Frost Warning in Florida
The clouds here are like steel: I can’t
tell if they stop, somewhere, and sky
begins. I’m indifferent to endings:
gerunds, rain, alcohol, us. What my
hand was doing as you boomed, coked-up,
reasons through the phone: unhooking
my jeans, sitting on the toilet. It’s cold,
the ceramic, February days spent looking
at Florida through my parent’s bay window.
Even the sculptures are frozen: lions
caught mid-yawn, muses with their dresses
half-down. The bass are dying
in the lake behind our house, and I don’t
think floating to the surface, belly-up,
is such a bad idea myself. It won’t
do to remain encased in ice, fucked,
crystallized like the salamanders
to the sidewalk, the strawberries to the vine.
(They sure are pretty though.) Sad
red and still earthy. In the five
o’clock pre-glow of sunset, my dad
passes me another beer and silently hates
you and every you that will come after
you. The unsaid is sipped down, scrapes
our throats dry with its maltiness. When
the berries thaw, they’ll be useless and
cereal will be eaten, plain. The salamanders
won’t make it. They’ll wash away like sand.
Sonata for Seven House Cats
This is how summer passed: two cats
napping at the window, licking za’atar
and dust from their paws. One carries
distrust in his right eye, cataract
like a midnight battlefield of feathers
In all the pictures you showed me,
your lashes are always curled
and your eyes sparkle like chamomile tea.
Forgive me. I still dream of the ones
who escaped the fence of my fingers:
Tony Sillari, water, the fireflies
I chased around the lawn, age 12.
I thought: if I can catch them, I’ll know
who I am and where my light goes.
Did I rip off those glowing bellies, smear
them under my lashes? Or did I know I’d
be 30 and sleeping in your bed, lofted
like a treehouse?
Every time I come to the apartment
it’s always the same
two. I begin to doubt the existence
of the other five.
I’m told that something
only exists once it is seen but then I think
of all the things inside me— brain, bone,
heart, intestines— which I’ve never seen
and I wonder if I am even existing
or if there is an ocean caged inside me
or a grandfather clock winding down,
or really even an ending.
The cats move so quietly, like blood
filling and emptying the chambers of the heart.
Tonight Diana lets me put out the seven
ceramic bowls, which ring against the floor
like a dinner bell for this entire city of longing.
Can we call everyone to the table?
I hate endings. I want everything
like how your skin encircles your limbs.
Self-anointed Scheherazade, I make us
watch movies in parts, stave off the denouement
until I’m comfortable accepting this cage I’ve made
or been given
until I stop wanting
the star-bursting release,
the unimaginable freeing
of guts as I tumble from the sky.
Forgive me. Again. I’ve let these walls be like
the bark of the birches standing solitary
as guards along my childhood’s driveway—
translucent skin that you can peel
like an orange. I must be open to bruising,
of mashing myself between
the bars and pouring out, juice on
the kitchen floor.
This time they all come to drink, emerging
from hidden caverns— the printer, the footstool,
the hand-painted sign: stop war, draft the rich.
Seven tongues lapping up the cat dream of catching
what is meant to fly.
When I wake at night to use the bathroom,
I walk the hallways in the dark. What little
light the eyes need to adjust, to accept change
and trust that in the absence of the chaos,
street lights and clouds,
truck horns and laughter,
the correct path will flicker.
I glide across the studio’s floor, knowing
the shape of each sculpture’s edge, each tool’s
As I open the door to the bathroom, I trip
over a shadow. From the tiles,
I still praise that white veiled eye for keeping things
Today you take me to the casino.
Before we leave, I watch the cats be
collected into seven cases.
Diana is taking them upstate
to watch the leaves
change color then fall.
I’m surprised to find that you have a deep
belief in the shuffling of cards,
the tossing of the die.
It’s as though you need to reorder
the random gamble of your life.
I watch from your side, reluctant
to let go of the chips that aren’t even mine.
A Miami Vice
We kiss until there isn’t any spit left.
