by Lauren Bender
Her sweater takes your hand without bite,
her head lifts to watch you dispense your charity.
Her eye peels your skin away, and your insides
scrunch up and then fold in on themselves
like many palms covering faces as they buckle
to weepiness. Things flutter in your chest,
you start to understand that it’s not about fear,
it’s about despair. What do you have to offer
someone without hope? She has been awake at night,
and she registers your comfort as that of
the well-rested. She drops her head down again.
Now you have two crimes: being happy,
thinking you could make someone else happy.
It hurts to fail. It hurts to hear the strain
in her voice when she demands to be alone.
Her house swells with noise, and she trances
through it, inhuman, surrounded by wood,
learning to be angry, teaching herself haughty
witch-like defiance so that when you look
long at her, sick with concern, she has that left,
that self to grasp. Deadness curls on her lips
as you hover, unhinged by heroic compulsions.
Lauren Bender lives in Burlington, VT. Her work has appeared in IDK Magazine, The Collapsar, Gyroscope Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Yes Poetry, and others.