rachel bunting

In the EEG Room
             for Jacob

When I was ten, the future was a vague purple cloud
out of which a bright bird might tumble, dip its wings

and slip away again. I did not dream your face at all, did
not know I could. After years, the cloud disappeared:

your small voice split my chest so deep I could not breathe
unless you breathed. 3,775 days of watching your body slice

like a knife through this complicated life and this is where
we are: in a dark room, your brain raising colored mountains

on a monitor while a stranger takes notes. Your fingers wrap
around the stem of a pinwheel; doing as you’re told, you blow

until your arm feels heavy and your body tingles. You just
want to sleep. Eyes closed, your face is quiet, your head

a jumble of wires and glue.
It hurts to look at you.


When I say bomb it is because your voice has set
off a riot in my heart For riot know the fires are
burning steadily in my veins If you hear burning
do not worry about the collapse of this old house
When I say collapse I mean the intrusion of the sun
into your closed eyes With intrusion what I really
wanted to say is please keep touching the ridges
of my spine Don’t think that please is a weakness
And by weakness don’t assume that I mean I have
surrendered anything at all If I say surrender you
will know it is because the young mockingbird just
outside our window is mimicking your laughter
and we have dreamed in this same bed so long I
have forgotten how to like sleeping alone

How You Learn To Fight

The bruises on your arms are not love. They are not
not love, either. You know the difference. These?

You got them from a man with a palm like a knife’s
whetted edge. You asked him to hit you, to teach you

how to greet surprise. You let him touch you any
where he wants to. Now you look at everyone

with suspicion. He is everywhere: he lurks in the aisles
of your favorite market, hides behind the industrial

dryers at the laundromat to choke you from behind
as you lose yourself to folding warm clothes. You learn

the pluck, the palm strike, the hammer fist. You learn
to control your attacker, elbow under the chin. He is

careful, doesn’t smile. Strikes hard and fast and every
time you are surprised. This is not love but close: letting

the same man hit you over and over. What have you learned?
One night you dream you spin and kick so hard you become

a tornado. You chew up everything in your path, spit it
furiously back: gardens, houses, horses, highway. You are

fearsome and alive. You are lightning-split air, hail that cracks
the windshield. When you wake the world is different. The sky

is darker but you are not afraid. In the parking lot you stand,
fists up, breath even. You are ready to strike.

Rachel Bunting lives and writes in South Jersey, between the Delaware River and the Pine Barrens. Her poems can be found in print and online journals, including Weave Magazine, PANK, Stirring and The Nervous Breakdown. She is a student of Krav Maga, and thinks that just about any time is a good time to throw a hammer fist.

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