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outside she sits, outside she sees:
warm tulip light, the tree that grieves;
with ink and flash, the story weaves
her painting bright on turning leaves.
I did see you, curled up like a cat
in the second row, your grey paws crossed.
I saw you wince when I couldn’t remember the words,
And flick-frown in that tongue-tip corner way you do.
It’s funny, really, because I love cats,
but you aren’t one to slip and sleek around my calves.
Instead, it is I who circle you:
I rub against and move around without ever losing touch.
It’s guttural, my pleading: I shake until I begging purr,
and press and press against your legs
though I find them hard and solid.
At night, my tiger stripes come out, and I scratch and tear those foul posts,
waking with splinters instead of claws.
The words forgotten like shredded newspapers
pad me as beetle-curled, I sleep.
Beneath me, no one will see them, or remember,
lining the catbox of my dreams.
You look at me crisply as the world blurs out around us, your eye filled with pictures I try vainly to see. Do you not see the colors spilling together?
I want to jump into a river in winter, feel the ice freeze my bones.
I want to run into an intersection, hear the horns slice the air.
Can lightning catch images, make me a negative, white and black?
Can it print me, burn my edges,
in a room lit only by reds?
I reach out in the night and I catch the top of your arm—
it bleeds as my nails spin from the skin far too fast.
Like splatter paint, a horizon opens between us,
your canvas and mine.
I pick up my fountain pen, let the ink swirl and spill—
this is time in a prism.
Ride with me, Dad, trust my eyes.
I will write you a poem.
She sits on the toilet,
and pulls her feet up onto the lid
so that no one will know she is there;
then she takes the magazine out from under her shirt
and lifts it to her face,
breathing in the glossy pages.
Why did you come, exactly, to sit beside me in my reading room?
to commandeered my precious, dust-edged volumes,
with the oily boot-trails of your fingertips?
In one gold-button moment, you annex Worlds
as if they’re stamped with mortgages and wax;
but those are veins you coil up, pack away,
those flags are memories you burn.
Did you know this when you entered, that you would erase me?
Could you accept it so lightly, my ink on your hands?
Your ruddy cheeks spoke pinkly of kindness,
and from my blue chair, you smiled vanilla: all eyes and no teeth.
Now I watch mute, behind walls of your language
as your hands, like peach bats, suck and fly.
My spine hears you digging your trenches,
paving everything over with the easy sludge
of New Ideas.
You wrote me letters, your tries at songs
I’d have to love (they came from you)
Always scrawled with that black fountain pen that longs
For a man of brighter inks, some hyperion yellow or electric blue.
And I, mole-like, kept them all,
Crunched them up, hid them in my secret nest
Until I had this one big You-Love-Me ball
Which made me feel (in secret) my eyes were brighter than the rest.
Sometimes I peek in there, even now
To make sure those horrid lyrics still exist;
I never read them—this my cat-brain (tail-up) won’t allow—
I just like to look at them, still crumpled from my fist.
I wonder sometimes, when I see your white hat float with hers,
If she actually likes your poems, or reads the words.
sandpaper place (original)
I have been here before, in this sandpaper place,
I have felt my feet airsuck the creaky floorboards.
I have stood here, fingers smelling the ridges of the walls,
and moved the little refrigerator magnets with my eyes.
That time, before, I’d swallowed a bowling ball
Carried it like a parasite baby, swelling my blood.
Now a comforter swallows me, swaddles me;
It is cream and polyester, but itchy, not like down.
Now I stand here again, in this sandpaper place,
where I have listened to the hum of the walls.
I remember them whispering, and the lights with their rumors,
and those tongues in the freezer that pretended to care.
They are awake again, the room voices,
They have followed me here.
the winding arm
the winding arm is spinning
and blazes, blazes, bursts—
Bone on bedpost,
Fire-signaled, we come out like moles, our black pad-claws raised to our faces to protect the tiny buddings of our eyes
we hesitate, just slightly, and for only one moment
(just to make sure)
and then run, arms out, to make the first trail.
She has a horse-face, you know, and she
is very bad at faking nice. She thinks she is good at it,
but I am a consummate actress, and it is obvious that she is not.
But nevertheless, you think she’s one of those Good People,
and when she whinnies, there you run, with a bucket of slop
you’ve mixed by hand, with just the right amount of spirulina.
You look into those dark eyes and see her smiling at your world,
and then you sigh as you scrape the crap out of her iron shoes
with that red-handled hoofpick she gave you.
big black jacket
Maybe you think if you sit always inside it,
zipped up so the nylon scratches your chin, then
you will sweat out your nightmares,
and your whole mass will evaporate, squeezed
and pushed out through tightly-robed pores.
Or maybe you think if you are never without it,
(even when heat makes it slick where it touches the skin),
then the pigment in your chest will expire, sun-starved,
and translucent, you will stand spinally clean.
Or perhaps you don’t think; it’s a matter of feel:
that the air tastes safe (dark and smooth), poached by black;
that like petals or seed pods, the sleeves (silk-like) massage you;
that the chrysalis, from within, smells like rain.
It’s a galaxy, your jacket, you collapse ever inward inside,
pulled by the gravity of some siren-sung world.
You sit, clean and tall,
orange on red, covered in maple leaves,
bold against the blue.
I carve you from the inside out, pull out the seeds
and toast them.
I cut a smile (no toothy grin),
I make your eyes wide and suspicious.
She trails sheets, blue sneakers peek,
his hair’s both black and red.
Here flutters a missing golden button,
two threads loose.
I breathe, leaves dance, you breathe.
Orange whitens brown, an inward fall:
Algae Air, you’ve won.
Cusp and creep, curl and cull,
we melt together.
Her halo is aluminum, her wings tin foil,
an angel gauzed in wax.