Virtually, every Sunday, we gather
just the three of us: me, my sister,
the upper-right quadrant of our mother’s
face. It’s nearly impossible to take
a disembodied forehead, seriously, at face-value
which is why, when my sister reveals her girlfriend
has left because of the space sorrow rends
between them / the therapist / the raised dose
& mother you respond kids these days
are too reliant on our false little life-
boats, anyway, you’ll have to forgive
that we laughed & laughed, pealing
like so many bells calling the night home
to roost. Oh, mother. It’s been so long
since I was the girl in the kitchen
with the dull knife. So long mother
forgive me. It’s just funny, you
had two daughters & then
you didn’t & on the news or not
the world is ending / still / the world
of my kin not my kin & I can’t bear
knowing there’s a door & behind the door
a country that loves my sisters, that tends
their gorgeous lives & all they have to do is walk
from one dark into another endless…Mother,
like anyone, I need help raising the shroud
from my pathetic shoulders, though I do
get it: the pills / Big Pharma / sham
crystalline coats / so what
if that’s what lifts your children
here, fully to you?
BLACK FEELING 
There’s no logic to it, none
I can decipher.
I can pay attention,
pace around the internet
& nothing, no part
of my body
forces me to turn away.
On others, there’s a dial
stuck inside, always
bad news / smooth jazz
& I can’t turn it down,
the blinding static.
On the internet,
there are rooms
full of people
looking for a cure.
There are specialists,
a diagnosis: tinnitus
from, of course, the Latin
tinnire, to ring
as in: a telephone
but there’s no one home
to answer, no one
I imagine the hands
of whoever’s calling, godlike
in their persistence
down into my red
wiring — I’m sorry.
I don’t mean to sound
ungrateful. I am grateful
as a weathervane
this morning, again
the country ablaze
firework / gunfire / man
of music & I
alone in the manic dark, head
in my hands ringing
& ringing, faithful
goddamned blood alarm.
The cat wakes me up as always
rooting her head between my chest
& chin & failing this, licks the lacy crud
hardening in the corners of my mouth
with her darling tongue, which she lets hang
between her lips as though ponderous
or posing for the camera, at least
when she’s not using it to clean herself
from tail to toe to asshole & then my facehole,
which I know is a kind of favor—
after all, I’m hairless & ugly & too dumb
to lift my limbs from the bed & polish each one.
It’s been so long, a whole season of drought
& what? You think I need to lift my head & pray
for rain? You think I need to twirl
beneath the firmament, the bruising sky?
& maybe you’re right, or would be,
if I weren’t half-boy, half-beast. If I didn’t mark
these walls myself, slink around the furniture.
I confess, the cat is right. I do need help
keeping my face clean. Downy, these days,
as a newborn. There’s a reason, you know,
we’re all writers or gone / missing
from the world like we never happened
to have a skin, only some unhappy wind
passing through. I’ve lost you, haven’t I?
But what can I say? I’m still right
here, haven’t moved all morning & who could
be lonely when there’s always this spectral self
to say hello to? Hello you. Darling you. Hello
sentry of my peace. Busy little tongue.
Cameron Awkward-Rich is the author of the chapbook Transit (Button Poetry, 2015) and his debut collection, Sympathetic Little Monster,was published by Ricochet Editions in 2016. He is a Cave Canem Fellow, a poetry editor at Muzzle Magazine, and currently a doctoral candidate in Modern Thought & Literature at Stanford University.
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