Caits Meissner

Caits Meissner is the author of The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You (2012, Well&Often), co-written with Tishon Woolcock, and Let It Die Hungry (forthcoming 2016, The Operating System.) With a significant history in facilitating, administering and developing community arts programs, she currently serves as Writer-in-Residence at Bronx Academy of Letters, a creative writing instructor in a women’s prison and a part-time lecturer at The New School University.


The Neighbors’


ppppppwork boots fill to brim

with abandoned rain water

pppppp& orange carp swim the plastic sandbox.

Across the way ppppppif you squint

four window lights form a bright crucifix,

ppppppneedles scatter sidewalk a halo of thorns.

Daddy POW’s been back 30 years

pppppphis nine greyhounds

loop the in-ground pool ppppppscratch a track

ppppppppppppinto the soil’s supple arm.

His adult daughters loom the yard like dull buffalo
ppppppmade of molasses & slurred speech

(must be fetal alcohol —

ppppppdon’t you think?) pppppIt is a strange scene, true —

but has become what is. The one odd thumb. Otherwise,
pppppppthe day is a static sun. Each house wears
the same innocent skirt of grass

ppppppp& crisp white teeth.

Now god forbid the curtains flew open, nipped by a sudden breeze.

Who could unsee the backlit theater of suburban vignettes?

someone ppppppicking out their eyelashes

someone pppppbroken hearted, practicing a knife through wet meat

someone pppppcarving a knife beneath blouse

someone pppppcrying in front of the television set

someone  ppppimaking a bottle it’s lover in two different mouths

someone pppppforgetting the fish who are floating in their tank

someone’s pppptongue pppppppbecoming switch

someone’s pppptongue pppppppbecoming glass

someone’s pppptongue ppppppplicking the icing off tiny cakes

someone’s pppptongue ppppppplicking out the ear of infidelity

someone’s pppptongue: pppppiiia song crescendoing

pppppp& the shades snap open like

pppppppppppppppppppa mouth slapped shut.

Pause for a courteous silence before gossip cracks
ppppppploud as an audience clapping for encore

ppppppp& coughs out a storm.

Weather vanes on each identical roof whip like propellers.

The murmurs pile atop themselves, flock into the shape

ppppppof a tornado, then breaks off into limbs, grows feet,

tries to run but only hovers, throws a paper bag over its head

pppppppbut cannot hide.

In the final scene, a man is dragged away in cuffs. Arguably handsome.
ppppppWhat will the audience assume he did?

They’ll agree something crazy. They’ll say you should never trust
pppppppthe ones that seem too normal. They’ll say, makes you wonder

about everyone, doesn’t it? Close the curtain on a woman on her knees.

ppppppHis poor wife, they’ll say. His poor wife. Hispoorwife.




Two Years Into the Hole Called My Loneliness


I used to dream of long­haired daughters

to burn the grief from our bodies, to move


through us like tapeworms, eating the beast

from your blood, what made you spoil.


Instead five officers with shorn heads came

to feed like leeches from my largest wound.


Kicked our bedroom door into two halves.

I am lonely for the way you split me open.


After they took you away, I nearly broke

my beauty imagining a lover I could stand


in bed beside me, until he came faceless,

head wrapped in a crown of dying stars.


Do not ask about the hours I spent with him

sweating until the wind stopped silent.


I do not love him. I’ve never stopped waiting

for you, perched like an injured bird, throatless,


this pretty heart boxed up on the counter,

a hardening pastry becoming stone.


If you stop loving me, don’t say it.

Don’t toss me back to the useless woods


where I once belonged. I ran away to you.

I still want my pleasures simple, sun­blind.


I color you as a child would, bright

twin to that mammoth ball of fire filling


the page to each corner, then spilling flames,

burning me up, frightening the trees.


This is the way I’ve learned to measure time:

I will write you until the end of this bottle,


until sleep comes heavy as an ogre to slam

a door on the living, then I will dream


and wake sick with a feeling that everything

I touch will turn to liquid, even the air


pools around the warm pad of my finger.

I will walk through the bars between us


but still won’t be able to hold you solid, hands

loose as waterfalls, wanting but uselessly cruel.

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