Arsenic Lobster poetry journal Issue Thirty-four
Spring 2014
Corpus Delicti
Laura E. Miller


             and suddenly the tongue becomes a lead apple.
It wasn’t always like this, little seeds sprouting into little grimy cities                           at our feet.
Full of lonely women taking cold showers.
             We were sewn out of threads of silk,
             cotton              in the wind.
Your laugh                   tangled in my hair.

She said have you ever lost a lost a leg and I said
I didn’t think so. All because the pearls
             were eaten. I couldn’t see the things I wanted to see,

the sun turned into this bright white thing and the whole time
I was thinking that        some people steal all the bones
in your hand                   they build little doors for petite houses
where they keep                         the smell of when lightning strikes a tree.

             Okay, she kept saying,
             let’s move on to the next question:


We thought the problem was that we were trying too hard,
so I pretended to give up. Very carefully, you peeled a square
of skin off my body and we spent all night hemming the corners,
attaching the grommets, and finally at sunrise we put it up the pole

and sang a quiet song.

Sometimes I start to become a statue and you decorate me with flowers,
wreaths, little rocks balanced on my collarbones. Holding still enough is never
the problem, bones are always trying to fuse together anyway. Until the very

end the mind never quiets, chasing itself around a track with a dozen other
worn down things. Every time someone knocks on the door my mind stumbles
a little more. Sometimes I feel its ragged breath rattle through my throat.

When the asbestos started growing in the attic
she saved egg shells for fertilizer.           She said she heard
             somewhere that out of mold comes
children’s wishes                         the feeling of cool water

washed over a dirty face. She took us up and showed us
             her new garden.
             She cupped the asbestos in her hands and threw it up into the air,

and laughed
and laughed
and cried when it all floated back to the floor.

Wounds have a beginning
and an exit. The eyes and the ears.
             The arm and the foot. When the lightning

struck I was in midair. It’s not the ground that hurts,
             it’s all the air, pressing. I could hear

children setting off bottle rockets. They had tied pieces of string
to the ends and were following all the sparks into the street.

They looked like the birds that play in incoming traffic,
             distant and water-like.              The ground is so warm,
             sometimes, sitting in the sun, and then its cold,

barely there underneath me.

In the garden we will grow everything we’d ever need. You climbed inside the boat
to set sail           the land where flowers never wilt and milk never goes bad, you said.
             You brought back bags of little seeds                           when I held them in my hand
they looked like matchstick fish out of water.      I folded down the comforters in the bed and let
             sleep with us, if only for one night. You complained about how they took all the covers,

             cried softly in the middle of the night. If only someone would’ve remembered
to pet their small heads, wipe their quaking eyes.

If someone took a picture everyday they could watch the whole thing (almost) disappear.

She remembered me differently again, she asked about the time
all the ants crawled into my bed,
             blades of grass yellowing under all the snow.

You were so small       (she moves her hands like broken coat hangers)
You were so small       (her eyes forget how to focus)
You were so small and your hair used to be black, she said. Always trying to

rub the grime off her hands.

These are the things we remember.
How our hands looked similar,
but not like brothers and sisters.
The sparks that fell from her mouth.
My tongue is becoming heavier
and that is how we’re related.

You can press your fingers into my throat,
softly, a humming similar to the
thorax of a moth. Deep inside me is the color of
frozen wine      the frost covers everything in the room
because the window is open, again.                  My lips
hover above your ear              steam leaking out, tiny vapors.

You asked if there was anything growing inside me,
a lump in the throat, a small
overripe tomato, a thumb-sized moth
that would molt underneath my tongue, take flight
and leave. The only thing I could think of was the worm
from the bottle of tequila, turning its one blind
eye inward and outward over again.

Sometimes we don’t know how to tell the truth.
When I can’t sleep at night all I can hear is the very last
symphony I will ever hear, and the crash symbolists
are on strike. If I pinch myself and feel it,
that’s proof that I’m still in a dream. But anyway,

who really needs to know how long the body is good for?

About Laura E. Miller

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