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Photo by Kari Donatelli

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Arisa White

Arisa White




FOLDED LETTER TO HER CHILDREN



Mommy is wrong in the way the sky
will be wrong from the day you remembered.
Even then there is such treasure in the cumulus
that breaks the eye, you see a dragon-harp,
a lion-castle, a finger jeweled in mountains.

The meridians of my speech
grids the shiny rivers of your scalp.
There are no pauses to regulate the breath,
the lights are green where periods go.

I'm a cauldron sometimes, a witch's brew ticking.
I've improvised the potions. I want you to know
none of my ladling was an imitation of love.

Let this be a barnacle on your doubts:
my skin breaks into fur to be your tortoise shell.
If this were acrylic, I'd strip us to gesso,
drag the brush to the starting line.

I'm not foraging for forgiveness—keep your berries.
Just the understanding that comes when you learn
the best time to hang your laundry out to dry.

I've churned you from the dipping into myself.
You are in gypsy moth sail from my limbs, remember
I'm the little house that sighs when you break away
with drool of a wing from your apogee.




THE YOUNGEST


My reality has its own buckles that she's undoing;
directing the traffic of her veins to bring me
back to the shatter of her screams, glinting
in my ear. David mocks Samantha's chivalry,
his cackle simmers in her eyes. I laugh too.
The bells in my gullet is the off-tuned symphony

of the ice cream truck. The chimes that can glacier
a hot day, and the fever I am beneath her eight,
warm years, needs the cool of good humor.
She lifts off me like the fog I thought her once
to be strung to my navel. I'm stepping out of bathwater,
watching her go into the bedroom to shelve
whatever instinct she had to save her mother.




BETWEEN A CAW AND MILKY HUM


His eyes a warm bloom in a steel whorl,
a yoke of hurricane—I wear a constrictor.
The gulf of me fattens to find my ships beasting.
I could shovel my way through skin and sinew,
somewhere between a caw and milky hum.

In the pitch of a siren, suspended
in the breath of my banshee signing,
the sky is an attic for our young fires.

Fading into the cones, he is in my head;
vibrating the membranes of his abdomen
until he's the cicada on my screens.

He watches with a tower's breathing light,
devotes his lungs to the belief that my eyes
elsewhere is subtraction. Warns, he will cross
into alleys and spay my feral thoughts,
turn the volume of my body down.




WHEN YOU LIVE IN BROKEN PROMISES, YOU SHOULDN'T THROW FITS


This reliquary for your broken promises has damned my intestines.
How do you build your chest up each day to tell me a ticker tape of moths?

All over the place they break, a rollicking guffaw of skillets.
Patent leather ants cart off your shards, one by one—there's a colony scripting their lives on
your fractions and rain-checks.

The fragments exfoliate to a sheen of "I will do better". The horse in my ribs promenades
along the boulevard of our palimpsest enterprise, where tongues press rewind and I consent
to the circus of backwards walkers.

I'm in the rodeo of appliances that can't be repaired, in heaps seagulls find fodder and you
with your abracadabra eloquence fattens the mirage, supplies me a religion of spoons that
cobble beneath my feet a stroke of trumpet horns.

Such a politician with your four-score assonance. Your deafness must be the failure of the
glue, in the syntax of burst notes, confessing the anthem of my flagless nation.




I HUM A SONG THAT MOVES THE PORCH SWING IN MY THROAT


Before I opened up the prayer and let the birds out, and abandoned all helloes
in the phone's helix, I was young; the stars requested certain notes from me.

She answered back, mocking the lyrics I made. Andrea. Two houses down,
from the planet that always twinkled back—the years left no tracks between us.

I wish again a friend would arrive with the grip to stir me from his spooning,
call to my sill with a constellated jar.

Instead, I'm given to an ovation of wind and water to occupy the mouthpiece
when anyone calls, and expurgations of bleek bleek to fleece the facts.

I can't forgive my torso with its sweet-tooth for shouts that never break the barrier
of skin, or burst over roofs a carnival of balloons that resist the knot around my wrist.

These urges pass; the dirty laundry never airs,
These icarian messages melt before they reach.




LOSS OF MY LEGS


There's nothing magical about a man
in a cube of water—the trick is what keeps him there.
When I divide this divisible us with enough
I'll undergo mitosis and board a twin belief.
The seam will serve as doorknob back to Noah's ark.
To ride the lap of a boy, once in front of me, in a red wheelchair,
who glared back when I turned to answer a friend's question.
He was no where in the pinch of distance it took to get far.
I too can poof and suffer the loss of my legs.




THE ART WE HAVE IN COMMON


Between our stare is a cat's cradle—
not one of our children will slip their fingers.
We are always wind.

Who are we when the gray
does not give up its black and white,
when I'm mortar to your space in between?

I am trying to make something
we can leave behind, more than
the compression of dirt to hold our step.
Our children need not the bridges
that draw our borders in precarious sway.

I'm suggesting a truce for the sake of progeny;
a treaty we can slip into their hands,
so they are not afraid to near my white flags.

You are not so willing to meet me at the table.
And still our children wipe their feet
before entering our bald fields.




WILL KNOW NOTHING


There is this deep inside the quiet deep
parting of private seas to leagues of muscular chants,
there is a love to be lost and broken rearranged like blocks—
whose name we spell is not the issue—it is us not willing
to pay attention to architecture, its integrity, whether
it will last the shake we go story after story
thinking the roof will know nothing of the ground.