“Shelter” by Kim Addonizio

It’s noisy here. The kids run around, screaming, their mothers slap them and
they cry. I have the bottom bunk, I hang a blanket from the bed above me for
privacy. In the middle of the night it’s finally quiet. I lie awake and think
about goals. Sheryl, the worker, says I need some. She says What do you want
Rita? and I say peace and quiet, maybe someplace sunnier than here. I say I’d
like to have a dog. A big one, a retriever or shepherd with long soft fur. What
else? she says. I remember my dad’s garden, how I used to like sitting with
him while he weeded, putting my toes in the dirt. He grew tomatoes, corn, peas.
There was a rosebush, too, once he let me pick a big rose and there was a spider
in it, I got scared and shook it and the petals went all over me and he laughed.
He showed me how to put my thumb over the hoze nozzle so it sprayed. Sheryl
says I could garden. I think about the coleus Jimmy and I had, how I would take
cuttings, put them in water and they’d grow more flowers. But then they all
died. At night I listen to everybody sleep around me, some people snoring, some
starting to say something and then stopping. It’s pitch-dark behind the
blanket. I try to see it sunny, a yard with a dog lying down under a tree. I
try to smell warm tomatoes. Curl my toes in the sheets. Try to sleep.

“Shelter” by Kim Addonizio, from Jimmy & Rita. © BOA Editions, Ltd., 1997.

“Onset” by Kim Addonizio (repost)

Watching that frenzy of insects above the bush of white flowers,
bush I see everywhere on hill after hill, all I can think of
is how terrifying spring is, in its tireless, mindless replications.
Everywhere emergence: seed case, chrysalis, uterus, endless manufacturing.
And the wrapped stacks of Styrofoam cups in the grocery, lately
I can’t stand them, the shelves of canned beans and soups, freezers
of identical dinners; then the snowflake-diamond-snowflake of the rug
beneath my chair, rows of books turning their backs,
even my two feet, how they mirror each other oppresses me,
the way they fit so perfectly together, how I can nestle one big toe into the other
like little continents that have drifted; my God the unity of everything,
my hands and eyes, yours; doesn’t that frighten you sometimes, remembering
the pleasure of nakedness in fresh sheets, all the lovers there before you,
beside you, crowding you out? And the scouring griefs,
don’t look at them all or they’ll kill you, you can barely encompass your own;
I’m saying I know all about you, whoever you are, it’s spring
and it’s starting again, the longing that begins, and begins, and begins.

Kim Addonizio, “Onset” from Tell Me. Copyright © 2000 by Kim Addonizio.

Source: Tell Me (BOA Editions Ltd., 2000) www.boaeditions.org.

*Originally posted on March 20,2014

“February 14” by Kim Addonizio

This is a valentine for the surgeons
ligating the portal veins and hepatic artery,
placing vascular clamps on the vena cava
as my brother receives a new liver.

And a valentine for each nurse;
though I don’t know how many there are
leaning over him in their gauze masks,
I’m sure I have enough—as many hearts

as it takes, as much embarrassing sentiment
as anyone needs. One heart
for the sutures, one for the instruments
I don’t know the names of,

and the monitors and lights,
and the gloves slippery with his blood
as the long hours pass,
as a T-tube is placed to drain the bile.

And one heart for the donor,
who never met my brother
but who understood the body as gift
and did not want to bury or burn that gift.

For that man, I can’t imagine how
one heart could suffice. But I offer it.
While my brother lies sedated,
opened from sternum to groin,

I think of a dead man, being remembered
by others in their sorrow, and I offer him
these words of praise and gratitude,
oh beloved whom we did not know.

Kim Addonizio, from What Is This Thing Called Love. © W.W. Norton, 2004.

“Lives of the Poets” by Kim Addonizio

One stood among the violets
listening to a bird. One went to the toilet
and was struck by the moon. One felt hopeless
until a trumpet crash, and then lo,
he became a diamond. I have a shovel.
Can I turn it into a poem? On my stove
I’m boiling some milk thistle.
I hope it will turn into a winged thesis
before you stop reading. Look, I’m topless!
Listen: approaching hooves!
One drowned in a swimming pool.
One removed his shoes
and yearned off a bridge. One lives
with Alzheimer’s in a state facility, spittle
in his white beard. It
turns out words are no help.
But here I am with my shovel
digging like a fool
beside the spilth and splosh
of the ungirdled sea. I can’t stop.
The horses are coming, the thieves.
I still haven’t found lasting love.
I still want to hear viols
in the little beach hotel
that’s torn down and gone.
I want to see again the fish
schooling and glittering like a veil
where the waves shove
against the breakwater. Gone
is the girl in her white slip
testing the chill with one bare foot.
It’s too cold, but she goes in, so
carefully, oh.

 

“Lives of the Poets” by Kim Addonizio. From Poetry (April 2014).

“What Do Women Want?” by Kim Addonizio (repost)

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

“What Do Women Want?” by Kim Addonizio from Tell Me

originally posted: 6/14/14

(I will be on a digital hiatus/detox during October. I’ll be running a collection of previously posted material from 2014, the first year of Words. Hopefully it will be new or nearly new to most of you. I may be slow to reply to comments or emails that need response. Thanks for understanding, xo, Christy)