[Salvage / selvage]

Cate Lycurgus

What I Mean Now, When I Say Ever Since


after is never guaranteed:  take every chance

to scrunch, tight, the hair at his nape of neck.


To fret your fingers, to press them across

stark knobs of her back. This might be


the final morning to slake the faint star tattooed

into his softest crease of crotch, before proximity’s


gone. It’s light, so criss-cross these city blocks,

to the side where you stride inside it. Pocket a square


of breakfast chocolate to summon her daily

goodbye-taste when you race away two ways, out


of sync—turn it syncopation, please—trace

each other’s worn-out puns, regular as dirty


foam, streaking its stretch of beach. Covet

strolling an arms’ length from one who makes you


revise each day more & more toward good.

Edit the car not-starting; the woman he calls


dear heart in earshot; all school debt; a double-

mastectomy; the first child who would not


come; the second who came but won’t speak.

A nectarine is plum & peach: stone fruits crossed


to unparalleled meat—if I could mean one thing

I mean:  don’t wait to sink the teeth. We cannot


pass on any song for dancing, nor radio

static to swerve the truck through a hilled


bleed of poppies, with no lock on tomorrow &

how hackly serpentine fractures. So many ways


to break, be broken. Even tonight I swear it’s bold

to hope for ever more ravishing days—the body,


its want—to continue beyond—this one, than this

one, than this


As Eraser


At the corners I was coming

apart. Others had hardly


started to notice, how one minute I was

alongside; the next, peeling


off. Not for no reason, with how dark

our horizon had become &


at the margins, smut. I tried to set

history right, but soon fell un-


composed. #2, off-script, lack-luster,

my every gesture a smear. Who 


doesn’t take on some residue

of what she aims to undo? Not


get carried away? You up-end

thinking you can refuse to make


a mark, but here’s the rub: complete

vanish is magic is harder than not


being than never having been at all

—with prints left every place


I ever laid me down to sleep: 

in concrete on a childhood stoop,


or half-moon divets as I fled,

heels leaving what I would/not


say—for milk teeth knock in mamma’s

tin & my bite surfaced


from beneath. Pink, the new page breaks

each morning—so if raw, if you


cannot take anymore or brush

yourself off; if swept away, if


sweep is the only motion left

for you to make, make it, dis-


solve something, be opposite of



Same Year

It may always be this way:

the end appears, sudden. From

fernfrond, out of viscous light

you never thought you would

outstrip, where choked

madrones shed themselves

unto a greening dark. Which cannot

hide the mix of live

& auburn leaves on each redwood’s

limbs—we want to believe

nothing hangs on: the old leaf drops

from the table, crumbs fall & we can

pass fresh cream, reach

the sweetener easily

across the span of who we were,

who we hope to be—but never

wake as all new people,

just do not, one day. & always

in the same old wood: duplicate noon,

after-, moon, dozens find you

right where you started on this out

& back trail now become a loop, a ring

thickening round the heart-

wood, dead, so if you are

this lap, if you have no new

resolve, Love—breathe because

of fog


Cate Lycurgus's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Tin House, Orion, and elsewhere. A 2014 Ruth Lilly Fellowship Finalist, she has also received scholarships from Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences and was named one of Narrative’s 30 Under 30 Featured Writers. Cate lives south of San Francisco, California, where she conducts interviews for 32 Poems and teaches professional writing.