Nina Puro

Black-Eyed Susan

They took her from the kitchen, but she was vanishing before she vanished. Nights,
        I track her deeper, rocking. Roots open under the house, which thumps.
The roots hum. Where she is, white girls with sleek zipper teeth gum cogs in each other, click
        around streetcorners. Their tonsils have padlocks doctors try to pry open

with their rash fists. Their clean bones look so brave in those itchy paper gowns
        against that big dark room. Good sunsets they glow green. In her glass-domed city
doctors sent us girls through tubes, shunt meds to bone. Where she is, woods are
        ruined, all bracelets silver. A black woman sweeps the orchard clean all day,

the woods all night, hangs the broom. She has no tongue. Paramedics have purple gloves;
        nurses white. We’re never touched. A white ghost drives a minivan, hands out
plastic Jesus lanyards. The weather’s ruined. Dinner’s ruined. Those who know history
        quote it. Progress is a crooked, sharp-elbowed architect. Toast’s burnt. Where she is,

she’s worse than weather. She’s the worst. She’s the best at levitating. She gets tubed
        whenever they can cut her down. She’s flashing a cracked phone, waiting.

Falling Action

Remember when the fever broke, & the strawberry patch
        where she punched someone’s mom? How there was a net
                to gather our failures in, & garden-shells, & they still said
        we’d heal & we knew how to begin? O, our tin-bottomed boat
rowed down their gold-bottomed river. Sunsets, bats highwayed
        up. Fluttering in our shallows was a hook-bright
                hollow-boned hobby we’d bravely tendril out once we’d cooled
        our heels on their ice. Remember the train misrouted? That time I forgot
to get rid of my evidence & the jig was up? Each narrative
        had resolvable pain & a ballerina’s neck. The story the donors
                need is steep & touches down sloe-eyed as their moon.
        O, our tapwater runs on command, fills a shoebox
like a glove. Thusly our “diversity” tartans the lawn: we weave deer antlers
        with birdcalls to smudge the sky of their set, remember to scrub
                out drudgery so a baby can float through their backseat.
        We conjure a continent, contentment, a past that could be borne
& say we did. I walk away from a group. I approach a clump under
        a sugar maple. O yes, I’m young. So lucky. We have pain
                scales, undercuts, overdrafts. O, here’s morning’s milk-white creep
        into our shack, frail as that river. Here’s mourning. Our wee bones frost over,
brim lace. Nothing throbs most days. My fissures grew beacon-bright.
        Always the muse, never the king: my spine’s clean pinholes drop
                cute ashes in my wake! Our basement windows click their teeth
        to warn us to warn the kings; our makeshift histories churn dark narcotics.
There’s a chord of sky out the side door longer than any war. The refugees
        have officially begged for rescue, which isn’t coming, which we’ve killed
                workers to deny, but I’ve ample rations now & won’t forget how to fold
        napkin swans or my pale witch hands. The bread unbakes. The month
rolls over & dies, as months do. There is a meadow we could
        sleep in. We won’t. Most labor & most art are figuring out
                what someone wants, then how to publicize delivery. They love dark
        chocolate & certainty. Remember the moment when she looked at you
on the porch & you both knew, but neither spoke for once,

just before the part when she started falling faster?

Nina Puro is a poet, human, & queer weirdo whose writing is in The Atlas Review, Guernica, the PEN/ America Poetry Series, & others. A member of the Belladonna* Collaborative; author of two chapbooks (Argos Books and dancing girl press); recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Deming Fund, the Brooklyn Community Pride Foundation, & Syracuse University (MFA, 2012), Nina cries and works in Brooklyn.