Dawn Gabriel

Poem Built of Eleven Poems Unwritten


The first — all pathetic fallacy — is self-loathing
by nature, lazily angry, in love with O!,
covets the unfraught gaze of buttons,
the deaf & dumb waiting-room chair.


A meterless sonnet on Salò, mise-en-scène:
The female officer packs a cell
with starving victims until they begin
to eat each other. Rhyme cannibal
with plentiful (ask Yeats’ ghost for advice).


Incomplete warnings for heroines —
before you don the princess dress,
or slip your yard-dirt toes
into dress-up play heels,
before the dark wood where the wolves
howl vowels into your blood,
your mother must die.
She will die strangely, bloodlessly,
suddenly be gone for years.


A found poem, Space Charge defined:
when a metal object is placed in a vacuum
and is heated to incandescence,
the energy is sufficient to cause electrons to “boil” away
from the surface atoms
and surround the metal object
in a cloud of free electrons.
This is called thermionic emission.
The resulting cloud is negatively charged,
and can be attracted to any
nearby positively charged object,
thus ended my first marriage.


A button’s gaze responds — takes O! to a seedy motel,
advises pathetic fallacy to shut the hell up,
to man up,
to ball up,
to up up up,
up its own pedantic ass.


Long lines on a changeling, for the thing left behind: It grew up to wear Manolo Blahniks &
chandelier earrings — it mimics the way women walk & tilt their heads & toss their hair &
sways alone to popular music at bars, sipping Long Island iced tea after Long Island iced tea.
God help the man that catches it by the waist, pulls it to the floor, & presses himself against
its chest.


My arms
are muddy
crawl up
my wrists
to beg
your lips
for breadcrumbs…
you are
love poems
I could
not write.


The Vocabulary of Frivolous Petitions from Unbelievers:
An extended metaphor, or an exercise in pretentiousness.
A title with Chantilly heft, so the ill-fitting wig
finds its way to the trash.


Prayer as Nut, decaying: I wear the blue dress &
I let mice live inside between layers of tulle.
They build nests next to nests, until the skirt
is stiff as hoops with straw & found cotton
& the barnyard smell of infant mice.
Birth & death,
birth & death;
not the sun,
only mice.


Free verse for Leda (see: Yeats), and Rihanna’s
bloody face; for meat hatched from beauty,
for the dark cloak stitched from rapist,
for our lips, which we will lick chapped
until they are red as split thighs.


Ultimately: a broken terza rima for the tri-hearted
octopus — eight stanzas not
written, the last line a sharp beak’s bite.
You would have called me a poet, then.

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