Anne Cecelia Holmes
There is a place where doom doesn’t stick. Your family went there once. You all carried pillows and spoke like the dullest scholars. Things like “there are no shapes” and “as mammals we are tragic” and inventing games about the best syllables. In the place there was a cave. You called it the promissory cave because it was mostly a thing you hadn’t the heart to enter. You were always too busy sainting each other and shaking like railroads. At the end of the day you’d all be larger. You’d bob around the place feeling full and untouchable. This was when the doom would come. You’d see it take a single shape in the sky of the place and you’d be ready with mirrors. With one family motion you’d make the doom behold itself until it shook and wailed. When it dissolved, you’d all hug each other and say things like “we love uniformity” and “god bless mammals.” After this you’d start to get heavy-hearted. You’d all lay your pillows on the ground in front of the cave and cry. In these moments you would get to blaring. You’d blare inside your own throats first. Then you’d blare into each other’s mouths. You’d blare into each other’s bellies. You’d blare until the cave shook with you. You’d squeeze your mammoth throats together like the hollowest heirs.
It’s one thing to let your hair down, and another to let your hamster drown in the sump pump. You keep making these mistakes, and panicking in pews, and saying it’s disheartening how the nuns don’t come around much anymore. Tell me about emergencies, about your face from a pay phone. And can I hear, again, how much you like the word ‘isthmus,’ how it makes your teeth feel like jesters? That when you’re thirty, you’ll stop chewing your fingernails, throw away the birthday cards on your window seat? Enough about the catfish you let swim in the bathtub. Enough with bridging gaps, because it’s always about how your sister is a graffitied stop sign, your brother a green bean casserole, your mother tracing the birth scar under her shirt. It’s like when we used to collect seahorses, and how they felt like broken knuckles, and you kept saying you wanted to swallow one hard. Sometimes I want to call you just to say ‘aphasia.’ Sometimes I want to swaddle you all up and send you down the Detroit River. Inside I’m thankful. I want to be okay in the bathroom, comparing our lazy eyes.
When I don’t know what
to do I put your brain
in a vat. I program it
to pump only when I look
so when I do not look I
do impractical things
like braid the front lawn
and charge so many almonds
on your credit card.
I leave the house
without sleeping first.
Sometimes I like to
scrub your scalp clean.
Sometimes I like to
dress you in your finest.
We dance around the furnace
like a monorail until I can’t
shoulder the weight.
I start to blush.
You look at me
like a junk drawer
and it is you
but it is not the you
I conjured at all.
Your brain is a ghost island.
Sometimes I forget about it
for days and the vat
goes on whirring like
the bluest projector.
I don’t like it when
you pump at me.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop.
OUR CENTRAL SYSTEM
Our chest is a truck and this is the atrium.
There are lungfuls of red pop in the core of it.
There are sensory things buzzing in the thickest walls.
From the inside is where we watch this happen.
We clutch the ventricles until our prettiest arteries squeal.
Now here is the real heart, our four-chambered caravan.
There is a backseat in the core of it.
There is immaculate fluid pumping through it.
We are filled with blood and we are travel-sick.
We are all the way under this heavy whirring machine.
In the smallest valve, our favorite diagrams.
In our sturdiest nook, we are most like a flood.
Anne Cecelia Holmes is originally from Michigan, but currently lives in Massachusetts where she is
working toward her MFA at UMass Amherst. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Jellyfish Magazine and Juked.
“My family moved to a suburb of Lansing, Michigan, when I was eight. My most distinct memory of the whole house-building process is how proud my mom felt every time the contractor referred to our new front porch as a ‘big damn porch.'”