No Oasis for Victims
Left naked in the desert
with a song in my head.
A cactus the only way to pierce my heart.
Repression is the sand around my feet,
after awhile it stops burning.
Who knows where I’d be
if he hadn’t dropped me here
like a parcel for someone else.
I never thought I’d be his problem,
a catalyst of violence and voodoo dolls.
He holds a pin for every day
and on Saturday there’s extra.
Bits of hair, skin, drawn on eyes,
a serious doll, my mouth a straight line.
The stuffing comes out, he pushes it back.
On Sundays, when he goes to church
with his family in the air conditioning,
does he think of my naked body burning,
my dry mouth, the hurt between my legs
as he strokes his daughter’s blonde hair?
Bipolar for Couples
He: it’s never a good time with her, with us.
I’m her map but the paper is wearing at the creases
from the constant opening, closing, always.
She: I have paper cuts up and down my arms, fingers,
from trying to figure out this damn map.
I cannot navigate, I cannot see through the fog.
She: today I felt better but it’s a secret.
This mood feels like a giant and he doesn’t notice.
Not my smile, my touch, my possibility.
He: some days she’s a sun that I can’t look at.
The irritability becomes her, razors and forks.
I want to lash out like a whip, often I do.
He: some days she’s a moon and I don’t know
what to do, the crying, the couch or bed.
She becomes useless, won’t even bring in the tide.
She: I know he’s trying but it’s not enough.
I can’t do this, I can’t do this, and there is no
understanding like a bridge for me to walk across.
He: I’m calling her bluff, a bottle of pills,
the crazy thoughts. But do I want her watching
the boys, my sons—are they safe?
She: come home. Come home. Come home.
The children are driving me to madness.
I’m a thorn to them, I’m too fast—they aren’t safe.
He: driving the 30 minutes home. No music.
I don’t feel like a hero, I’m burdened.
I’m the shovel who digs her out.
She: under the earth, down where it’s quiet,
damp—I find myself again, unable to inhale, exhale.
Until the metal hits my shoulder. Safe again.
We’re stones someone has thrown in the river. The soft plop and the ripples are what the water has to give, nothing more. Somewhere an owl sleeps and the mouse is safe. The sun is a face to the water where we stand on the edge. Just wait. There’s more quiet to devour. We stand on two legs but we want to be on four, stability and steadfastness, anger. No horns, no fur. Just teeth that tend to glisten in the sunlight.
Sarah Lilius currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband and two sons. She’s assistant editor for ELJ Publications. Her publication credits include the Denver Quarterly, Court Green, BlazeVOX, Bluestem, and The Lake. Lilius is the author of the chapbook What Becomes Within (ELJ Publications, 2014). Visit her website: sarahlilius.com.