All in by Grace Gardiner

by Grace Gardiner

            after Marty McConnell


I hide behind a waterproof shadow

            and red matte lips. You say I can’t hurt,


                        though you ignore me on our dead-end street.

            In the tub at home, I scum pink, peel strings

of pus-puckered skin clean off my nail beds.

            I don’t cry. I wait, tuck the bleed under

                        my tongue, clot pain with spit. In your Ford’s

            patinaed backseat I collapsed our altar.

Its centerpiece was me: stripped and naked

            and thin as the skin at the wrist, the back

                        of the knee. I’m not sorry to say the wrong

            words for the right reason: I never wanted you.

There are worse things I could do when leaving

            is not enough, when leaving is still too much.


Grace Gardiner received her MFA in Writing from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is a former poetry editor for The Greensboro Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, burntdistrict, and Mom Egg Review. She’s currently pursuing her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri, Columbia, where she lives with her partner, the poet Eric Morris-Pusey, and one too many brown recluses.