Two Poems by Claire Nicholson

Self Dissection

I extract my heart from my torso with a sharp and slender blade. Do not worry—I will replace it. This is only so I can hold it up to the light—translucent and purring. As I anticipated, I learn nothing from this autopsy and return my heart to my ribs. Next, I peel open my scalp. A degloving of sorts. My brain is where the real diagnosis lies. It is filled with endless grooves—I recognize them: my thoughts are like marbles returning to these circuits over and over. Ofttimes repetition creates haunted landscapes and here I hold a perfect model. I could go deeper, plunge my scalpel into sweet tissue, but my brain, this poor record pulsing in my palm, refuses interrogation. Now that it is in my hands I feel gentle with it. I prod my cerebrum carefully and sit to watch it labor.


Feast, Not Famine

You’re packing your life into boxes while I watch from the doorway.

“Here, let me.” You’ve never been good at folding memories—they’re too translucent, too flimsy. You’re trying to force them into perfect squares with sharp corners.

I take them from you and they flow through my fingers like water.

You bend over to retrieve your iron safe. It’s going to the car—and when you’re ready you’ll leave it behind. I wonder at which part of your journey you’ll let go. Will you bury it deep in the woods under the heavy pines and purple sky? Or tuck it into a canyon crevice full of dry red dust and brilliant shards of desert stars? Or will you bring the safe all the way to the other coast and move it into your new apartment and let it hunker down in your attic or under your bed? My safe is locked in the basement with the leaky pipes and our lonely ghost. I’ll bury it when I’m ready—beneath a blood moon with the whispering grasses. Maybe the ghost will go with it and they’ll both have some company.

“Here—it doesn’t feel right for me to take them—” You stuff a shoebox into my arms. It’s not labeled. I open the lid to find a four-leaf clover, the smell of my banana bread, a butterfly landing on a blue flower, a long sleepy drive from the passenger’s seat. It’s every “I love you,” pristine and glowing. I rummage deeper to find a geode, an apple orchard on a September day, an answer, a question, an electric city at night, your lips pressed to my neck, a sunburn on a beach day. You’ve kept them all in such wonderful condition.

“Keep them,” I say. “I gave them to you.”

We already divvied up the dreams. Two nights ago we took my sharpest knife and cut through the sponge cake and cucumber sandwiches and doled them out—we fed them to each other with anxious, eager fingers. We suckled on your butterscotch candies and scraped the last of the maple syrup from the jug. I gnawed on a turkey leg from last Thanksgiving, still covered in your grandmother’s honey glaze while you sautéed onions just like my dad taught you. It was never meant to end in feast, but there we were, nibbling on peppermint bark and throwing grapes at each other from across the room.


About the Poet

Claire Nicholson (she/her) currently lives in Maine. She is a recent graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. She enjoys plants and ultimate frisbee. Nicholson has been previously published in Asterism: An Undergraduate Literary Journal and will be published in Gone Lawn’s upcoming autumnal issue. You can find her on Twitter @claire2n.