From “Lacing”


There I was, all spread out for the taking,
bloomed wings waiting for winter
sleet. It was a long season of drinking whole
creeks and nothing else. We churned desert
into desert. What I’m saying is, neither the desert
rat nor damselfly can bear the nosebleeds: shoal-
laced face bearing down just in time to overwinter.
There I was, all spread out for the taking.

In truth, nobody wants water this thin.
One swallow, and we’re off to dig for more within
a hollow womb. This morning we sip water,
discussing the trauma in our blood: saltwater — 
there it rests, in droplets, on my breast skin,
“Oh,” I say. “My tears,” rubbing them deep within.


At church I sat salvaged: I said to send me
away wearing nothing but satin and lace.
We both felt secondhand. It was knee-
length, and it wore me cheap. I couldn’t embrace
the old woman who once wore it, couldn’t see
my wrists even. And my neck, it was braced
up all in lace. The woman next to me says,
“How beautiful.” I say, “This beautiful,” then split
a hair down the middle. I lied, “I made it myself,”
then stood up to fade through painstaking
humiliation. As a child, a girl, I saw through myself
to age 45. It was then when I first noticed the aching
of my hands, how they were soon to set themselves
away — they came and went, as if they were lace for the breaking.


I was reciting Alfred, Lord Tennyson on my back,
in a canoe, floating the holiest way I knew — 
so close to ghost, and went pale for a moment
before finding myself wandering among high pines.

I didn’t expect to emerge in white already
with my heart in his hand, just as normal
as a shell rests on my chest. Didn’t expect
to hand it over so early on, at the boundary

of our properties in a dream: in the grasses
where he ended and I began. I’m feeling very still
now that we’ve crossed over into the pale,
where we are soon to thread, soon to embellish,

then loop back into each other: braided the way
we were taught to approach each other — the same way.
More Poems by Tacey M. Atsitty