Our tongues, tied and twilight-colored, crumble
to the cobbles. Look how the wind mumbles
them away. Against the stucco, speechless,
my dress torn, how bearable are bodies?
The green-black sea knows nothing of flowers
or flamingos, of metal-railed towers
or glass facades. Only how, inside me,
neon lights go on at dusk. Open-mouthed,
aquamarine rich between the legs, this
is unspoken: the ocean can’t be doused
with sand. When we return to our cities,
the wind will carry our words, I promise.
these black palms are alive with honeybees.
Your black palms, they’re alive with honeybees,
and, for now, I’m not afraid of being
stung. Spotlights turn their attention to trees.
Your black palms, they’re alive, kneading, easing
the colors with which I come. Overhead,
the gulls cry out, too, sweetly frustrated
from resting on air. We don’t need a bed.
It’s how, if flamingos, we’d have mated—
erotic pink and from behind. You preen
the hair from my neck with your lips, slide
wet consonants into my ear. We lean
on the stucco, arcing in our bisque musk.
Listen to how our hearts heave, then, decide
what becomes of this warm, vegetal dusk.
Become this warm, vegetal dusk. If what
we can’t bear is our bodies, apart,
abandon them, those humming, heaving hearts,
now, as silhouettes start to lose their cut.
Make sky dark. Let twilight’s soft metallic
remains dim on the horizon, between
the barges that barely move. All’s serene.
Night rolls to Collins, smelling of magic:
rum, grapefruit, velvet, and air. Here, ancient
memories make faint strains in the Latin
House wiggling from hotel fronts, impatient
for hips. In the cowbell’s brief clarity,
I recall how love can feel like satin
stinging, not knowing our capacity.
What’s the capacity of knowing some-
one? Is there a point of saturation,
like the sea with salt? Or, like the snare drum
with its quivering infatuations,
stuck on repeating itself, memoried
and musical. The wind, too, encircles,
repeats, speaks always with multi-storied
speech. In the dark, one of your stories pulls
me back into my body. The return
to opacity is thick-white and stings,
sea salt in my throat. Perhaps, our nocturne
should end tonight, on this great empty pen-
insula— stagnant, content with clinging
to what the wind says again and again.
Again and Again, the wind says this fate
but I hear fiction. Velvet air can’t hold
the gravity of truth. Lies grow like mold.
Shoulders of royal palms seem to await
any chance to slope, sigh in the small breeze.
Somewhere, a car sputters, refuses to
start. I smooth down my hair and dress, while you
finish fixing your pants. It’s time to leave.
At the causeway, in a cab that smells of
saffron and rubber, the bougainvillea
soften to mica-smooth bay and above,
the stars, muted by magenta lights,
sign to me— this, is the last nostalgia:
your plane pulsing eastward, fades out of sight.
Pulse fades as I see you step off your plane
at JFK. Your beard is beyond five
o’clock-shadow-status, although on Spain
time it’s eleven, full, ready to dive
between my thighs. I’m surprised: on the way
home, you hold my hand, tenderly, as though
this long-distance-ness has made us go grey
and it’s like I’ve known you from long ago:
a snapshot, torn, withered on its edges,
edging from the box in my closet, a past
purring to repeat itself almost catches
drunk, paranoid on all fours. Nothing lasts
that is so beautiful. Or so frisky.
So, that is beauty, the frisky moment
we tried to elongate, spread over cells,
texts, and pixels. Between us, the sea swells.
Waves roll dice. Caught in that carnal current,
I will drown, or worse, go deaf, lose my limbs
loosening from my body. The outside
is what’s dead, isn’t it? Always, the tide
scrapes the sand. Tries, eternally, to skim
off the thickest pieces: the soles, the palms.
That night, I forgot to exfoliate,
Let death envelop me, opaque, calm.
Shells don’t know: sensation comes from depth.
And that’s how I can manage to create
us kissing until there’s no more spit left.
CHRISTINE ALETTI has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared most recently in The Bookends Review and Crack the Spine and is forthcoming at Blood Pudding Review and Saw Palm.