199.1: Marielle Prince:: I Knew You Had Altered Me & Tell Me You Love Me & Handsy 199

I like a gambit. I like trickery. Maybe I’m just a fan of the hustle, but when a poet manages to play, to really play in a poem, well, that’s the point in my reading that I decide I’m all in. I’m game. See, in poetry workshops students get a lot of “it’s too gimmicky” when they step outside the box. This is especially true when they mess around with structure and rhyme—those old-school craft tools that people like to say are outdated, at least until they see them done right. And Marielle Prince? She does them right. She sees the game and she knows she’s playing it (she’s mastered it, in fact), but she also knows that it’s both a game and also dead, dead serious. These poems, the author wrote: “are for the kind of people who as kids could find themselves suddenly terrified during a game of tag, the game shifting within their bodies into the shape of something primal and urgent and not actually fun at all.” But I’m offering these poems to all of you because she’s wrong on that last account. Oh, they are fun. The subtle terror is thrilling. And in her hands, the possibility of losing one’s footing inside the poems is a risk I’m happily willing to take. Jessica Piazza

I Knew You Had Altered Me

My girl, she lived above
sea level barely / political squabbling / the poverty line / a garage.
Booze / Arguments in elevators / Her lover’s boat / Her love
gave her vertigo. She met
him at work / an ambitious man / with some resistance / his parents.
His boss / God in a screech owl / She / The recent dead
spoke to him at night. He brought her
a drink / sad news with kisses / daisies / down.
Packing only her papers / A split in her lip / She does not say if
she ran away.

Tell Me You Love Me

If the word is a weed in the plot of your mouth
Here I am with my trowel; I will dig the word out
And the root in your gut will tug loose and come up
And you will be freed, if the word is a weed;

If the word is a weight in the boat of your brain
I will jettison freight ‘til it floats right again
And the tonnage I’ve tossed may come at a cost
But you will be safe, if the word is a weight;

If the word is a ward in the house of your jaw
I’ll craft grounds to evict from neglected bylaws
And when I move in, I’ll steam clean your chin
And you’ll be adored, if the word is a ward;

If the word is a wart on the hide of your face
Here I am with my ice; here I am with my blade
But the blood I will let will be for naught yet—
It comes back for more; the word is a war.


my hands are antsy—
fingers single file
on the hem stick
to my shirt as it flips—
möbius strip—last bit
of seaming under your
hands which heel
to my body—
each finger like a dog
tugging a leash
picking up my scent—
my fingers make a fence
across your chest—
you at this surface
of my unkempt grounds—
hands up means keep out
then mine find
the sweetest trail—
hands down