Kate Lutzner

asylum avenue

my sister i think was born there
not in any particular house
some structure with its uneven
floor perhaps that is how she grew
one leg longer she is living now
in the city with her husband
and two cats.

i comment on the color of the living
room "how familiar" i say "and sad."
she moves me on points me
in the direction of where they sleep
shows me the book with its various

my mother's husband
sharpening tools in the basement
builds one after another room
to occupy his wife, desolate and loose
limbed. they have a few friends,
the infrequent visitor who signs
in at the front door and upon
leaving takes in his or her
lungs a bit of sad air.

"do not talk to strangers" my mother
would repeat and i did not,
allowed only the familiar to enter
my room, devour the very arm and leg
that lay, silent and fastened there.

once, my mother, drunk
on tranquilizers and bad mouthing
my old fashioned father with his liquor
store habit, sent me outside, put the street
around me like a sweater, closed the front

like my parents' guests who had signed
on to breathe that bad air as long as their
cells remembered, i could neither escape
nor reenter the surety of a warm if crowded
bed and a night filled, if not with refuge,
then with familiarity. weather as it lifts
can suffocate a willing child just as a hand
or fist can assert itself and out of nowhere
reopen a door, undo its lock and key, invite
the old inhabitant to have a seat, maybe
lie down a while, even drink a warming
drink if so inspired.

intoxicated and used to it, i led myself
to bed, crawled right under someone already
sleeping there. it is still unclear whether
my sister emanated or was deliberately
invented, whether a child's sudden
appearance might imply careful planning
or whether the coincidence of slow existence,
the uneven gait of an embryo not yet formed, might have
its impetus in some premeditated
act. my mother called it copulation but i have since
learned there is no sense a man or woman
cannot reach, no clear-cut way of grafting
one to another.

sex, it seems, has become commonplace
and the dramatization of family, the repetitive
force of mother and father on child and child
has lost its effect. there is a house on some street, some
avenue out of alignment, a house where girls go back and
forth between rooms.

the truth in this scenario, this set of scenes, is that two
young women were disserviced, two young women went
every night to the bottom of their dreams, picked a
sentence here and there to record and all else, all other
feeling and thought, went archived.


dutiful girl

do you see hair falling do you notice details such as
that when you're grinding her away or does the thing about being shy mean
you are kind, also. do you know women have been known to disappear

do you know there are places i often go
when i am in the midst of what is commonly known as intimacy
when encountering someone for the first time or the last

i have been known to disappear

did i tell you i am seeing someone do you even care
i wonder was that girl on your floor your brother's girlfriend
or am i missing more

do you know there are times in someone's head
when light exceeds dark
perhaps sex is like this

or perhaps it is the opposite



"i had forgotten about birds" says the boy in my bed
              there was one in my window
"your eyes are like hollow trees" he says and i don't know how to respond

we don't know each other well enough for anger, that emotion that eats away
               all that is fragile and new

"let's do it again" i say because there is nothing else
because the sky is conspiring against us
                a storm just beginning

"birds have wings, don't they" he asks and i want to throw a vase his way
maybe break its fall with him but i don't

instead i say "have you seen me coming apart in sleep"
                              and he pretends not to hear
             focuses on how he's moving his hips

men are not fond of women talking during sex
               though they seem to have their own ideas
                                              and mouths
for purposes other than just this