First Floor

Lisa Wells

"Woman Seated With
Thighs Apart"

Often I am permitted to return to this kitchen
tipsy, pinned to the fridge, to the precise
instant the kiss smashed in.

When the jaws of night are grinding
and the double bed is half asleep

the snore beside me synchs
to the traffic light, pulsing red, ragged up
in the linen curtain.

I leak such solicitous sighs
to asphalt, slicked with black ice, high beams speed
over my body whole

While the drugstore weeps its remedy
in strident neon throbs—
I doubt I'll make it out.

It’s a cold country. It’s the sting of quarantine.
It’s my own two hands working
deep inside the sheets.

Canis Vulgaris

Sallow, furred, I wore my sores.
Nightmare of sebum

wake in aching cysts. Insist on oil-free,
cream of sulfur, decongest my angry liver

nothing makes it better.

In the myth, The Rough Faced Girl
levels clear as glass, achieves a husband.

Moral is: the out reflects the in.
Don't need a mirror to know.

I keep clean, enraged, rough bitch in me
clicks her claws, swipes and overtakes

the pretty little things.

Saddle Shoes

We circled in the bedroom of the trailor
and passed a can of Spring Rain Glade.

Our careful mouths stretched over the nozzle,
washcloth between, we huffed deep the clouds.

I lay back on the bed expanding,
pathetic with pleasure

and stared at a poster of a kitten
in bobby socks and saddle shoes.

The good god placed that kitten in my eye,
coated my bones in baby fat

but could not spare me the fingers
of fatherless boys.

The prettiest of us had babies
with three different dads, she manages

an all night IHOP off the interstate.
Once, I watched her descend a stair

in a strapless dress, the delicate
sleigh of her clavicle caught

the light of a naked bulb
and I prayed to god Please let me be her

and the god of the refried cigarette,
the No-Doz overdose

in his singular mercy
didn't answer.

Lisa Wells

Lisa Wells is a poet and essayist from Portland, Oregon. She’s the author of Yeah. No. Totally., a book of essays, and a chapbook, BEAST. Recent work can be found in The Believer, Best New Poets, Denver Quarterly, Third Coast, The Iowa Review and others. She has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently teaches Poetry at Yale-NUS in Singapore.