Sample Poems by Lindsey Royce
My Fist That Punched the
I removed the sutures too soon,
let them pucker into keloid
lumps, poked them to find
fragments of oh
like relics awakening,
welcome as winter sun.
Glass, blood, and pain
came out of the wound.
What had seeped in
was the pulse
of my voice—poised
to escape into song.
My Father’s Heart
Four score and seven beers ago,
my father scoffed at the Liberty Bell
the day we toured Philadelphia: first flag,
art museum, Franklin Institute’s walk-through heart.
Down the walls of its atriums, I slid,
stuck my arms into pulmonary veins,
played Venus flytrap with valves,
in the vena cava.
The smooth walk-through heart thumped,
glug-glugging like a drowning timpani.
That heart was a healthy rose, the valves
big enough to stick my head in.
Years later, Dad’s heart balked in its socket,
the EKG glowing like a radar screen,
lights blinking like fireflies I would catch
and jar on summer nights.
He trembled under the snowflake gown,
as if beneath new powder, and I was moved
to witness his pain, the brute I knew
restrained by wires little thicker than hair.
He snarled, Get off the fucking call button,
or I’ll cut your fucking hand off.
My father refused the call button
as fierce as the host at church—
No succor from God or the nurse,
no extra pills in a hospital cup, no pharos
glow of the firefly’s tail, nor moment
of flight before the flutter stopped.
My Mother’s Chores
On hands and knees,
scrubbing the floor,
the kettle’s shriek
to the burner.
I hear the suck
before she dashes
dough with flour,
with heels of hands,
a crust for
When her hearing aids are in,
she answers the phone,
chats with convivial
He never thanks me,
her voice a ship
lifting in a stormy sea.
seethes in the pot.
The Little Engine That
How you’d rage for my mouth
or any soft place you could strike hard enough
to knock me across the backseat of that Fury,
but I refused to learn, to behave, my soul
dying of thirst, like a plant you forgot to bring back.
You hated being mother and father,
so you hit more, knocked the say-cheese
off my face for photos, smacked me again
for not smiling. There’d be no wasting
the work you put into starched dresses,
patent leather Mary Janes, white gloves, holiday hats—
and, later, when my wounds started showing—
depression, deliberate overdose—you dressed them
with money, the only way you knew to help.
You’d press furtive cash in my palm
with the remorse of a relapsed addict,
leave me to friends, professionals—to anyone
who could, who would save the girl you loved.
My wound is delinquent, impudent; carries
A barefaced chain that would hold you hostage
Coils its fists, skin on fire, consumed entire to char
My wound hurls rocks at the faultless wall
Lays its fevered head on your breasts
Tears inking your body
My wound is the beak of a baby robin, neck straining for worms
My wound is a canyon where a climber falls to untimely death
My wound, like my sex, is hungry
With its mouth that opens and shuts
Hinged, my wound will not stay closed
It’s the broken window and hand that smashed it
Printing press and conveyor belt
My wound sends news all over town
Its envelope’s sealed, then slit open
It’s a hymen broken for a life of touching
Its coyotes rip a fresh kill
It’s an oyster with black pearls in its mouth
My wound is out of breath, a chrysalis exhaling its butterfly
It’s a tunnel, an exit, an off-ramp
Busts the windshield, bloodies the bat
At night, my wound flies through the cosmos
Burning holes in sky’s dark skin
By day, my wound walks, sun burning its shoulders
My wound is selfish, would swallow you whole
Break into your house at night
Curl like a cub at the foot of your bed
My wound says fuck you
and please love
It won’t heal but for your hands, your voice
When my wound stops retching
And you, who have no fear
Intrepid, you fight, no nunchucks or gun
Give empty hands that take mine
Give empty arms that hold me
My wound leads to nowhere, to all
But for you, it suddenly quakes with thanks
Watching Her Neigh
If I paint a wild horse, you might not see the horse . . .
but surely you will see the wildness! —
Rear and crash, rear and crash—her fists slam down on the hood of his
Mustang. You promised me, you promised,
pounding the ’66 classic, light blue.
She howls, You lying cheater,
his face stunned as
if tasered, blush zesty for bystanders. She growls and heaves a rusty
bike on the white ragtop, ripping it.
Clearly on behalf of the Mustang, a groan from a male onlooker: That
restoration’ll cost big bucks.
No one intervenes.
The young man bear hugs her and they spin and she bites him and tries
to break free. He lets her go, springs in his car, and drives off,
tires skid-marking pavement.
Someone says, Piss and vinegar.
says, That car’s fucked.
And I think of material
costs for restoration: wrenches, screws, glues, pliers, polish, paint.
I’ve spent years reinventing, and the best I could make of me is an
feet where eyes should be, sex where mind should be, all elbows and
knees, deformed, disfigured, warped. Where I’d liked to have been his Woman
I became the model in Ne Se Tordant les
triangular-based pyramids for legs, spherical rear and breasts, cuboid
neck, axis waist, and an oval-shaped face tipped skyward, my hands
fixing my hair.
Oh, my body! Balanced strong and wild on those legs, intact, peaceful,
having stampeded the blue pigment from my heart, pain draining as
slowly as paint strained through paper, through a sieve, like water
wrung gently from my long, dark hair.