by Clementine Morse

My second sister friend
taught me how to survive. Like
putting the warm tortillas in a paper towel and
then a pocket for later.
But when later came
I was as full as my fridge.

She’s all shaky frugality.
She gives me a fruit basket, brimming in one scene
but in the next it’s just one oily apple
saying eat me.
She doesn’t tell me to take the scraps.
But when I do it I think of her
maybe am her
or hope to be somewhere tucked in
in the funny parts of me and the serious ones of her.

My second buddy man
noticed me and my sieged bread and my friend
and he said packrat.
He calls us both
that word without even knowing
even a fraction of it all and
I feel closer to
him and her and I and I want to know—
am I a pig or is there dignity
to my collecting
my habit for survival like an itch
but the rash came from somewhere
dry, safe, indoors, sexless, docile, institutional.

Are we the same thing
her, I
I like hearing stories about myself and about her
about me and her.
Something like in a Roehmer film
where the in-between age
girls frolic on the beach with gentle pale buttcracks
peeking out from tan swaybacks
Or is it more like a vagabond
a fake on the run from
something she doesn’t know what
Two cowboy buddies,
a complement
a duet
A roadtrip that ends with death and life incarnate at the same time
Or just pretty pink things who like to sit chubby in the mud eating residue
You have to earn stories, though.

My friend gathers all bright trinkets
around her minimum way.
But she’s good at leaving them behind if they get stuck
on the tape she keeps on her molten wall
or if anythings risks turning into
drops of liquid salt in your mouth like tragedy.

The gathered pieces are sometimes cloth,
which she uses to make me a new project growing old
and less finished morning by
evening I come in and want to tell her nothing and
also most things.
Her sewing machine hums against
the dirty floor that turns her feet black
and that rests under her splayed legs
bruised from boyishness
awashed in her sunroom.
She offers to fix
my scuttled tatters instead.

Anyway, the man, he says you can make words mean whatever you want.
He doesn’t tell me that I can do this too.
But when I come home and hunt shoot kill my real dictionary
it’s to the tune of him.

An affliction
To conjure these strange people when you feel like a leaden thing.
If you drop you don’t know whose fault it is
The blame game
being a cardinal sin.

Clementine grew up in Brooklyn and attended Reed College. She just began an MA/PhD program in English at the University of Connecticut and splits her time between CT and NYC.