The Better to Eat You With My Dear
Part of me is still the lonely girl
who waits for you
at the edge of the woods,
basket full of bread and wine,
red dress falling around her feet
like autumn leaves.
We can agree
that we learned to hunt
because we were hungry.
We learned to light fires
because we were afraid of the dark.
When we heard growls in the night,
we fed what climbed into bed with us
to keep it from swallowing us whole.
And you once scooped out a man's kneecaps
with shards of broken glass.
And you once tore open another man's belly,
and cast him into the river
with a belly full of stones.
It's a game, you said.
And everything was funny.
I loved your fingers, those same fingers
you put inside me until I was bloody
and screaming. And what can you do
but turn back once you have come to the end
of the path, to the place where thorns
tangle and drag through the thin white sheet
of your skin like teeth?
You run. You run like hell.
You keep running.
Voice you'd know anywhere,
you'd swear could pull you from the grave,
dirt curdling under your fingernails
as you clawed your way up and closer
to a ghost made of only a handful
of syllables and breath,
voice that wrestled you from the grip
of nightmares when you'd thrash in bed,
beat the pillow senseless,
twist yourself into a cocoon of blankets,
emerge shaken and raw into the womb
of the dark bed, a lovely
startled, just-born creature safe in an embrace
you were promised would survive
whatever raging hell you carried inside of you,
voice that murmured the softest words
when you woke, dazed, in the hospital bed,
forearms burning, fire leaping vein to vein
where a single shard of broken glass
had shredded skin into long, curling ribbons,
colored the bath water thick and red as merlot,
voice that swooped through your ribcage
while you made love, like a swallow
cut from black velvet, lured you
over ledges again and again until
you learned how to conquer the sky
on your own, and the moon hung
above you like a cat's crooked grin,
voice like a scalpel sliding
into the milky gray fetus of a stillborn pig,
a starless wish, unfinished,
undreamed, says without falter don't
call here again.
(I Swear) This is Not a Love Poem
My back has always hurt
since the night I was ten and chased
our gray house cat up and down
the upstairs hallway, slipped and landed
on my tailbone. I have never walked quite right
since then, and I have a knack for falling
down stairs or in love, getting busted up.
We are all damaged. In fact, I was once
convinced I had found my soul mate
in the cornflower blue eyes of a man
whose childhood was spent being
his father's ashtray, scars
from cigarettes like the thumbprints of the devil
on either side of his spine, the curve of his neck,
where he loved to be kissed,
where he tucked me when we laid side by side
in his sleeping bag down by the river.
He left me sleeping, to wake alone
with my fingers pressed into the red earth.
This is why I told you I wanted
something better this time,
because I believe we are more than bodies,
more than sacks of blood and meat
and stupid, godforsaken hearts that
shatter like brown bottles across
the hard corners of a lover's name.
On New Year's Eve, I tasted the possibility
of us in my throat like good whiskey.
You said you needed space, so I followed
the North Star across two states
and found only the frozen ground
at the end of a driveway that led
to a house bigger than my resolve
when I said fuck it, because I didn't need
to be loved by anyone, anyway.
I am thankful that I couldn't see my face
when the doctor told me in his soft voice that
there was permanent damage to my heart.
Someday, I will be dead, and this body will be
nothing but ashes and bone fragments and teeth.
The flakes of my skin will stay buried
in the woodwork of my house, in the basket
of unwashed clothing, the crevices of my
worn-out mattress. Strands of my hair will
climb like ivy inside the walls of my shower.
I will live in the air and the water
and the pearl-gray shivers of moonlight
in tree branches, and even if my memory
is only good enough for a couple verses
in some half-written song, shitty lyrics
secreted away between the pages
of Mein Kampf, and you keep stumbling home
drunk off your ass at 4 a.m. with a rage under your tongue
that you can't bear, I would still come
to kiss and smooth the creases
from your forehead as you sleep
and wind myself around your legs like a black cat
until you wake, safe, still haunted by the things
you won't allow yourself to believe in,
or especially by those you will.
Amber Decker is a thirty-something poet and musician from West Virginia. She was the recipient of Cultural Weekly's 2015 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize, and her work has been included in the groundbreaking literary ezine, Exquisite Corpse, as well as other hip venues for alternative writing: Zygote in My Coffee, Phantom Kangaroo, Hobo Camp Review, decomP, Red Fez, and Black Heart Magazine, to name a few. Amber is a lover of comic books, horror culture, good wine, better whiskey, tattoos, and rock and roll. Her latest collection of poems, The Girl Who Left You, is available from California's notorious Six Ft. Swells Press.