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Friday, October 10, 2014


by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

Emma Sulkowicz. Image source: “The Cut” New York Magazine

Haul it, drag the cum stains
with you, drag it ugly, unmade,
the imprint, sheets soiled
and stiff, this borrowed bed
of midnight and spotlight —
voice — some say symbol,
but it is not a symbol,
it is the place you sleep
you dream, it is yours.

Carry it under your arm,
above your head. How thin,
and common it becomes,
muscles accustomed
to the weight, stronger
than hands bruising
your wrists, across your
mouth, shhhh, shhhh,
no one can hear,  no one
will hear, still, no one’s
heard. Still, he is in
the dark room with you,
allowed, unexpelled,
developing negatives,
as you clip prints,
evidence, some darker
than others, some shadows.
He dips his hand in
chemicals, washes,
cleans himself beside you.
According to the rules,
you can’t ask for help (can’t
ask for help) though, you can
accept it if someone offers.

Hoisting your bed over
our heads, we go bearing
bodies (if they tell you
no one died, they are lying).
The dead are conveniently
tucked inside the living,
worn fabric weight, cheap
discount springs. We walk
to history, the library, the laundry
room, we will not put it down.
We sleep on it between classes
dream of the his exile/
extermination/expulsion —
the weight of his body
so damn heavy.
This bed. It used to be
yours. It still is.

We shift beneath the mass
of it — collective carry — share it,
as if we could. Me? I see eyes
behind mine, in mine, as I walk —
a trick of sunlight and cadence —
the give of the mattress,
each step, each edge ragged
with sweat and stain. If I
close my eyes, I will trip
and it will all come
tumbling down — the bed,
the only soft thing between
skin and asphalt — a catastrophe
for all to see, as if it wasn’t already,
as if we hadn’t woken to the body’s
fury, its shame, its bedded rage.

Leslie Anne Mcilroy won the 2001 Word Press Poetry Prize for her full-length collection Rare Space and the 1997 Slipstream Poetry Chapbook Prize for her chapbook Gravel. She also took first place in the 1997 Chicago Literary Awards Competition judged by Gerald Stern. Her second full-length book, Liquid Like This, was published by Word Press in 2008. Her current poetry manuscript, SLAG, is forthcoming from Main St. Rag in 2015. Leslie’s work appears or is forthcoming in numerous publications including Connotation Press, Dogwood, Grist, Jubilat, The Mississippi Review, New Ohio Review, Nimrod International Journal of Prose & Poetry, PANK and Pearl. Leslie is Managing and Poetry Editor of HEArt — Human Equity through Art — and works as a copywriter in Pittsburgh, PA, where she lives with her daughter Silas.