Sober, Year Four
Here, there is nothing left to savor.
The bottles hanging from the ceiling
like suspended teeth,
mouths green as the edge of an earlobe.
You love nothing but their alpine newness,
your father falling into glass,
your mother into the next swallow,
the next detox.
Women used to press a peeled
pear beneath their arms for weeks
then wrap them in lace
to send to their husbands.
They kept the scent that way.
Everyone you have left
keeps the liquor in them
til the love wears off.
Deciding to live was always the hardest thing,
all your ancestors walking back into the sea.
Gardenia in the mouth of grief,
all the famous poets
have died the hardest deaths-
out of love, out of drink, out of time.
Somewhere, someone reminds me
there is still good left in this world.
Not like the casual emergency of rain
or a tulip in a child’s palm,
not the rivers that befall us.
Just our own habits
of being the last to leave.
When we were both girls
our mother hung the bulbs of marigolds
from every bedpost in the house.
We dreamt of cairns made from skulls
& woke to find blooms looming over us.
Practicing for intruders,
that’s all it ever was.
Deciding who would be the one
to carry the knife,
the other, the lamp or gun,
whatever was available.
Only our father knew how to kill a man.
We thought their guts
would unfurl like flowers,
that light would forgive them one last time.
What one of those men did to me,
years later, we were never ready for.
You stood like your own shadow
in some other town, stringing loss
like flowers through the time between us.
Sometimes all the mothers on the block
remember the one daughter who died.
Body bloated with salt like a bullfrog,
pebbles trailing from her mouth
with the grace of stars.
What I mean is,
sometimes they put their ears
to the ground and listen.
The earth like a womb.
Sometimes the living go missing
long before the dead do.
What I mean is,
sometimes it is so hard
to mean anything.
The best ones are so lost
they think they’ve already been found.
When I’m asked to beg
I remember my pulse in the waiting room.
When I’m asked to bend,
to let them see me in the light.
Everything one long flinch, one endless swallow.
When the first one unlocked his motel room
& said he wouldn’t hurt me,
he looked so golden
I almost believed him.
I am told that when I believed I was at the end,
I asked to give up my own body for more drink.
The carcass of everything, once gone,
leaves behind a new skin. I named mine gold.
I named mine wind. After the third bed in detox,
everyone left. The story is this:
when the mother lost her child to the dragons,
she set their eggs alight in front of them.
The story is this:
given the choice between a bottle
and a way out of hell, I would sink
to the last lick. I would burn everything I love
in front of the only thing that I love,
the needle, the glass, the hangover.
The trouble with obsession
is that watching yourself die
feels so goddamn beautiful.
Meggie Royer is a writer and photographer from the Midwest who is currently majoring in Psychology at Macalester College. Her poems have previously appeared in Words Dance Magazine, The Harpoon Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, and more. She has won national medals for her poetry and a writing portfolio in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and was the Macalester Honorable Mention recipient of the 2015 Academy of American Poets Student Poetry Prize.