Lynn Melnick



Los Angeles stays warm through winter. You know this. You know
this desert where we come to, this foul outhouse

that binds with wood and those who eat. Here, unless there are lights
there is no light. I cannot drive as you did, but I can wipe

your mouth, cover your punctured arm with your sleeve. I will not watch you
die on the carpet. It would be as if I had never been here.


We are guests at an hour told to go home; sun and bells ring
in humble interval. We are what breaks in season, a homely

outgrowth, boring. I cause you no heartache with my indifference,
even your limbs bend toward mine. My nose hurts in desert air,

in bars where I am unwelcome even as I pretend to be famous
for seduction. Sleep is what does not come when as much as I want it.


She picks up every glowing penny, lets them burn her hands
unrecognizable until she finds herself holding out her luck

all the way up route ten. She considers then how her father
once told her she had a skinny neck, how she held onto that,

logged it as a sign of heart. It could happen; this man could
pull her to the back seat. And what if he took her straw hair

into his crusted hands and yanked so hard as to break her neck.
Possible. Almost becoming. So when she arrives at another

unbroken wild, dust left dust under feet, she will say to herself:
What haven’t I known? Who haven’t I loved all my life?

Of Being Lost Forever

You’ve been careless over all, her dress left thrashing
with the others in a heap and jostle. You’ve been finding its beads

in odd places: the shower drain, between fork prongs.
These beads that she put one by one on the two-tone sea foam

years ago. In the weeks after you knew she was dead,
when they had buried her in another dress, you traveled

to a house not your own and knew a darkness then, a long
winding walk around what you had always called a corner,

a snuck darkness so sudden that there was a pleasing thought
of being lost forever. The summer before you knew

she was dying there were nights you couldn’t sleep
for the pounding. If you were branded femme-fatale

there’d be a gun on your nightstand, but here
there is only air too still to rustle. There’d be a man under-bed

saying Sure, your heart should hammer and should never stop
and just when you’re naked and dozing on the sheet,

that’s when the phone rings. The air is sticking. Foolish girl,
you think you will be a sweeping force and the world

will be kind. Tune in tomorrow for the gruesome conclusion.
You should see it now because I see it now. Pick it up.

You wouldn’t know happy if it kissed you on the mouth.


One year I was rich, clasped
rigid in red, hair tedious all night
to music woozy and wicked,

glasses off squinting to watch one depart
then another. Witnessed veins
give out under needle or saw them

else trying to come back
on a hospital table, thumb
buttoning to sleep-death

and death itself. One year I was gone
when a shotgun blasted one
mean temple, mastered the arch

of back for sadness, the run through
plotted scrub. Now I am gauged
in climax clutter of scrap

photograph, waiting for the next
to go. I am good at grief, know
the twist of one deliberate dead

that can ensanguine a heart. I spell eternity
over and over as lullaby. I wait
plundered, the last to live, several.