Await Further Instructions
“I know so many last words. But I will never know hers.”
-John Green, Looking for Alaska
Please. It catches
like a fish hook in the mouth.
I am not a woman who begs
for anything. Not even for breath.
When your hands find my throat
and endeavor to close into fists,
I welcome silence, the loss of speech.
One word. A prayer running
on pale legs, into the gutter
with the last desperate rush
of rainwater down a small town main street.
I imagine you can hear it
on nights when I light a forest
of white candles for you.
I whisper my dog-licked pleas
into the blue heat. I wander
the desolate hallways of the body
without shame. I want
to feel the shudder, the tattoo of your pulse
inside of me, like the slick coil
of a rat squeezing under a door,
or the fat, red tulips rubbing
their dewy heads together
in the yard while we sleep
in separate beds, exactly
twelve miles apart.
When the world someday plunges
into a deep freeze
or erupts in flame,
all the good people
will fall to their knees.
Then, the word will be
just a curse
hurled like gunfire
at the stars,
but I promise,
I will send my final gasp to you—
on the crooked black wing
of a vulture.
Listen closely, love.
It will tell you everything
you need to know.
As a little girl, I was called
things like “demanding”
“loud” and “bossy,”
and told to be quiet.
At school, I beat up boys
on the playground who called me fat,
boys who grew up to worship
the swishing hips and tight t-shirts
of the girls who never had to doubt
for a moment that they were pretty
or wanted or worthy.
Girls who knew how to keep
their glossy lips shut
long enough to be told
where to stand and how to be kissed
while I went where I damn well pleased.
I wore baggy sweaters and blue jeans,
smeared eyeliner, painted a dark red coat
each day on lips that never smiled,
and learned to talk hard as a brick wall.
Twenty years later, you are
the only man who never once told me
to shut up, in love
with the soft timbre of my voice
against your skin, you said
“Tell me everything.”
And for the first time in my life,
I didn’t know where to begin.
An Inevitable Wreckage
I left work early to meet you
at that hotel just off the interstate
where, for the first time, there was privacy.
No random 3am visits from friends,
no dogs climbing over us in bed
like squirming children, pink tongues
unrolling against our faces in the night
like sloppy, wet flowers.
For once, it was just the two of us
and the hot spray of the shower
where you stripped off my grease-stained
clothes, scrubbed the dirt and sweat
from my back and arms and neck,
your hand dipping between my thighs
until you had to hold me upright
to keep me from collapsing like a
faulty train trestle spread over
the mouth of a river gorge.
Later, we stood on the balcony to smoke
and watched a drunk couple fight
in the parking lot from five floors up, surprised
the cops hadn’t showed up yet.
Wearing only your t-shirt, its hem
brushing the tops of my bare knees,
I climbed onto the metal railing.
It shook under my weight as I leaned
“I wonder what would happen
if I jumped. Do you think I’d die?”
I expected you to laugh or
make some tasteless joke.
What I wasn’t prepared for was you
grabbing my ankle and yanking so hard
that I pitched forward into your arms
where you held onto me so fiercely
that I could swear our ribs came together
like the teeth of a steel trap.
Below, I could hear the couple
still going at it like two beasts
fighting over a scrap of meat, neither
willing to back down, their screams
red as emergency lights flashing
on the side of a deserted highway
where grim-faced workers arrive in shifts
to heft the weight of broken men
from an inevitable wreckage.
Amber Decker is a thirty-something poet from West Virginia. Her work has been included in the groundbreaking literary e-zine, Exquisite Corpse, as well as other hip venues for alternative writing: Zygote In My Coffee, Phantom Kangaroo, Bone Orchard, Specter, Red Fez, and Black Heart Magazine, to name just a few. She is a lover of hooded sweatshirts, comic books, werewolf movies, good wine, tattoos, and Miles Davis. Her latest collection of poems, The Girl Who Left You, is available from California’s notorious Six Ft. Swells Press.