Curbside Quotidian


you can’t title every poem ‘this is not a love song’ by Kimberly Ann Southwick


Joleen, my belly is full of fish with sequined scales
and toxic vision. Joleen, they eat men and men only,
don’t be frightened. It was only ever you
and the music we liked and that photo of you,
the one where you took the ceiling hostage,
stood upside down in a sunlit, wallpapered room,
the floor cowering above you, and your hair
carrying weight like the sun must.


I was ready for lungfulls of air and running away.
I was ready for the beheaded suitcase of a woman
to convince me of facts that didn’t need semi-colons,
but instead the moon gave me
you in a lamplit park in Queens,
the one with the Olympic-sized swimming pool, autumn-empty.


Skinny as the bars on the windows to the concession stand,
teeth like the shallow end’s tiles, Joleen,
you had me thinking of the big empty,
despite the chlorine-bleached moon,
your eyes like a well and not a single
goddamn star in the blurry cloudless sky.


Every stupid wish wasted—honey-suckle
drenched the calm, suffocated my retreat. Your name
in a song in A-minor, a crossword puzzle
answer, and the photograph, the crimson room,
the open window, a page on myspace I can’t even find
anymore. Your hair was a monster to match my own,
and I’ll never forget the pearl buttons
that ascended on your fitted, blue shirt.


The fish, they glitter, and they see radioactive
in everything. They tell me when I should be afraid
to drink the water. They are bright
like the sun must be,
and when they finally swim away from me,
I’m coming after you in the wallpaper.

Kimberly Ann Southwick is the editor in chief of the literary arts journal Gigantic Sequins. She lives in Philadelphia and teaches grammar and literature at Rowan University.