Selected Poems

by Grace Thornton


I wait on the back porch and I smoke and stare, absent, at my reflection.
I thought I was waiting for you (in a way I was).
I waited on myself. Waited to come back around.

I grin, a grimace.
Luckily it’s lost in smoke.

There’s a hound ‘comes around.
He lives with me now.
Sirens pass and he sings along with long-lost, far-off friends.
He turns his back to me to sleep. More than I can say for you.
(Though I’m sure you’re behind me, just behind me, and not turned away.)

This was the summer you picked up junk and I worked in a kitchen, the only girl.
The world must’ve been trying to teach us something about hard work.
(The “world” and the “universe” are, of course, cheap euphemisms for God. When I pray for you
I suspect that’s to who, but I can’t be sure. The world is a gentler concept. That I can handle.
That I can use.)

I take long drags and you take short. We talk at length in intermittent monologues of cautious
optimism and tempered metaphors for heartache. Not -break. Neither of us utter such a suffix.

At work I lean into the prep table, conveniently pelvis-height, as I ladle gravy onto plates, and
picture every last one of the guys I work with bending me across the thin steel surface to fuck
me from behind. In these instances I spill the gravy down my hands.

New Orleans was the first and only trip we took together.
Remember? When I broke my wrist in a graveyard and (theoretically) no longer allowed myself
to drink gin.
“You’ve got to climb over the wall before the pain sets in”, and
later, in the car ride home (8 hours in an Ace bandage while poorly received Mariachi music
played), “Focus only on the pain. If you try to ignore it it’ll just come back worse”.
Fuck you (for being right)

You haven’t said anything prophetic like that for quite a while.
How could you? When you’re the prophecy.

A common adage is that addicts are narcissists. True, but too easy.
They are things designed to implode that invariably malfunction; they don’t mean to think only of
themselves. Self would have to be an entity worth considering.

Self, for them, is the feral cat that was supposed to have drowned in the river with the rest of
the litter whose survival doesn’t translate into redemption but spite. And felines, they know
vengeance. Their memory subsists on it.

What can one do when it paws at the door? Give it scraps of dinner, a bed, make embarrassing
sounds of emulation, let it sleep on your chest and watch it rise and fall with your breaths, hope
it forgets the mewling sounds made inside that drawstring bag from Wal-Mart that the very
sheets you two sleep on now were packaged in, wait.


I used to think of myself as indecisive, never sure. He is someone I decided on without making a
decision. He, his heroin, and I: the three of us ended up together and it wrenched us apart.
The heroin, mercifully, didn’t shoot him dead though we still sleep with one eye open.

Spencer sleeps on the streets of Portland. I roam, nomadic, round the world to keep my sanity
and my distance. I’ve got a voodoo doll mind that keeps watch that the two of them don’t

Our first month apart was shotgun shells and bottles of wine. We’d talk on the phone which he
got to keep in rehab (round 1), me downing wasabi peas and two buck chuck from a jelly jar as I
asked him about his day. An addict for an addict leaves the whole world fucked up.

A week after he left was family vacation. Needless to say, I did not have fun. I told my parents
what he’d been up to, why he wasn’t there. Riding the momentum of Familial Openness and
Honesty Hour I belatedly admitted that I, myself, had vices.

“An eating disorder? You hid that from us well.”
“Cigarettes! Now that’s repulsive”
“If you’re sad all the time you should get some help.”

“Help”, a clinical form of empathy. Less stickily personal.

Somewhere around the beginning of month two when I reenter the social sphere, a guy at
work sells me some acid for $5 a pop. I come up at the local playground, my loyal sidekick
Rufus panting at my side, when, like adorable guardians of the underworld, a pair of abandoned
pups huddled ‘neath the monkeybars whimper our way. They seem one dog with two heads.
“Jackson! Carlisle! I’ll take care of you.”
They became my little metaphors, those scoundrels, as they followed me around. Mangy
mothrfuckers but when everything around ya’s squirming with bugs and ripples how could I know?

My roommate rescued the three dogs and the one dumbass on acid, guiding us into her van.
“Did you think they weren’t real?” I asked.

“I was open to the possibility.”


