POEM SERIES: FIVE RIVERS

ACHERON

there are no new pains. we have felt them all already.
she, in particular. keeps spending money on things
that will kill her in excess. downs it to keeps feelings
from choking her.

she has scaled the mountain of myths for anything.
came here from nothing like maybe something here
will stay.
sees the gates and forgets how entering goes.

lungs tightening like fists at her heart’s sides
ready to finish what everyone else started.
she didn’t get this far to let aching get the best
of her.

uses waves and their carefully guided moon-river for her lungs.
inhale deep & expel.


LETHE

cigarettes are sold at the foot of the mountain.
the trek back is steep, makes her breathe heavy.
still, she lights up. smoke reverse blooms. tending
the garden with hateful hands, fists of nothing but weeds

fills the holes she had forgotten. carries a lighter
at all times in her hand-me-down leather
just-in-case someone offers her the chance to forget.
molding shame and drinking herself onto a boat to oblivion.

She once read her mother’s suicide note–doesn’t remember the words
just the feeling. hopes maybe that will leave her soon too.


STYX

grandmother scolds hide your crazy
like there’s anything left to her afterward.
crazy below the mason-dixon line something
scandalous, something that here she can

just medicate. grammie doesn’t mean
too emotional, she means who her granddaughter
lets crawl into her bed. even here,
the mountain with its ambrosia and lights.

she gets asked what she likes more, being empty & the quick fitting in or being
empty together. the part that sticks is that in every scene she’s always hollow.


COCYTUS

her tongue has never felt small enough
for her mouth. folks space like excess
is ever a good thing. she speaks around it
not so carefully enough.

always things trying to touch her, ghosts
crawling out of the water and sticking their
spindles of bone into the boat, close enough
to graze her skin and leave a scratch.

the ghosts, they play in the water like children that dread
drowning but desperately want to get away from what’s
on the shore. there is always music in her ears
to stop the sound from touching her.

it is work to be silent
with so little room left in her mouth.
there are always questions about her empty space,
about who can pay the rent to stay there for a while.

she always relents. always stays quiet. coin/foot/tongue in mouth
for safe passage to the afterlife.


PHLEGETON

she knows what she looks like objectively at all times.
knows how to be an object. doesn’t quite remember
being taught how to object, only remembers how to
echo because that’s what women in her family do.

only knows how to take the small rebellions.
parádeigma: when girls ask to her.
she says nothing.  smiles, bares her teeth.
gets into not-her-bed. wanes a little bit.

waxes on until girl is too tired to listen with her body anymore.
climbs the mountain all the way home.

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