I teach a woman on the internet how to exorcize
a demon. She posts: My breasts have emptied.
I’m all dried up, there’s not a drop left
and I’m happy. But also sad, guilty. There’s a demon here, now,
that my breasts have stopped running with blue-white
sticky milk, the milk itself a ghost –
Yes, I write, but more specifically, this demon?
And she responds:
it watches me feed my children.
It keeps them awake at night. It rattles
the windows, rattles rattles. There is no gradual extinction,
just the clinging, slick fat smell
of old milk in a bottle reminding me I’m guilty,
just the ghost crying without crying it out.
Rivers of quartzy milk have crossed
the plain of my body, have deltaed from me
and streamed into open mouths and no one
has ever thanked me. All this milk does
is remind me I’m an animal.
Yes, I write, but more importantly, the demon,
and she asks: Am I guilty? I write,
You can’t pour a river from your body
if the headwaters run dry.
You can’t stream yourself
out of a cracked riverbed
into your child’s little bed,
into your child’s little mouth, and, you know,
he needs you to, I respond: He needs you to…
Just feed your fucking children, that demon
A List of Things I Wish You’d Notice
- How the light of the sun is the same as the moon’s and how the things we do in the day are still equal to those we do in the night (remembering, of course, how the night once was…)
- A dog’s pink toe.
- Milk spilling everywhere, over top everything, white-blue and staining all of our clothes and spoiling – spoiling as we speak – in the refrigerator.
- A story I told you once and am telling you again – something I read in a book and liked and told you – and maybe my mouth moves too fast, faster than I can think – maybe I shouldn’t have told you – maybe I should have known you wouldn’t care – sort of like how things, words and letters are showing up on this page faster than I can understand them, faster than you can care.
- Birthday letters. Love letters. E-mails. Post-Its. Notes of apology. Unanswered text messages. All of the things we’ve saved.
- Maybe I could do better to notice things. Notice them about you. Like how you shaved your face today. Like how you prefer to end fights. Like how you say goodbye to the baby without saying goodbye to me.
Rhiannon Conley is a poet and writing instructor living in North Dakota. Her work has appeared in Moonsick Magazine, The Rat’s Ass Review, The Roaring Muse and The North Dakota Quarterly and is forthcoming from Literary Mama, Grimoire and Whale Road Review. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016. Her first chapbook, Less Precious, was published by Semiperfect Press in 2017. She writes an irregular newsletter of short poetic essays called Smol Talks and more regularly tweets @RhiannonAdmidas.