What Isn’t Mine

By Jill Alexander Essbaum
Let us tunnel
Through the rubble,

Through the thrum.
Let us rut through the sum

Of who we were,
Or are,

Or will be in the years to come:
A couple

Of someones
Who used to be in love.

Used to be in love.
Ho. Hum.

These days: Seem to be in hate.
Gypsum, marble, pyrite, slate.

See here. A pit of snakes.
Look there. The rock of your rages.

And I’m in a cable-cage, slinking down your shaft.
You fondle that hefty What if. . . ? as if

To hurl it. All the other holes
Are blatant hells.

A dragline scrapes our fossicked floor.
I am the ether. You are the ore.

This is the war that nobody won.
Like afterdamp collapsing a lung.

You take to swinging a pickaxe.
I take back my vamping kinks

And the pavement beneath us sinks.
This stinks. Think: In-situ leaching

But with leeches, louses,
Lampreys. Oh Spouse,

Your hard hat leaks a surfeit
Of lamp rays that’s wasted sub-surface.

A night so pitch it’s perfectly black.
A sapphire scarred by a scratch.

Sickness, health, abundance, lack.
The salt in my wound. The shirt off your back.

So our bloodcup runs empty of urge.
The metallurgy

We’re made of demands its dirge.
Our burrows diverge.

Our passages split.
Copper, silver, gravel, grit.

Am I—perhaps—alluvial?

A bit too simple or silty?
Only gold really ought be gilty.

And you are as cold as coal.
I am your dole, your lode,

Your carbon-flawed diamond.
All told: We drilled and hit demons.

Granite, though, is good for graves.
Granted, a mine isn’t quite a cave.

What isn’t mine, I cannot give.

Source: Poetry (December 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2009
 Jill Alexander Essbaum


Born in Bay City, Texas, poet and editor Jill Alexander Essbaum was educated at the University of Houston, the University of Texas, and the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest.
Influenced by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Simon Armitage, and Sylvia Plath, Essbaum’s poems bring together sex, divinity, and wordplay, blithely working with received forms and displaying a nuanced attention to rhyme and meter. Speaking to this unusual . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Separation & Divorce, Relationships, Men & Women

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Couplet

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.