I’m near to tears on September 11th (2013), though not for them.

I’d like to have loved them but I didn’t know them and I’m no Walt Whitman. I am selfish. That
doesn’t negate the fact that I have known loss. To what extent is questionable. To what end is unthinkable.

Plans, I had so many of. Filed in Dewey Decimal. Clutched tight in manilla folders.

My friend threw a party for the fourth of July where six people got stabbed.
She told Channel 2 news that, “No one was intending.”

We’ve got instincts instead of intentions-- let’s not give ourselves too much credit with regards to
higher consciousness.

There once was a boy and a girl & they loved each other very, very much. They were going to
travel the world. They were going to make music together; she would sing and teach him how to
dance. She was the heroine of their story until heroin became the heroine and she the damsel in
distress whose knight was too junked up to help her.

Junk, smack, dope-- nuh-uh, you are! Childish names for a substance jammed straight into the vein.

After she found out, she still called him Snugs and he still called her Scout.

“Isn’t it pretty to think so?”, so sayeth Snugs on their first date.

Many moons have passed since Scout thought to term anything pretty. Pretty is a pastel word.
It would clash with this blood red Rothko of a summer. Darkly beautiful, perhaps, but that is
mundane in its predictable tragic quality.

Novelesque is better and gracefully nods to the poetic circumstance that this month marks a
year, that this date is reserved for mourning, that I grieve in tandem with a nation that knows
nothing of my small personal disaster, that there is immense narrative irony in my anniversaries:
February 14th with my first love, September 11th with my lost one.


The jerks must’ve made it look like we didn’t know what we were doing (true, I didn’t,
but I know what getting off feels like
and that was it.)
with our clothes still on, my scarf choking me, we
nudge and urge the topsides of our thighs into the crevice of the other’s pelvis.
Like a babe I lay my head on the round of her shoulder, pull aside her shirt, find the tit.
She’s impatient for me to find the pleasure.

I wouldn’t tell her, not even if she asked, but she was gentle as a peach
and I seek to be bruised up like one.
She knows the mechanics of the knobs and levers. My thrill is in smashing the machine.

When I put whole hand up inside her she musta been afraid, but didn’t say.
I couldn’t help it. I did to her what I wished had been done to me.
There’s some loopholes in the golden rule:
Have sex with someone of the same sex. Pretend she is you,
that you’re finally getting(giving) what you need.


Noise, noise, noising the world fills it with hum,
drowns out the not-silence of static.

A noiseless brain is not at rest. It is sending satellite signals into space, saying
“Oh gawd. Halp.”
Help me dissolve this, this, into a murmurous growl low enough to rumble animals.
Kick in their instincts so refined they can almost smell with their joints.
Help me take flight, and for those without the gift of birdness, help them fight.

There was once a call I could not hear. Then the tides came and the rains fell and
touch was the sound. Water touched my toes. Wind clutched my hair. I do not speak. I pet.
Calves nuzzle my ass looking for milk.

Ass, udders, tits, stomach, softnesses that might keep my feet tucked up against someone
else’s at night.
Remember, how warm the womb was?
How fucking Emily was cozy as crawling back in it?
Pleading her clit with the tip of a nose for the feel of the hair,
not the scent of her snatch,
I was subdued. A mouthful of silence. A body rhythmic.


When it goes,

it goes,

it goes





When it goes, it goes, thank god, it goes,

and when it goes,
it’ll go

where it goes,



I must be a masochist because I love loathe love loathe love
feeling compressed under a body’s feet.

Don’t take yr boots off baby, Lace em up tight.

Push the thread into my thrombosis.
I got the disease of not lovin’ love, of lovin’ it’s leftovers, lovin the ditch love leaves
when it leaves.

Shove me in it and don’t you dare hold me.
Put me on my knees and squeeeeeeze
me outta myself.

I’m the last of the toothpaste. You’re the guy with the bleedin’ gums.
Had you wanted me before you needed me you wouldn’t be standing before the mirror, vice
clamped to a tube of Colgate, spitting into the sink and bearing teeth to see the spittle frothed
with red, now would you?

We’d be, maybe, sitting by a stream and eating salads and laughing without one fleck of
spinach stuck in our teeth.

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