“Machines” by Bayleigh Cardinal

Bayleigh Cardinal


I’d give you anything,
my father used to say after he raped me,

bone-white church bulletins buried
in the stoked flames warming us.

You’re driving me home like an auction
you’ve lost, going on about war,

its machines, how and when
each vehicle grew its armor. The books

on your dashboard read the shadows
seeping from the lamp-lit night.

One day you’ll never see me again
and I want to kiss you for it,

soft like sirens driving on distant streets.
I have twisted my body like a screw

without an anchor. I have buried years
in an ocean, where once my father

pointed out each passing boat,
his fingernails chipped and sharp like wire.

I named them: loud, loud, loud.
I could hear them in my sleep.

Your hand feels hot on my bruised thigh,
snow melting under your engine

fast and all at once,
the way I wish you could love me.

I learned how to swallow
love, a plate I broke while my mother was away.

I learned how a wound opens, his hands
guiding each shard over the map of my skin,

my voice spilling out like oil waiting to be cleaned:
I’ll give you anything, anything.

from Poets Respond
September 23, 2018


Bayleigh Cardinal: “#WhyIDidntReport.” (web)

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