Love Songs for Lupus

1. Idiopathic

 

These rooms never have windows. I’m alone

and waiting, still dressed in the incessant blue

 

of their gowns. Outside this room, my whole life

swallows hard. My husband paces the waiting

 

room, flinting his fists. I wait like a cold house

waits for a fire to make it warm, wait while the sky

 

goes down to an early dusk, mending boundaries

and gaps by failing to reveal them. I wait

 

because I can’t unfold, can’t rise up

yeasty and sponge-soft, can’t ignore 

 

the ladder I climb every day just to stand 

on my own feet. When I hear the tap-tap

 

on the door, I try to straighten, try to smile, try

to forget the splayed heart flapping in my chest.

 

Then I listen, nod, murmur my thanks and turn 

again toward the ransacked room 

 

of my body.

 

 

 

2. How to Lure the Wolf

 

                              Tenderly

the slender bow

               of innocence lifts—

     nothing unknown

 

can be known. The hum

               of not knowing you’re lucky

     in life swells like whole rivers

 

and flows past the window-

               glass, across the field

     where he watches you

 

as those on a long road gaze

               at a waiting house, knowing

     it’s home. So many future hallways

 

of blood and bone to prowl

               down, your cheeks

     so deliciously pale.

 

In one legend, the wolf fears

               the sound of bow on string.

     In another,

 

the rich saw and thrum

               resemble his dreams—a mother

     who used to sing

 

“Clementine,” that season of milk

               and denning. That you dream

     too means nothing

 

to him, that you sleep curled

               and fetal in your bed.

     If it were night

 

and he were hungry, he’ d thrust

               his muzzle starward

     and howl the pain into your

 

limbs. But it’s morning. You’re reaching

               for pages, shuffling 

     for just the right song—clean

 

opening note. Something

               andante, no rush. He paws

     at the first shoots now breaking

 

through. His eyes prefer a thicket

               for framing, but the window

     will do. And the lure

 

of music. And your unearned body

               still so supple,

     so blank.

 

 

 

3. Flare

 

Call it a drum or a slamming

door’s reverberation. Hair spread

on a pillow in red’s not it. Try net

of hot wires lit from within,

a tensing coil, the failing coals

of a just-banked fire, a tree

branching rough through the bones. 

Inside a howling roams all my hallways, 

a gale of footsteps builds 

in my limbs. Call it unwalled

again, estuary bleeding, place of surge

and husks left behind. The meat’s

all-day simmer, a bed never made,

the rains swamping the cellar

for months. The saints all descend

on my barren kitchen, drop stones

in the draining jar of my days.

I dull, I trickle long trails

of pills and needles, jeweled vials,

a river of blood coaxed out

of my veins. Call it thrum

and spinning, rim-bent, warped.

Build it of huddle and pulse,

hunch and vise-grip, a roof

pressing up on a slow-moving storm.

Tell me how to dream a fist

unfurling, the crawl of pain

to some other shore. Tell me

this is worth something—that I’ll burn

a blacker trail along the earth.

 

Molly Spencer’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Mid-American Review, the Missouri Review Poem-of-the Week web feature, ZYZZYVA, and other journals. She is a student at the Rainier Writing Workshop and a teaching-artist with California Poets in the Schools.