house of strays, by Kristy Bowen

Suddenly, a hole opens in the year and we slip into it, the riptide
pull of strange, lonely dogs and broken phone lines.
You forgive me if I mistake hunted for haunted,
but I do like to rearrange things in my body every few years.
Take a can of gasoline to the frayed and ghosted.
Lights out. All hands on deck.
Still you wonder why I keep losing my shoes in the road
and coaxing cats in the alley with cans of tunafish and a flashlight.
Why my contentment is beautiful, but highly improbable, sort of like
four leaf clovers or an ice cream truck in the middle of the night.
This tiny thing breathing between us that aches something awful.
By summer, I am slipping all the complimentary mints in my coat pockets
while you pay the check. Gripping the railings on bridges to keep
diving over. Some dark dog in my throat when I say hello.

Blood, by C. Dale Young

Someone has already pulled a knife
across my chest, and the rope has already
gripped our wrists drawing blood.

I am naked, and I cannot be sure
if you are as well. In the room, the men
come and go, yelling blood bath, half-blood,

blood-bitch. We never hear the word trueblood.
In my dreams I am dying all the time.
We are bound and gagged, blindfolded,

but still I know you must be the one
lying there, the cool anodized steel table
beneath us, the two of us side by side.

Lying there, my shoulder blades ache,
and there is blood collecting in
the corners of my mouth. But then it happens,

just as it always happens: your fingers
suddenly twist into tiny shoots, your arms
break free as you accept the shape

of a tree, the leaves sprouting, the delicate
bark rising up from your skin’s surface.
Try as I might, I never seem able.

On the telephone this morning, I again
keep the dream to myself. Half-blood
becomes half-breed. Blood-bitch

becomes blood-sister. But blood never lies,
does it? Blood carries so many secrets
one can only hear its murmurs in our arteries,

its incessant monologue, in the quiet
night’s bed just before sleep. Blood says
You are more and, sometimes, You are less.