Poem of the Week

Surface Tension

Marti Irving

The trick to not spilling is to operate as if the cup is empty
and not brimming with almond milk. Hold it in your hand

but not in your mind as you stride across the pavement
to your neighbor’s door, your neighbor who, last summer

at the block party, passed you a tablet of Acetaminophen
that stained both of your palms pink, the sugar coating

made soft by your warmths, before you swallowed it
with a mouthful of pilsner. The trick is to focus

on the pitbull’s red collar, its melon-headed smile,
at the browning rhododendrons, at the throbbing

of your zits and the scattered nettles, lawn ornamentation
jazzing up a sliver of side-yard. Ignore the cup, instead consider

the psychiatrist telling you that one day you would see
a pigeon or some kind of fern, a sunset, maybe, and finally

really see it, through the muck and gloom of your self-
preservation, like a rook rifle driving a diamond shard

into the very center of your skull, see that you were a part of it
the whole time. Realizing you had misheard her, realizing

she had not said apart. Ring the bell. Your neighbor is eager
to tell you about her road trip as she mixes up the batter.

Marti Irving is a poet and tinkerer living in Brooklyn with three black cats. Their poems have appeared in American Chordata, Bodega Mag, and Pigeon Pages.
Originally published:
March 2, 2022

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