Pre-poem: a primer.


When I say 

        room         I mean         this space that contains me

When I say 

        this space that contains me         I mean         I fill this space

When I say 

        I fill this space         I mean         this space is my body


When I say I am in this space I mean this space is my body


I fill it, it fills me, I am the space and it is me, our co-terminality 


        wavering and watery at the edges. 



please be mindful of what your voice touches: you are speaking 

within my body; as I am within yours. 


        ‘I mean river as a verb.’ 

                Natalie Diaz, “The First Water is the Body,” Postcolonial Love Poem.



I watch, from my room on the third floor, 

as partygoers climb through the window opposite mine. They sound joyous, 

burping sharp laughter onto the trampled myrtle 

blossoms. Can they hear me, 

singing along to their music? I wonder, 

when I strip off a floral dress, if they shake 

their heads at my dimpling belly; if they smile, wry, as I do, 

at the pink leopard-print thong I bought at a Target, 

on accident. When I am naked, 

can they see the scar lines on my legs? 


I. Myrtle

I have filled my life with flowers. 

In the stairwell singing, How am I supposed to be 

healed? to “Orange Blossoms”, a stranger 

compliments my voice, another my lily 

shirt, simple cotton. I read a poem, “Calyx”, 

the other day. I wrote a poem to a Ruysch 

bouquet the other day. I read a line in a poem, 

his name for me is a flower: Hyacinth, / a final pink 

breath. I sent him a picture. I read a poem 

about an abortion the other day. I saw a still-life, 

a pail of roses and 

a mayfly, too. I wish I could have a baby. 

My favorite pair of shoes has carnations on them, 

or peonies, maybe. 


I. Pair of shoes 

When my room becomes too silent, 

I lace up my running shoes and step from the chamber. 

(Remember what is my body and see how I change.) I run

to the trail, to feel the sun, the wind. When I see the water, 

I want to strip the clothes from my body, and dive 

and swim the stream until I must scoop myself back 

onto shore. My feet still in my shoes—I was too much in need 

to remove them—I must unlace carefully, water-logged 

as they are. My worked fingers, prunish, 

open to the sky and unfold like leaves. (This, too, is writing

a poem in which I desire you.) Freely, like a crack of wildfire 

taking to the riverside trees, I throw myself at the earth, fevered 

until my ribs break out in roots and branches, reaching 

for deeper mud and soil: my bones need a noisy arbor. 


I. Log

I count these moments I spend 

        thinking of you by chewing 

                a dried persimmon: 1, 2, 


3— (slowly.) the flesh is sweet 


        and tough. 4, 5, 6, 

                7— (slowly, 



        8, 9, 

                10, 11, 




End note


“How am I supposed to be healed?” is a lyric from “Orange Blossoms” by Half Waif. 

“Flower II, Calyx” is a poem by Sun Yung Shin. 

Rachel Ruysch is a Dutch Golden Age painter of many still-lifes of flowers (and insects!). 

“his name for me is a flower: Hyacinth, / a final pink breath.” is a line from “Alternatives for a Celibate Daughter” by Thylias Moss (Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman). 

*”strip the clothes from my body” is a lyric from “Midnight Asks” by Half Waif. 

*”lace up my running shoes” draws on “Lacing up my / tennis shoes in front of you feels more intimate than I intended”, lines from ’23 Isabella Pu’s incredible “Autumn diptych”.


*uncredited in poem