Patricia Lockwood

The Eighteen Vertebrae

Night falls ripe, to bruise and mulch
upon the ground. The voyeur watches
through the window. He loves you
for your back alone; he has never seen
your breasts or belly, the dark thatch
between your legs that threatens scarlet.

The stars come out one by one, jagged
as milk teeth. The voyeur leans closer
and dizzies his breath against the glass.
“Let him watch,” your lover says,
and makes you kneel.

The voyeur ignores the brute halo
round your head and imagines
that he is the one racking
and releasing your spine.
From behind, one cannot tell
the difference: the same
eighteen vertebrae surface
when you bend to pray,
when you bend over a man.


Lazarus Returns Home

The daily bread will rise in spite
of resurrections. Martha wrestles the dough
and asks if he will be hungrier than usual tonight.

Mary does not see him. All day, she washes
her hands with her hair, speaks of bloodstains.

“Did you see our mother?” Martha asks.

"She worked with the other mothers. They poured
new wine into old wineskins and changed it to blood."

“Unlawful,” Martha mutters. “Did you see our father?”

"Once. I saw them once. The son stood against a tree
and balanced an apple on top of his head. The father
let an arrow fly into the forehead of his son; the head
tipped, the apple fell." Mary looks up from her washing.

"There was a girl there," Lazarus tells her.
"I cannot remember her name. Her lover
looked back, and she was allowed to stay.
Mine kept walking, walking."

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