A Poem by Michelle Dove

Momentum A to F


Whatever has to start whatever started whatever didn’t
The women have always pulled their runes
Even in bathtubs in covert backyards somewhere
where no one likes a loud room
But who’s really talking about volume?

If my hair was maybe flattened maybe smoke
If my hair was maybe not hair
it’d be a problem
What I’m always talking about are my mistakes
For instance, this Styrofoam lampshade
and how the world still sees me
when I don’t see it back
Every day I am wearing a black T-shirt
of the band you already hate
And my black jeans are cropped above
my ankle tattoo of a predictable mermaid
treading water
It wasn’t even long ago wasn’t even a misstep what anything is easily forgotten
I high-fived at the wrong protest
And I made you the worst alcoholic drink
Which of course you still drank it
Mistakes are what you didn’t know
you’d go on inventing
Which when I call something art I might not throw it away
Which when I looked yesterday we weren’t becoming our favorite albums
Joan Jett Stevie Nicks Joni Mitchell though lately
I’m courting negative feedbacking whatever orbs that swaddle

Well, there’s more than one way to get locked outside
2 a.m. when no one’s coming no one’s
even alive to laugh at you
Or how I always ruin a perfectly watered garden
In my voice something always disobeys goes another way erect
What sound isn’t what doesn’t come from anything what noise doesn’t make
when it’s universal
I tried giving you my underperforming tomatoes
and hoped for the best
I tried siphoning last year’s moon

What happened last week was we said
we’d come here tonight
which does it matter if we didn’t surmount in between
which does it change us not to make change we can name
The hope we have the hope we make the
way we know there could be a different outcome
It is hard to remain hopeful
when I look at this biscuit dough as it is
It is hard not to lie down in some noise in some sound hard not to go under until dissolve

One day I’ll have three objects
and one skill I don’t want to exchange
When you come over I will put what’s beautiful in different corners
of the loudest rooms
When I’m alone I’ll summon beauty
to commune with the silence where you left
What sounds are when they aren’t heard when they’re maybe dried up
maybe elderflower or grain
what sounds make when we collectively summon every past redo to improv old moons

If only we could see ourselves when we aren’t trying
when the cat’s on our laps
when we don’t want anything else
Whatever noises aren’t familiar we start to
become some parts water some parts mistake
I told you I’d get louder over time
So what if we all get the same tattoo
Which why don’t you like the idea of birds
Which when I draw on you why don’t you laugh

One example of volume is mohawks
Another is the letter you mail to every person you don’t know
To the people I haven’t met
Nothing looks like a mistake
I could make a different ending
But you don’t want an ending
until you find the thing you’ve missed

What I do in my spoiled garden
is not talk down to the aphids
Anything that flies whatever eats what another thing didn’t
what feeds on what’s left
I am not giving you planets I haven’t visited anymore
I am not embarrassed for anyone’s baldness
What I changed about my appearance
is not regret


Michelle Dove is the author of Radio Cacophony and recent writing that appears in Chicago Review, PEN America, and Entropy. She works and teaches in the English Department at Duke University.  

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.