It is the easiest thing in the world to live in my house.
The easiest thing to wake up on the right side of the bed;
the easiest thing—you may, if you like, try to replicate it.
You won’t believe the games we play inside my house,
the intricate webs we weave from room to room,
hiding behind doors and in cupboards only to pop out
and scare you when you enter the room.
Or, otherwise, for a very long time—waiting,
patiently, for the right type of footstep to appear in the hall.
The difference between lying and omitting a fact
is that one suggests a guilty party; the other absolves it.
Lessen your hold on the community and you will be fine.
Absolutely nothing will change, which is to say,
there was no real reason for you in the first place.
It can be difficult not to mistake curtains for clouds
when lying in bed, holding tight to a chest cold,
especially in sunny circumstances, like mid-summer.
After the fall, a whale can provide food for all its creatures.
Every time you look to the left, a cat’s paw appears
at the door, waving up and down at the crack.
You are holding the tension in your body
but you did not ask for it, and now you want it gone.
I follow the string to try to reach you in time, but it unravels
faster than I can chase it, and soon you are gone.
The hole left in space where you once existed has been filled.
Look hard enough and you can categorize yourself
right or wrong under any circumstances, whatever the cost.
It isn’t right to put all your eggs in one basket.
When the bogeyman comes, he may choose to devour them all.
Legally, in that case, there would be nothing you could do;
they would have been left in open air, and ripe for the taking.
In a pinch, you can store them in your underpants—
the ones you are wearing or the ones in your drawer.
No bogeyman has ever searched a woman’s pants for his prize.
When it comes to physical preference, bogeymen’s desires
tend more toward the external, in the southern hemisphere.
At six pm, I snap my workbook shut and fix my hair.
You are coming home and you do not tolerate tardiness.
A messy wife creates a messy life, you like to say,
and then the cats are on the ceiling and we can’t get them down.
On most days, it feels impossible to reproduce—
I have been trying nonstop with myself for the past several years,
and can confirm no deliveries or miscarriages,
though my stomach has swollen to epic proportions,
along with my hands, and my face, and my feet.
There is nothing a busy man likes to hear less
than the sound of a cat spilling her needs all over the floor.
There is a comfort in winter to leaving all the lamps off
until the house is dark to its absolute core, and then flooding it with light,
a comfort in freezing one’s body in a cold and quiet room
to sit perfectly still in the unfamiliar wilderness
and consider the pull and stroke of a swimmer’s arms underwater.
What little I know, I often find confusing and tragic.
That is to say, you are a fat fuck and my hands are always full.
You are above the rest and I am definitely not at my best.
I bake a cake and the oven catches fire while I sit upstairs.
By the time I find it, it has all turned to ash.
I look out the window at the street into the dark,
but the light from inside reflects your face back at me
from where you are standing behind me, white hair shining.
Why do the strange things give me such a thrill?
I only feel comfortable when the most horrific things happen,
grinning while the little girl eats her father’s leg.
Seven times you have come to me in a fever dream
and seven times I have awoken, breath dampened by fur
pressed into my throat and eyes to quiet the snoring.
My father’s love for me will never be as strong as it once was,
but his capacity for change is enormous. This is a fact of humanity
and not a special trait belonging to him alone, though it brings him pain.
Everyone runs out of fuel eventually, the key is whether you call attention to it.
Catching your breath may be the hardest thing you ever do;
there is nothing more difficult than breathing in and out at a fixed rate.
I am crossing the street to get away from you
is something one woman has never said to another—
but if it helps, we are all holding each other up by the elbows.
My natural state of being is to keep my eyes closed. This is a filter;
it allows me to hear more and see less. It doesn’t stop me from being terrified.
Put your hands under the cold tap and watch your fingers shrink
smaller and smaller until you cannot see them anymore.
Your hands are like fists all the time now. Lick the webbing
between your cats’ toes and wish they could set you right.
Know that they never can.
June 24, 2020
Carolyn DeCarlo is a queer writer living in Aro Valley, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, with seven other mammals. She runs Food Court Books and We Are Babies Press with her partner Jackson Nieuwland. Her chapbook-length collection ‘Winter Swimmers’ was featured in AUP New Poets 5. She also co-wrote the chapbook BOUND: an ode to falling in love (Compound Press 2014).