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Liz McLaughlin Aug 2015
Last night, all the teeth fell out of my head.
You said it was a common dream,
but I wore away my gums with the bristles all the same,
and swallowed the mouthwash just to make sure
my insides were clean enough.

But then again,
perhaps my organs are not the correct organs
and the mouthwash is now dissolving the walls of
my simulacrum stomach.
Plasma will drip from my gaping, toothless maw,
the color of pea soup.

Grandma hated pea soup.
She said it was too opaque to see
the glass shards at the bottom of your spoon.
They would slice up your tongue
and you wouldn’t be able to call 911.

My tongue feels too big, overflowing onto my molars.
I chew, scraping off the taste buds,
whittling down the swollen muscle,
so I don’t swallow it in the witching hour:
your sleeping ears deaf to my wet choking.

I am eating saltines without soup when you come home,
in the puddle of mouthwash and blood my stomach spit back.
Your mouth runs over with “****,” your own teeth like rows of tic tacs.
I worry they’ll fall out soon, white and small against the linoleum.
Liz McLaughlin Aug 2015
The ocean moves like restless hands these days.  
Abrasive: rubbing cliffs to sand and dust,
their spirits crushed to foam. Alone too long
is what I think, Aegean fathers pull-
-ing back their sons. But myth is myth, I must
admit. Instead, the water beats the shore
for natural want, its swells and frothing tides
some violent children, asteroid-born, conceived
from outer orbit kisses. Moon-side, roar-
ing waves arise, as high as mountain peaks.
Their tensions break and churn up flotsam: jag-
-ged wood from ships reclaimed. My lips, too, crack
apart from frigid air. The blood is cop-
-per salt to taste. But salt still, none the less:
familiar sea foam flowing through my veins.
Genetic instinct winds me back to shrines,
the Greeks and Romans knowing more than we,
Poseidon having planted home alread-
-y thick upon their lips. Ensconced in coves,
Amalfi’s citrus piers had housed the songs
of sirens, trilling hymns to Venus. Her
divine softness, human-wrought: distilled
from strong eternal surf. I think it wants
her back again. And so it hurls itself
against the shore to beat our body’s blood
back into foam. My feet are cold atop
the rocks, the goose-flesh prickling needles deep
in skin. My head is past the precipice,
suspended at the point of no return.
My arms are tingling in the rain-drenched squall,
beginning to dissolve as salt is known
to do. I take a breath before the fall–
a retrograded Aphrodite’s sigh–
now flooded as the clifftop leaves my soles.
Liz McLaughlin Aug 2015
Dawn breaks like an egg on the highway,
Light spilling through the trees to rest on the blue
bruised half-moons beneath her eyes. She keeps
her foot against the pedal, one hand in the fold
of her jacket pocket. Her cell phone buzzes, her gut
twists, and his voice echoes: “a house, a yard, maybe a dog”

The phone cracks against the side door, falling by dog-
-eared roadmaps. Drowning the call with the roar of the highway,
she wants for inner concrete: decisively gutting
the crust of the earth in a permanent band. But as the sky swallows more blue,
sun exposes the worry-soaked fold
lines where her fingers met her knuckles, empty of the ring he kept

hidden for three months in a bran cereal box. He knew she kept
to a breakfast of day-old Chinese food instead, doggedly
digging in matte white boxes. His laughter lines peeked over the centerfold
of the Sunday newspaper, as she surfaced from digital superhighways
with the next crossword line: scrawled in bleeding ink by her blue
tinged fingers. She supposed that morning he finally found the guts.

His words fell smooth, easy on the first swallow but her gut
anguished at their weight, her insides better kept
to the easy promises, the favor-making, secret-keeping, dog-
walking kind she could shrug to. The something old, new, borrowed, blue
demanded will, boxed and taped and wrapped in the folds
of white tissue paper. She hit the highway

6 hours ago, the ring in her jacket pocket, jumping with NY State Highway
55 as it bent toward a familiar exit. Memories: her mother gutting
duck with chicken bone scissors. The clean press of folded
bed linens, aired out in the oak-thick yards of Poughkeep-
-sie. Her car idled outside the colonial, the shutters still blue.
A black lab lay sleeping on the steps: “a house, a yard, maybe a dog”

Her phone shuddered on the floor and the dog
barked. She set her bald tires rolling again to the highway,
her thoughts still of the egg-yolk kitchen against her father’s dirt-caked boots, his blue
collar sensibilities, and the contented swell of his gut.
He was of similar flex and shrug as she, but never went a day without keeping
a family photo tucked into his front pocket fold.

Her folded fingers unfurled in her own pocket, slow, like growing Kentucky bluegrass.
Playing with the ring, she felt in her gut a warm peace—a house, a yard, a dog—
She worked the band round the knuckle-crease as tires spun, down the highway and out Poughkeepsie.
Liz McLaughlin May 2013
I want a nobody.

