I don’t know if it was a gift—things happen.
But you must have been there that night
between the caramel canyons, before
I had let anyone change me, when the other
girls and I sang Free Falling in the truck bed,
our knees bumping with every dip
in the river road. No matter how we held
the icees, they sloshed red on our thighs—
Tom Petty, can you hear us? Another! Again!
Fifteen deer in the river. We stopped
singing and stared like windows in the wake
of breaking, the house no longer separate
from outside. Headlights clicked off,
but the moon’s mouth kept moving,
like stepping into a meeting for the Secret Society
of Fridge Dwellers, not knowing that people
willingly lived in the cold they created.
But you have always lived in the eyes of a deer.
From them, you watch your feet step lightly
through the inhabited worlds. I’m more like
a doll in a bathtub, occasionally getting my hair
pulled into the drain and seeing through
the black opening: this water is not my water.
What was I to you, then? Silly girl
stopped dead in a world of silly girls.
We held our breath a while. We went no further.
What Form When Vibrationally Open
We came out of our coats and laid down apart.
Bowls sang, and a woman. Her voice
covered us like water, and goats
watched from outside. I slept—
not sleeping, but floating.
When I woke the next day,
my room was old. Hung with yesterday’s
curry and a towel over the door
that won’t close.
Close for me! I pull one door and slam
against another, caught between rooms
that won’t end or start. I am dumber
than any goat lost in the neighbor’s woods,
the only true word: almost.
I want impossible things. A hallway
I can pass through and say definitively
then and now. None of this
spilling, trickling, carrying over
from one life to the next. I want to wake
suddenly taller, longer, and certain
that all of my dresses and pants must go,
it is time to start again.
Imagine—to be completely, for one
moment, not changing, still enough
for blackbirds to think my shoulder
a safe place to land. To stand at the edge
of a tree’s shadow, light
cutting me in two—here is God,
here is not God. Impossible.
So all hundred thousand of us spilled
out of the festival into the streets of Chicago
and sat pissed in a Dunkin while the rain wall
turned the sun off. We snapped hair bands,
toe kicking, every outlet full of charge.
Then we did. All hundred thousand
through mud and front row for Merrill Garbus
taking her head off and strumming the teeth.
“So make a poem like that,” I say to myself. Make it dirty
like Jesus in a dank basement playing with mud.
Dangerous as triangles, more offensive
than Axe Cologne. Make it drunk
punch you up like Radiohead at a wedding.
Make it fucking up. What can’t
language do—this virus, this sponge?
Reader, confetti your party drugs and get sad. This poem
is infertile and sexual as men in flip flops.
It’ll die young. It shouldn’t have. It’s here
to change you, yes you—alone in your window,
are you not someone else now? I am.
Lily Greenberg is a poet from Nashville, Tennessee, and a third-year poetry student in the University of New Hampshire's MFA Writing program. She works as a research writer for UNH and serves as Editor-in-Chief of Barnstorm Journal. Her poetry has appeared in Third Coast Magazine, storySouth, and River Heron Review, and she is the recipient of the 2020 Dick Shea Memorial Prize in Poetry. Twitter: lily_greenberg Instagram: lilygreenberg