Lake Natron

                  after Nick Brandt

Your love’s thermal waters, kept from sun
for ten thousand years. Others heal,

but I am the gilded head of Minerva found,
helmet axed free. Altars of the hair shirt,

pews of the split lip. Piranhas of salt,
my limbs soldered clean. Metal cleared

of its corrosion, garbage of its stink.
My joints stiffen, my legs refuse,

my lungs close over like notes
from a yew piano, its ebony keys.

Its wires weave my fingers as they fossilize
in place: strike them with hammers,

they resonate. Strike them with hammers
and they make a beauty that snails into the ear

even if you fail to listen. Capture me in any pose.
Coat me over and prop me up. You call it love,

but it is a glove over the face, a preservation
of shapes the museum desecrates. A blood-red lake

like your heart supposedly grown, but stunted
and bloodless and old. Calcium scours names

from graves, sulfur rises, minerals displace.
The limestone statues of my ankles eat away.

 
 
Sibling Frankenstein

When you take its pulse, the dead cell lurches.
The dead cell does not lurch. It opens with

a gasp like a pressurized safe or a glacier
calving from itself, blinks ajar like a mudslide

and expels. Fills with phosphorus and singes
flesh. A little revenge. It wants to be dead.

When you hook up electricity and let it spike,
she rises hooded like a cobra, oh nucleus, she

rises microbial as a mouth. It happens aloud,
this snap like a cry: you can wake her after all.

Her insides shudder and her borders quake.
She will swallow particles. She will digest.

Her returning will graft like rain. Lids thinned
to mesh. Crow sounds graveling like pebbles

in a fist. Her anatomy strung from cultured
snarls. Bedded down in a wither of cork.

But the brink in her hiss indicates she is
not fixable. She is endeavoring to sever you.

It will always be like this. She was a dime
until spent, a rhyme scratched in ink. Organs

pumped and shadowed, organs baked of clay.
She and her machine dislike you. She will

have you on your knees, cowering at noise.
Enough, you say. Pronounce the living girl a corpse.

 
 

The Narcissist’s Parts of Speech

She keeps verbs in their bee box
until they all are queens. She keeps
words clean as the bowel of a sink.
Nouns frost over like statues, runners
before a race. Predicates recite
a dialect she has lived, echoed from
the past. Her reflections there act
differently from herself. Pronouns
frame each beaker as a window,
the pouring in a gaze. Once,
her adverbs were sewn of leather,
injected with shade, left for dead
among newborn elk and shelled
seeds. Once, she was planted like
a grain. Once, prepositions of her
mixed, volatile and deranged. She hears
the doors of neighbors open, hears
the whispering for what it is. Half accusation,
half confession. Half gossip, half laugh,
half reason. Conjunctions leave her
on a speeding train, stationless at last.

Jennifer Militello

JENNIFER MILITELLO is the author, most recently, of A Camouflage of Specimens and Garments (Tupelo Press, 2016) and Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press, 2013). New poems appear or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Nation, and Tin House. She teaches in the MFA program at New England College.

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