A Poem by Laura Kolbe

Other people’s boyfriends

wearied of mishearing “gins”
as “chance” at the watering hole, as in

take-slash-have one. As in on me. Wore
out their zonked cigarettes

tacking z-routes like pumpkin teeth
across the parking lot;

worked out, repentant, in cone-bra
shaped fitness temples. Got hard

and wary. Were, in this sense, mine. As in
take one. I am what every O.P.B. wants: a bullet

list on the phone screen, a what-
shall-we-do. I never confused

what meant “book” and what meant “free”
in mouthful Latin mottoes.

I was never “book.” O.P.B.s waded
like flamingoes into the scum

of my room. Wore, in a sense,
my jeans. In the light of abundant,

me-shaped clarity, they wrote
their first poem. As in “rides on

its own melting.” A burn that was,
for some, more like being alone.

Mornings: no-face pancakes, blankets blank.
Coffee mugs of sour wine,

handles pert empty nerveless ears.
All signs pointed away from “listen”

out to sea. This is when I was sold
on O.P.B.s: when I held my skull

to their chests, I heard China, magma,
the dark side of a personal moon.

That is, my blood flipped back on me.
When they dug their conch heads

into cars, I sealed them away
with all the haste of Novocain,

the grudging splurge of a Carmike seat.
My mind’s eye dyed their hair

submarine. In bad straits, their warheads dove,
a woeful plume, a wave, in this sense, mine.

Laura Kolbe’s poetry and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, The Cincinnati Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. She practices medicine in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.