My Body Is A Den of Hurt

I chase in my chest
the frightened animal
the ache of you became.
I try to snatch it up

but it scurries into the dark,
it worries my insides with
pine straw and cotton lint,
with scraps of blue thread
it makes comfortable nests.

The little wounded thing
that moved in after you
rustles under my skin
with its own rapid heart,
it thumps out of step
with the muscle in my ribs.
Somewhere under my body,
it sucks up the breaths
I am trying to take.

I have tried to coax it out,
I have left treats and poisons
in the bony hollows of my body,
I have called softly for it
against the river rush of my blood,
I have tried to hold myself still
through unmoving hours,

to wait for the animal ache of you
to scratch up its little courage
and creep out on its own
and when that does not work,
I roar and roar at it
like the lion I am not,

until I have worn myself raw
and slump down exhausted,
it crawls out of my body,

I let my hurt nuzzle up against my throat,
I stroke the soft fur of its body
with my quiet fingers
and let it whisper about you
in my ear for the rest of the night.

— Adam Kamerer

Mother Black

I.
I am the kind of tired today
that sits on the inside,

a heavying that shows up on the porch,
invites herself in and cozies up
against heartbeat and bone,

wide hipped, she takes up her space,
she fogs up the windows
and shuts up all the doors,
says Sugar, the sunlight isn’t really
all that warm and golden today,
lets not worry ourselves about it.

She turns off every light in the house,
and creaks the sofa when she sits,
pats the space beside her,
says Come have a seat
beside me, sugar, it’s no good
going out today. Them flowers
smell like dirt and them birds
are stupid animals.

She lays my head against her big soft belly,
pets my hair with her big cold hand,
her hungry stomach groans against my ear,
she croons, Oh, sugar, you’re a
stupid kind of animal too, aren’t you?
Don’t you go getting silly ideas
like the world wants you in it.
Just go on back to sleep, sugar,
and let me keep you quiet.

II.
I am the kind of tired today
that cozies up against heartbeat and bone,
and today the only thing I want
is to sleep against her big soft belly,

but she never stays forever
and tomorrow the sun will gold back up
and tomorrow the flowers will smell rich and sweet
and tomorrow the birds will sing pretty once more

and tomorrow the world will want me.

Ares

Your body knows these ways of war,
the tensing jaw, the strangled speech,
the muscled fist that snatches up
your hurried, harried heart,

the stifled lungs that want for air,
the widowed fingers that wander
the battlefields of empty bedsheets,
desperate to find familiar shapes.

Stay here as long as you need,
teeth bared and body poised
to claw and roar and rage.
There’s no shame in lingering
in the place where you spilled
your wet red soul into the dirt
for something that sounded
and looked and felt like love.

But when you are ready,
know that there is only
one road home from war:

let go lies, let go betrayal,
let go promises unkept,
let go all the feints and counterthrusts
your offended heart imagines,
lay down blades and barbs
and let your seizing strength sag
into green grass and clear water,

peace is written not in blood,
but in air and light and distance.

Macarons

Today is a little better.
The sun is shining and warm
and my favorite coffee shop
has macarons on sale.

I sit in the brightest window
at the front of the shop
with four round bites
of subtle sweetness
on a small round plate

and I allow myself
the rare pleasure
of indulging each flavor:

bold tiramisu, like luxury,
champagne, like celebration,
tart lemon, a mouthful of sunlight,
and smooth chocolate,
simple comfort for a heart
still hurting.

Comfort Food

She makes this dish for me:
hot yellow potatoes cut in half
stirred up with long green beans
and crisp flakes of bacon,
all drowned and roasted
in butter and black pepper

and when she pulls back
the tin and the steam
spills aromatic into the air

I feel a little less empty
even if I will still
go home hungry later on.

Climate Change

Each day something dies out:
a particular breed of sea grass,
a six-legged crawler,
a bird with a blue throat.

I remember my father
scraping sticky insect guts
off the windshield
of a blue Chevy Bonaventure
every time he stopped for gas

but the humid air
doesn’t buzz anymore
and the pine trees
beside my grandfather’s house
are chalky and headless
with something eating them up
from the inside,

and the last time
I drove down to Greyton Beach,
I found more plastic baubles,
more cigarettes in the sand
than seashells and kelp weed.

All this to say
I feel a little blighted too
and the lively things
that crawl and warble
and cry out under my skin
are a little more extinct

and I am trying to keep
a little patch of yellow flowers
blooming in my belly
even against
drought and wildfire.

Cleaning

Far off the trail,
in the deeper part
of the pine woods
near Lisenby Lake,

there is a secret shallow stream,
a little glass snake that slithers over
a creek bed full of clean sand.

Here, all the sounds of the world
hush themselves to listen
to the prayer of winding water.

I’ve come here often,
heart-hurt and tired,
and here I am again.

Here I kneel at the bank,
I unclothe myself,
pull open my ribs
with bruised fingers,
unearth my dirty heart

and wash you out of it
in the clear cold water.

Body, Fire, Smoke, Sleep

Last night I dreamt
you knelt on the bedroom floor
and dripped wet fire from yourself,
watched me burn
until I was a smoke man asleep

but even wisped out like this,
I sleep well without you.

I wonder each night
how long I will long
for the weight and warmth
and shape of a soft body
in the bed beside me

but not your body.

— Adam Kamerer

To My Daughters, For Fred and Alaska

I should have known better
than to take the two of you
by the sketchy carnival booth
at the Crawdad Festival
with its bowls of muddy water

but I paid three dollars
for you to toss ping pong balls
and try for a prize, a stuffed lizard
or a tie-dyed bear, I thought.

If I’d known then that the prize
was a live goldfish,
I’d have hurried you past
to the lady painting faces
or to buy a funnel cake
or to ogle again at the table
full of gemstones and old fossils

but you plunked the ball
into the bowl on the very first try
and we came home
with two little fish in plastic bags.

We spend a hundred dollars
on a twenty gallon tank
and a bag of tiny black gravel
flecked with sparks of neon
and a fairytale aquarium castle
and pretty little plants

and twenty four hours later
Sir Fred and Alaska
were belly up in the water,

too much ammonia
or too much stress, maybe,
I tried to tell you
that it wasn’t your fault,
that we didn’t know
how long they’d swam in circles
in those ugly little bags.

You cried and cried
and I buried them
in the back corner of the yard
behind the rotting camper
that’d been there since I was kid

and then I stood beside you
for a little funeral for little fish
who never had a chance,
marveling how your little bodies
held hearts the size of whales.

— Adam Kamerer


Behind The Scenes

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Butterfly House

Confused cloudywing, sleepy orange,
question mark and whirlabout,
dainty sulphur, cassius blue,
palamedes swallowtail.

One hundred and fifty species of butterfly
make their homes in Alabama
and I am trying to learn
the name of every single one
so that I know what to call

the things in my belly
that flutter their wings
every time you walk into the room.