do not eat
you dry out my tongue, dry off, dry off, wither in my mouth like the ripe white leg of a lamb
breach-born, caught dangling between guts and dew, fingers of mist still laid in the valley
biscuits in a long cardboard tube sticky with crumbs, the dry wafers grandma kept
at the back of the pantry, dry off, dry out, it hurts to eat you o my desert, my desert
we are the swallowing kind, second-placers, we are the hot gravel standers, eye-shielders
we are the grim reminders, the half-forgetters, we are the stand, the regret, the watercourse unswum
stand and reflect.
in those days i would have impaled an insect on a straw or a thorn, cast about like a ritual
magical gesture, life threaded, as if by my command the lock-gates would rise and fall
teeming with fish, fish teeming around my legs in green-brown wreaths, teeth like shrikes
dry mouths, dry eyes, blind and half-dead in the court of monsters, brain-damaged, gasping
caught in the throat, we were the hot asphalt kneelers, tiny black prayers dug out of our shins
we were the half-drowners, the suicides unsunk, our teeth turned to endless miles of shingle
tumbling from open mouths, open as history, open as doors are open, buried as dead are buried
soft and dry as glass.
the sea is in my blood and so you boil the sea, and the floors of my hollow organs tense with scorch
salt meat, salt fish, hot ash as it rolls in pyroclastic flow to the sea, pressing us like souvenirs
we are safe in this house of glass and ash, where the wind whistles through our pumice bones
laundromat vents and sandalwood, my mouth swells to meet yours, my lips like fistulas a tiny o
my love, my love, you dry out my tongue and i do not have the teeth to eat furniture or dirt or
poison, the poisoners, they showed us on television so we’d know their faces, poison-sowers
drinkers of rivers and watchers of dark and hazy coastlines, distillers of fine spirits and time, o
time for one more.
Cleo Madeleine (twitter: @quidtumcicero) lives in Norwich where she studies queer time at the University of East Anglia. Outside of the university she teaches, organises trans rights activist projects, and is half of the queer comedy podcast pronouns in bio.