Safety Is Not Other People

Two poems by Annie Goold

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Safety Is Not Other People

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Asylum

The dependence of hunger gives
way to a sharpened eye, a test subject
unsure if it’s in the control or the experiment
group. Sugar or water or the choice to leave
before someone else’s decision: paint me
a reverie like a radio dial or a waiting room’s
splintering pique for your name. I want you
to take my time. When a succulent is
overwatered, it melts from the bottom up,
irretrievable from a surplus, watching itself
drown on land. I snake a string of pearls
around the pot to give it something of the sea
to welcome it while wasting; a terminal
lucidity in its shrinking. And you take my time kindly by
the spoonful, certain to slip the knife
from my teeth, and how I love you harder for it.

When you’re not looking, I lick the counters:
Stray coffee grounds, mistaken yogurt dabs, cracker dust,
anything to keep the taste of you in my mouth even while
you’re here. We’re here. For now,
we draw a bath to forget that
RBG is dead, and what was scalding, we let turn cold
to know we’re still warm inside. What endurance
do we need to carve from ourselves next?

I’d carry your child if you’d have me, provided I still can
or ever could in these days of petroleum skin on the lake
shivering beneath wildfire smoke and Baldwin
rightfully back in vogue. Would one be a fortune? Salt!
Salt for the going, for the polish of the pearls.
Where next the dishes and chairs are placed matters
as much as the light and the will to eat.

Some Things That Are Not Love Happen Out of Love

and those are the things for which we must conjure
an alternate route in order to survive; acknowledgement is due, but without 
a whole body, the needs to be born, it is missing bone

-mass, about 10%, in the right hip joint. Surprisingly, the spine
looks okay. Usually, that’s where girls like you lose the most.
[Osteopenically speaking: sure. I can believe that.] I knew I was

walking into a room I hadn’t before, and I thought his parents
would be home, meaning safety, meaning answers
to the three-day absence of the one person my mind could

not unknot from. I hunkered Rocinante’s fat ass in place
alone affront the house, the poor van’s dyspeptic engine pinging
itself cool: maybe their car was in the alley. He wouldn’t

suggest you start taking salt tablets, because right now
you need to raise your blood pressure, and the salt
will do that. And more water. Water, not coffee. The ceiling fan

wasn’t moving, but its light was on; the porcelain heads
to the pull chains, for once, were still, two baby teeth dangling
from a robin’s egg gum. He said he was suicidal, that’s why

he’d needed to not talk to me, not see me, or be near seeing me
for three days. Consoled that it wasn’t my fault, I said that’s okay
and he took my hand and if you’d just raise your left arm and

lay your head on top it, I can get a better angle on your heart.
[Must it be a jab, sir? Surely, the echo is viable without a jab.] I just
wanted to help, let him know the child I was loved the child I saw

in him: a fellow loner, befuddled with these extra parts to cover,
and a number of hick histories to dissuade. Go team weirdo!
A resolute shift in his lean, new kind of press, one I wasn’t

sure I wanted not Within fifteen feet, the instinctual reaction is to not
move or scream when confronted with this person undoing
above inside me the fan light boiling my sight barium green lit copper blue

bird with a two-egg nest stenciled on the wall three fan tines because
a scream would give away the throat to four pillows to the couch
five fingers to a hand where’s mine need to just find home six animal yes

and when his face reached my mouth, I kissed it with all I that I was
to keep him from lowering back down. It was the one prayer
I could manage to summon, and it gave life back to one dead:

of course, I made a practice of this worship: it was for love! Of course, 
I’ve carved my form with something mistaken for vanity I’m sent girls all the time 
with this problem. But you’re already perfectly thin. Why do you

want to be thin? because vain is where this started. It has the subtlety
of a sledgehammer, my statement of control, and I’m working
on reframing repentance. I was a kid, and I did what I could to help.

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