Kelp ribbons at my feet and stroke-foolish,
even in the water of your vase I drown.
Dear, you flood my struts.
I’m brined with kisses yet off the past,
that breakfaster at the ends-of-the-dock.
Listen, if the green tethers
we so enjoy fray, nutrients will grow more.
No brown tide lurks over my heart’s
salt pump. Longing is long
but I’m safe treading this sea
that could be blood, nods my animatronic
Flipper replacement in the pen.
No, real, squeals the whale your smile
reminds me of, a homing device
under my neck skin, a periscope
searching but not leaving,
the app so location-bound.
The Children’s Hour
O blue-eyed banditti
They count cocktail calories
while you hunger. No snacks—
you won’t eat your supper.
Table set for twos, for eights,
fingerprints inside each glass,
lick the fork you like. In summer
crickets cut up meat, in winter
windows steam. As if food matters. Pots
crash but plates? Not a one.
Another drink, please.
The locked light
like another whole day.
Crying helps. Scorched celery stinks.
Your fingers taste wet, so much skin.
Forks lift the air too late.
The moon over
Amazon’s night shift glitters
on the pallets of thousands of toys
packed, no, serviced by a blur of not-
robots, one with an arm gone
denoting sacrifice except
he’s still adept at screwing one screw
forward into the dawn. Bad language
against the piss-soured dirt of Xian
is useless he says after he says
at the point of exhaustion, Don’t drink
the water made bad by the company,
Don’t breathe the stinking air. Vampire
machines make starvation handsome,
the electricity adores the fingers here
typing typing typing
about the Chinese soldiers’ children
who saw them march into the tomb.
They did not live a thousand miles away,
their faces squared with light
in their palms.
A recent Guggenheim Fellow, Terese Svoboda is the author of seven books of poetry, six novels, a memoir, a book of translations from Nuer, a South Sudanese language, and the biography, Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet.