Elizabeth Metzger

What We Do with What We Are
August 21, 2019 Metzger Elizabeth

What We Do with What We Are

I did not get better.
I got worse.

When the constellations
became intestinal
I knew I had gone too far
in search of mother number one hundred

whose oracles
always end in misunderstanding.

Mothers go sucking jelly
off the night—number seventeen
swims toward him
and him. Number forty-two
hammers a black moon
above the crowded house
where somebody I never knew has died.

Can you find me beside my
body in the dark? Number ninety-nine
loves unconditionally.
If I could I’d kill her twice.

Oh I see you’re all still here?

Please don’t console me anymore.
A life ago you could have grown me.
Your girlhood tattoos
learn to fade in spite of permanence.
I kiss them, every one.

You watched me grow apart,
and here I am intact.
I’ve made love. I’ve made you love
me even early in the morning
for a chance at understanding.


Elizabeth Metzger is the author of The Spirit Papers (University of Massachusetts, 2017), winner of the Juniper Prize. She is also the author of a chapbook, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, available from Horsethief Books. Her poems have recently appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day, and her essays and interviews have appeared in PN Review, The Rumpus, and Boston Review. Elizabeth is the Poetry Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal. Read more of her work at elizabethmetzger.com