One of the most enriching, forward-thinking, fastest-growing online creative communities flourishing right now is the Poetry community, especially in those scenes that center on marginalized voices — Women, POC, Neurodivergent, and LGBTQ. Poetry Spotlight is a feature aiming to showcase the work of some of the most talented creators we’ve discovered making waves on the Internet literary circles, inside or outside the mainstream. Our eleventh installment is dedicated to the poetry of Lynn Melnick.
Lynn is the author of Landscape with Sex and Violence (YesYes Books, 2017) and If I Should Say I Have Hope (YesYes Books, 2012), and the co-editor of Please Excuse This Poem: 100 Poets for the Next Generation (Viking, 2015). Her poetry has appeared in APR, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, A Public Space, and elsewhere, and she has written essays and book reviews for Boston Review, LA Review of Books, and Poetry Daily, among others. A 2017-2018 fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, she also teaches poetry at the 92Y and serves on the Executive Board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Born in Indianapolis, she grew up in Los Angeles and currently lives in Brooklyn.
Landscape with Stucco and Dandelion
20th century, libertines peer from frosted glass
because they want to learn how I triumph, so
I am going to confess this once
and then I am going to confess it again
in different ways I won’t admit to but never mind.
This won’t be the last time
I let the riffraff envenom my body
while they pretend to be heroic.
This won’t be the first time I faint against a building
where the weeds escape the cracks
into some kind of suffocating, mangled abandon.
Slumped against the sunlit stucco
I fail to keep my wits about me in a choke of triggers.
I down this dandelion poison because the promise
pitches a floral danger I could live inside.
I didn’t emerge well-trained into this savage vista
because all the houseplants were succulent, and,
while anyone could witness rot writ all over my blighted arrangement,
no one stepped in.
Landscape with Wonder and Blowback
If I’m not a trinket I blend into concrete
so I rip my denim and bring enough musk to the car lot
to call it a cathouse.
The men are busy.
I stand quiet until they are busy
The bleak sun brightens on cement, sliding
into a feed ramp, no trigger guard
and you know how chatter happens
quickly among the gathering crowd.
Dude, not a cloud in the sky!
Onlookers wonder how hard I fuck on gravel.
I am the notched, cocking handle of any of your guns;
no one can safely touch me.
Everybody in my memory is young now.
Everybody in my memory is old though.
That’s the blowback where my loose heart will fire.
Landscape with Greyhound and Greasewood
Mostly men keep singing
while dark blood collects where I open
and I line my polka dot panties with rest stop receipts.
I think probably we’ll pause in Barstow to continue
but I’m no standard:
I fold over to smell myself.
Route 66 to Las Vegas.
Perfect for a child and also America
loves the promise of a long haul.
I pull the tab from a small can of apple juice:
I’m cared for.
The man next to me puts his hand on my thigh.
He gets the kind of girl I am,
new leaves shiny with oil, flammable.
Know better. Somebody,
Landscape with Loanword and Solstice
so I let him run me to the limits
in a pickup though I know better
than to expect
to grow much through trauma
except in order to withstand
though it appears
under the smog
CUT TO: he shoves my face
into the flatbed then punts me
when he’s filled me.
Walk home and I do,
scrub for miles
the darkest day of the year moving in
and out of comprehension
but I am glad
(hear me? I am glad)
because now it can be over.
Landscape with Written Statement
You wrap my ribs in gauze —
an experiment with the word tenderly
after your hands left my throat too bruised to speak.
While winter sun squints at the ghost flower
dying in its shabby terracotta
far from home
men tell me to be honest about my role in the incident:
I should have stayed inside
while you railed from the sidewalk
but my confused heart got into the car.
What happened is
I once spent too much time in the desert
so pogonip seems glamorous hung stuck in the trees
like when blood dries on skin
and I want to wear it
out for an evening,
pat my hands over its kinky path down my face
because: fuck you,
you didn’t find me here.
I brought you here.
Landscape with Sex and Violence
Consider this canvas of central valley splendor
dull as the usual set of sucker punches—his distinctive
suggestion for a rainy day. I was crushed over sundry
wonders of our topography.
Depraved though I was about my body
I hated washing blood from my hair.
There is little I am good at.
I am good at sitting. That entire winter
I sat outside in a town with too much earth
and I counted whorls slowly
but I kept on with it, my pointless obsession, even though
I couldn’t splay my sentences
damp into dark. I tried to detonate my body
differently than he did. But then
came the sirens and then came the paperwork.
Betrayed me: Hills of snails.
Behind me: How blood sticks to hair.
Panorama: There is little I am good for.
Landscape with Rum and Implosion
You should have seen my breasts inside a dress so extravagant
it was rogue among a decade
of the type of electric horticulture
all these bittersweet groves were founded on so
yeah, I traded it right off my body
for a bottle of rum on the cleanest, brightest street corner
I didn’t think to guard my skin against because
I’m in love with a woman who doesn’t appeal to me.
Turn on the television and all you hear
is the new way of speaking
asked and answered
or the old new way of speaking now that everyone’s doing it.
Am I happy about it? No.
I adapt to the manifold balconies of California
as a symbol of liberation
like the sophisticate I’m not
when no matter how many rails
we could finish from the railing
or the viewshed of a whole city against the neon of a floozy motel
I am only ever trapped inside
my own fixed vantage point or else I am
imploding, such as it does.
Some Ideas for Existing in Public
I think you should grip your dick through your jeans and ask me
if I can handle it because you know I can, right?
I’m here for you.
I think you should overtake me at a bus bench
and invite me to sit on your face.
I think you should track me down
the block and clarify how you’d like to split my slit open
until I pass out.
(Once, as a kid, I was balancing on a ledge
all morning thinking no one
could see me until a man walked by and captured my chin in his grip
and called me pretty.)
I think you should screw me sideways right here on the sidewalk
like you said you might like to screw me
sideways before you took off
past the cop who said it’s pointless to prove the crime so
come on, sure, screw me sideways, and why just sideways
why not all ways? Why not diagonal?
I think you should whistle so loud at my fat ass
that I jump like a stray rodent and you couldn’t be more correct
it is a shame my fat ass is walking away
from you because why is it walking away from you?
Why am I walking away from you? Why am I here on the sidewalk?
Landscape with Thesaurus and Awe
There are 24 synonyms for the word envy.
And although one of them is hatred and one of them is lusting
no one envies me.
If I could just make it to morning without selling myself
one day I might have some land
beyond the ficus pot
whose heart leaves leak their poison
inside this slummy garage
where I sleep daytimes
in a city I’m sure I’ve mentioned before.
I am furious for answers
inside the book of words I stole from a stranger’s back pocket.
You see, through the years when everyone is dying
I remain clean.
That’s why I believe there could be a God.
There are 5 synonyms for the word redemption.
and 46 for fear.
One of them is chickenheartedness
and another is awe and
only my body is for sale.
Landscape with Clinic and Oracle
Maybe you’re not the featherweight champ
of all the cutthroat combat sports
(fifteen and pregnant
but you’d convert your ring corner
into a slaughterhouse
before you’d inquire after human kindness.
In the humdrum flare outside the clinic
you wait for a ride, feel the spill at the tipping point
trickle down your inner thigh
as you bask in the post-industrial particulate
on your skin, ash
into a jasmine pot’s bituminous anchorage
so tacky it glows in a habitat that spent your body
long before it finished growing.
Lynn! they lied to you
don’t you know?
Your womb will be the first thing to heal.
What you smell is pleasure, not the rot of the thing
amid the waste.
You will have babies.
You will write poems about flowers that turn on in darkness.