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Home DUCTS.ORG Issue 12 | Winter 2003 the webzine of personal stories
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Poems by Susie Armitage



Getting Ready

The First Time

You Asked What I Meant by Love




My sister lost her virginity to the White Album

and even now she thinks Bungalow Bill

is a love song. How music photographs

a moment: I was thirteen, dancing


with a boy I wanted to kiss

when Al Green told us to stay together.

For three minutes and eighteen seconds

I believed, but over the summer

he moved to Wichita . Nights, much later

I fell asleep with someone else

to Dark Side or Kid A, until that afternoon


driving home the day after he left.

Bob Dylan's It Ain't Me, Babe

was in my tape deck—maybe even worse

was the low rush of cars

going over the bridge

after I cut the sound.



The best birthday present

is a blank piece of paper

and a white typewriter, each key

glowing like a baby's first

tooth. A dozen rolled

sweat socks, fresh

from the dryer, and new chalk.

An orchard of Q-tips.


White walls breathe a room

bigger and white sheets

deepen sleep. Bread

rises naked and fat,

snow melts in your hair like baptism.


Hospitals are white hollows

we die in, beeping

to heaven, and love

a white balloon

hugging a high

ceiling, missing its string.


Getting Ready

He is a thumbnail, a smudged

pencil eraser, a dull

penny. A pebble.


It would be a he. She dresses

in front of the full-length

mirror, smoothing her size

seven skirt and inching

her sweater down. She studies

the skin of her stomach, taut

like a balloon stretched

before you blow in air.


No cigarettes, just in case.


He is a kidney bean,

a piece of chewed

gum, a sunflower

seed. A soap bubble

popped on the grass.


The First Time

it happened I didn't know what

to do with you, face down

the only way

you can fall

asleep, with your

arms that don't hold

heavy and lying

across my body. Turn

over , I said, wanting


you to see me, an angry

skillet left on high.

If you woke, your lips

would hiss

on my skin

like water drops.


You looked like a child

as you slept, long

eyelashes, back

swelling in and out

with each breath. Look

at me, I whispered,


my mouth puckered

into a tight O:


look at me ,

my green forehead,

my insides,

pink as raw

salmon, my octopus

heart overgrown

and reaching.


You Asked What I Meant by Love

The only words I could teach you

were please , thank you , and meat ,

which you combined randomly to form

your own excuse me . I remembered


how to say with, but not without.


I know, will not forget, the alphabet.

How sounds come together,

what can't follow what, the rules.

I can pronounce words I don't understand.

I loop them together in script, admiring

the secret code of hook-tailed

Ms and Ls. But even

what I know comes out wrong:

We would like we are going to Moscow ,

I said to the ticket agent. Now


on the phone I confuse things

in English. My syntax is perfect,

verbs, adjectives, everything

matches. The only thing

I contradict is myself.


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