corner
light turning green. My face waits, lit in blue, stucco cracks

through which liquid coppers. I know this one, my face
warms to the dull hearth of others’ needs with putrid instinct.

The lengths I’ll go to to catch a glimpse of eye. I want to say
I washed the feet of my aphasic grandma, the liquid copper

moons over her vision. The tear down her cheek was functional,
it lubricated. I remained bent forward in position, I know this

one, I am the overturned tear, a wrongful grammar, the oh fuck
summoning the brackets of sleepy prayers. What was it I was

supposed to learn, whose kindness did I nourish? A woman
stomps down the hallway, a knife blade sticky and frozen

in her fist. It thunders all night. What should I know of betrayal
that shelter hasn’t already taught me, a lightning that does not

cleave nor reveal its faulty wiring? Her feet darken in front
of my door, a door that is no less mine than the power lines pulled

down by lifting crows. What of my life would I give to keep going?
The endemic settlement of the house cricket? Pure, they silence

at my approach, black organs smeared so easily across linoleum.
Is it the wet trill that wakes me, or the window we expect

to shatter in fits of gust? In the morning, I will close it
with steady hands. A latch will fall. I will look at you.



Symptoms of Self-Induced Vomiting


Isn’t it the mind wants answers to
                                                                    the body, 
Why the body reflects no answer back,
                                                                    is not
Reflection whatever but a wall curved over
What isn’t a room in this economy? A raven
With another’s nest, eats up the sparrow eggs
                                                                    and rests.
What is the disease where muscles stiffen
                                                                    and tendons ossify— 
Is there no room for poetry in
                                                                    the poking bones?
The sound of oats tinseled in a bowl?
                                                                    I wait for change.
A hunger in my thorax eructs into burn,
                                                                    esophageal rips,
I’m sorry to explain to anyone who asks.
                                                                    the knees kneel 
Every sore shares a name. The action shaped
                                                                    the joints
The shape of the joint allows us to bed
                                                                    with formal agony—
Somewhere, a gosling sleeps. I would do anything
                                                                    to change.

Natalie Eilbert is the author of Indictus, winner of Noemi Press’s 2016 Poetry Prize, as well as the poetry collection, Swan Feast (Bloof Books, 2015). Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from POETRY, Granta, The Jewish Current, The New YorkerTin HouseThe Kenyon ReviewThe Brooklyn Rail, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the 2016 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellowship at University of Wisconsin–Madison and is the founding editor of The Atlas Review. She lives and teaches in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Photo Credit: Mark Koranda