Paula Bohince

Drinking, Failure and Erotics
March 21, 2024 Bohince Paula



Easing from fixed to felt, mellow waves of breeze, the lean
toward the jugular, maroon insinuation, only there’s no lover, only
forgetting in this globed vineyard, the draining of a breast-
like, breakable curve.  Slashes on pavement are strangers pressed on lacquerish
nighttime rain.  Almost a painting, a smeary feeling in a blood-warm room.
Now I’m buoyant as a passenger and can withstand
myself.  How’s that.  The potato chips are delicious, but what the bar-
tender said at his funeral comes back.  The night before,
all he ate was a little bag of chips.  My heart hurts all over again.  There was
still concern in her voice, though he was casked.  All our flesh in that red velvet, I
out of my mind in a corner.  Now an oak spreads, compassionate,
where he is, and the whip has almost fallen from my hand, in oak-thrown
shade, my punisher asleep, and I go oaky drowsing against.





Lisa Montgomery was executed one week before Trump left office, becoming the first woman
put to death by the U.S. federal government in 67 years. 


I cannot comprehend my daughter’s hair, I cannot stand
before the crumpled animal of it, cannot tend to it with gentleness, I lose
my mind, I go backwards, I elsewhere, I fail in the field after school,
in amniotic fluid spiked with alcohol, I cannot take these bristles for anything
but weapon, a confusion of snarls and angers, as in
the burr and brush of my hiding place that failed me again, I am hit on the head,
I seize and strobe in a too-bright room, a too-loud TV mixing up
her cries and mine, I, I hit back,  the garbage smell from the garbage room
telling me – what relief, what guiding hand – what I am.





In the foreign salon of coughs
and newspapers’ harrumphs, evenings of British
Trivial Pursuit in which I sat on the floor
like a terrier, head swivelling, knowing not one answer,
and wanting, dog-like, to lie before the fire,
it was finally the last evening, and the youngest
among us, who’d been a haughty jackass,
stifling a laugh when I twisted my ankle,
and whom I’d silently forgiven, sensing he was striving
from a place as awful as my beginning, when he
was mid-speech, and the older man in moth-
bit cashmere and I glanced up at each other and in
unison breathily corrected his pronunciation
of Schuyler, that instant was eclipsed only by being fed
inexplicability by a pregnant stranger a decade
before, in Mississippi, my first oyster.

Paula Bohince is the author of three poetry collections, all with Sarabande, most recently Swallows and Waves.  She was the guest editor of Best New Poets 2022 and a 2022 NEA Fellow in Translation.