A faceless commuter swearing as the machine ignores his credit card. Or the guy two tables to the left who isn’t checking his watch because he isn’t waiting on someone. Any hoodie-wearing, adidas-laced, prospective english major rambling along the sidewalk.

I want a nobody.

‘Cause there’s never a somebody that won’t say “I love you” because it’s numbed by too many mouths that don’t form their lips the right way. The somebodies slide it off their careless tongues—

because little words are pennies in tip jars.

But Nobody, he’ll say

I love the way you put on a jacket
like some kind of whip-snap in the lapels and collar
tipping your chin up and
hooking your silver-ringed thumbs in the pockets

and I love how you flip through books
eager to break the spine but not fold the pages
holding your breath to hold the focus
propping open a paperback between long tapered fingers

and how the barista at the coffeeshop knows your face!
and blush rises like foam on your cheeks

because it’s so ******* incredible how
when you drum your fingers
you don’t drum you press
into a phantom piano
the treble clef of Linus and Lucy
or The Entertainer
or, if your eyes have already gotten deeper
—in a mossy well of thought—
it’ll be Augustana’s Boston
dancing C-E-C-E-G-E-C-E
in the jumping tendons of your right hand.


oh darling, I’m in love with
your clumsy movements when you fall into bed
wrapping a thick comforter over your bare shoulders
curling your legs as you settle on your side
hair fanned out on the bedsheet because
the pillow’s too close to the wall

but lovely, I don’t love you
because I’m not real at all
this is a strange abomination between poetry and prose. Thought I'd post it here anyway.
Liz McLaughlin May 2013
I watch in a daze as he wets his lips
whets his lips on stones.
ones that pin me down
and cause sinking feelings in my gut.
--those acrid acrylic licks
painting stains on skin
immune to detergent

‘cause I’m threadbare
and he works his way through
the lesions in my sweaters
and he knows I like to wear things out
shabby little happenings
inside a purple room
that he burst into like a lightning bolt
“Heartthrob” on a Honda 75 CB

and I’m not naive enough for love, no
sir, check that coat at the door
but there’s some supreme
cinematic fascination
inherent in his walk and talk

and I want to encapsulate what he is
and forget what he is not.
Liz McLaughlin May 2013
the magnolia was a bit of a *******
(as far as trees can be *******)
and like very many other things—
like japanese candy from the Fugi Mart in Greenwich
                                      (across from the McDonald’s and next to
                                             the music shop where I got my viola)
and like pokemon cards and nintendo gaming systems
and like Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi” on a pink CD in a Hello Kitty radio
—that ******* of a magnolia was a distinctive taste
of the years I spent growing up in my house at the end of Wyndover Lane.

the ******* thing was almost perpetually in bloom.

it barged into both spring and autumn
(it didn’t give a **** about timing)
those pink and white spongy petals padding the ground
and at first you think it’s ******* beautiful
sitting in the crook of the trunk where it split into
                                                                two large
                                                       separate branches
tilting your chin back to catch a glimpse of blue between fat blossoms

then the petals start rotting
water-retentive little *******
and you can’t sweep ‘em away because they stick to the patio
brown clumps slipping under rubber soles
my dad lets loose a string of curses
and the magnolia shakes with laughter

I tried pressing the petals in a notebook once
while I was in that naturalist phase it seems all little girls go through
when you make fairy houses out of bark in the backyard
and put flowers between the pages of books because it feels
oh-so-much-more significant
than picking a pretty thing and showing it to mom

but the magnolia seeped through my spiral ring
and when I opened it up a month later they were dry tan papery things
not at all velveteen and rosy
and there were garish pink bloodstains all through the ten pages
on either side
magnolias don’t preserve well
except, honestly they do don’t they

then of course there’s that childhood tragedy that everyone has
when your dog got hit by some soccer mom’s suburban
or your teddy bear was lost in an airport
or maybe you just liked to cry because some things
were just really worth the tears at the time

but when I came home and found out they cut down my ******* ******* of a magnolia

I bawled

there wasn’t
Liz McLaughlin Apr 2013
Because maybe I don't get enough sleep
and spent too long putting ships in bottles that line the office floor
the room is a single headache
someone is saying something

at a hardwood table this was commissioned
get edgy get angsty
because the typical teenage crisis is such a classic appeal--
I want to be atypical please god just atypical
without kicking down the doors of a cardboard institution
and being labeled something worse

Starched collared shirts and five point essays
parabolic paranoia burning through my throat
my voice cracks mid-presentation
ten points off
oh the shame

Because ain't this real life
(you'll use this information later)
you're entire future rests on this testexampapermotherfuckingpowerpoint
get to college get a job get happy--

maybe I'll push drugs instead
--get happy get happy--
relief packages sold behind brick buildings to younger versions
the 2.0s

it's hell isn't it, kid?

good luck
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