I was a cheat in morning, in silk silted with floor dirt,
dust growing dust, sorrow kneeling at my stomp.
There was a way to save me; there was a book on it.
There was one more state. In California, they fill all
ashtrays with fresh sand, all vehicles with the mad.
Dog-woman, knife fight, the man who said he was a man,
who swore to it licking my arm upon exit. It is this nature
that hurt in the sun, despite what love I was in.
I do in yellow ruffle but choose the grotesque for myself,
the runt rodent beating its heart in my hand.
What pool is this? What balcony? I must always
be reconciled. What gift I bought or dance I made.
White chickens and tapestry, fog on the fireworks.
originally published in Antioch Review
All night I am ugly, wryneck whore, fantastic misshape.
I cannot stop eating or the eyes, shut and measured
in gloating. Walked convulsive to a bedroom you know
better, demanded proper attentions. What in a waist
is to be proud of? When I was fat you were fine
and now I am indistinct: systolic hysteric, weak
even to the corner to the train, sure I will be stalled
and gassed, that there should be value in a death.
What has passed came trying to rise from cement,
might have carried us steamy both with sturdier legs.
I will lie down with you; I will get up with you.
And then: just a day again, small scratches from the testing
of knives to my flesh, the endless face-scrubbing
with will not to waste these pretty years. Something
like folly has infected my blood; I imagine my life
would change with a girl’s given name, heading off
somewhere on a street of strangers put to bump
and suffocate. I cannot realize the evolution of this act.
I must have walked because I am still walking.
originally published in Boston Review
Lynn Melnick is the author of If I Should Say I Have Hope (YesYes Books, 2012) and the co-editor, with Brett Fletcher Lauer, of Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation (Viking, 2015). Her poetry has appeared in The New Republic, The Paris Review, A Public Space, and elsewhere. Her fiction has appeared in Opium and Forklift, Ohio and she has written essays and book reviews for Boston Review, Coldfront, LA Review of Books, and Poetry Daily, among others.
Lynn was born in Indianapolis, grew up in Los Angeles, and was educated at Santa Monica Community College, UC Santa Cruz, and Columbia University. She has been a mentor with Girls Write Now, which pairs adult writers with teenage girls from underserved or underprivileged schools in New York City. She teaches at the 92Y in NYC and is the social media and outreach director for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, which explores the cultural and critical perceptions and reception of women in writing. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband, poet Timothy Donnelly, and their two daughters.
On holiest day dismal I digest myself, composed.
There will be one of these each year, specific apology,
each sin. That of horrible tongue, cut-rusted, that
of proud wash-out. And what mad break this fast
on an untoward day, head spinning. I saw a man
die. Touched his vacant body, wet his stomach
until my eyes turned at his passing in self-scented
clothes. Now I bind in white, wed to what is done
is wrong. Such terrible dragging of lipstick across
a smart mouth to divide it. Such greed. Such intention.
originally published in The Paris Review