How to Not Stay Without Leaving
When your lover urges you to apologize
for the shot horse outside your bedroom
window, tell him you cannot. Hide
the bullets under your tongue. Say you
have a fever that can only be assuaged
by bourbon and a drive back to 1998.
When he reminds you that the bend
of your neck was only a missed turn
before then, do not tell him you hope
he forgives you. When he will not hold
you after, let silence explain that you don’t
When he does not get out of bed to make
a tourniquet for the crippled animal, know
that he will also not do it for you. Men
are rarely bloodthirsty, they just don’t
know how to stop.
When he does nothing. When his eyes on
your body is a drive through the same small town
he can’t wait to get out of, shoot the horse again.
Do better this time. Show him you like to miss
the target on the first try for the sake of throwing
another dart. This is about suffering, not accuracy.
When the whole house is December and
you can smell the woman he left at the motel, leave
headless mice scattered in the front yard. Wash
your hands. Curse the cat again.
When it is the night of your third forgotten
anniversary and he says he isn’t hungry, drag
a neighbors’ chicken to your doorstep. When
every sentence of his does not end
with the word over, contemplate the dog.
Empty the knives from the kitchen
drawers. Leave a note that reads: Darling,
do you know how many hearts I’ve stopped just to keep you from starving?
Kayla Wheeler is a poet and ex-ballerina from New Hampshire. She was a semi-finalist at the 2013 National Poetry Slam, having represented Manchester NH’s Slam Free Or Die. Her work lives in various literary journals including The Subterranean Quarterly, Wicked Alice and Resurgo Magazine.