Monica Lewis: I'll Be at Your Altar

Monica Lewis: I'll Be at Your Altar
Sarah Mak

Sarah Mak


A dream in which, finally, we let our hips kiss, furious plumes of wet heat, a pond to lake to ocean, we form new words with animal-scrambled letters, twinning sounds, an echo released, an echo swallowed, the pups turned wolves in my gut, my womb ever howling; this is where I'll keep you. But come morning, in the wake of our imagined waves, you dissolve, and I lie clawing at the years lost to fear, how now, at the news of your disease, I would give you my liver, my life, if not already ruined, all the years I kept drinking, a fish with a slurred mouth, gulping at anything except the sure flush of your love.

"football season is over"

(inspired from excerpts of various famous suicide notes)

frances and courtney, i'll be at your altar.

stones in pockets and two lungs sucking a lake,
we can't go through another of those terrible times.

it is our wish to be burnt immediately, but the
baby coward's wife took cyanide, and the baby coward, a gun,
but like Salem, their screams should have shrieked through every
singe of every strip of their deviled flesh.

boring, he says, and always bitchy, so this won't hurt, because
the brain hurts, the brain hurts, the worst.

tiny notes scattered round the house
but the silence from the noose will last forever.

la tristesse durera toujours.

in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots,
please bury me next to my baby.

i called you all to say goodbye.

there is no self, only calm. flicking off as easy as
a lightswitch come bedtime.

my will is weak, i have fed you my flesh
you will feed on this flesh, still 90 years from
the morn i was born, 6/1/1926 to 6/1/2016.

i can't cope anymore with the division of joy.

all my mother's tendencies, tell father, tell X
i'm fit to be neither a good nor a bad man's wife.
from the 86th floor in 1947, i begged you before to keep
no evidence, burn the body right after, but just before
my body hit pavement, you took a picture still.

Boston, goodbye my solitary soul.

Chicago, it's not loaded, this is a game, oh, another
bullet to another hurt brain;

what is it about barrels feeling so good to the dome?

work is done, work is done, work is done,
why wait, why wait, why fade away?

no more laps in the sweet cesspool, i'm bored
goodnight, eve harrington, and good luck.

i do it in the woods, in the woods because i am a dream
but the knife is a dulled nightmare, so another bullet
and brain to feed the trees.

this because without money for: rent, child support, debt,

and the trigger-happy madmen,

the war-swooned fucks, and because with this lens i am
the vulture i have captured, so i will take the gas.

and i'll take the chloroform over the cancer, out finally from
the creeping along the yellowed walls, at last.

too wrong, too many times, so hancock signs off
a belly of booze, a belly of pills

and all over this body, the blindness, the blindness, impeding,
i, too, choose to sleep, and

Cuba, you are free, because before the night falls,
i, too, will be free.

Memory Prick

It is not so hard to bleed,
a thread of liquid heart
shimmering and swarming with cells
has a certain appeal.
No, what is difficult is resisting
the scab, resisting the tick to
pick and make fresh
the red heat of a wound
to feel a life-source
flourish, again.

Who wants a thing
itching and stunk, brown-crusted
and dead, a part sticking to scar
at last pathetic and pale?


one day it is:

your bottom lip, winter-split
two fat sides, a heart, I want to lick

a boy in a brown sweater who writes poems
poems that wriggle in and finger my lungs
poems with tongues that peel me back, say open
then lick, and lick and lick. 

her hair a mane, her eyes, feline
hazel flecked in amber and green
the way, at night, she spoons
legs twisting our limbs into perfect roots
as the sea spouts, fuck that, she yowls and

I renounce every pond, every lake
the sand hard at my feet
water clean as glass
there are no veins in this body.

at times it is the streets
the rattle, the stink, the ones with
the open mouths, asking again

and when you reached in and pulled it all out
and when I reached in and tried to fill.


In the stillness of the middle,
when I have no you to touch, I busy
myself by washing my hair, learning to
cook and knuckling down on the bathroom grout.

a drinking clam in bed, remembering hands
that moved me better than I know how to move
myself. Years pile and I learn
there is more wait than have, more
pause than play
more days that dawn
alone, more blinding

Monica Lewis lives in Brooklyn, New York and holds an MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts. Both her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The James Franco Review and her poetry in FLAPPERHOUSE, The Boiler Journal, the Shade Journal, Breadcrumbs, and the anthology, “TOUCHING: Poems of Love, Longing, and Desire” by Fearless Books. She is an assistant editor for NOON, and a VONA/Voices alumna.