“Just Renting” By Laura Lannan

Sins catch up to you in the night,
like the sound of the half-broken clock from your estranged aunt.
Or the water in the pipes from the upstairs neighbors,
who fuck on the porch swing and take loud shits at midnight.

In your dreams, you eat your own teeth.
You fall through the bones of your ancestors, waking up the ancients.
Covered in coal dust, they reach for you. Their tongues are black potatoes.
They ask you if you’ve done enough.

The air is spiders and pea soup, the freeze of dry sweat,
the crust of picked-at scabs. Mosquitos swell in your throat
with all the flies you haven’t killed. Perhaps, when you took the bars off your window
you invited the whole neighborhood in.

Every bus is a thousand eyes,
and from your closet you hear
the automated woman whose voice wretches from the corner stop:
The fare is $2 for this bus.
Nobody loves you. Everyone is watching.

In an alleyway, you wake up on a swampy mattress
with the sting of five restaurants worth of garbage in your mouth.
What’s in the water you tread over in your work flats?
The piss of every homeless man you’ve snubbed,
that time you wet the bed in middle school,
your grandmother’s dead, tight face still gray behind your eyes.
You turned on the closet light when you had the flu
so you wouldn’t be alone with the pain.


Laura is a librarian at the DC Public Library by day and a voracious poetry reader by night. Currently slaving over MFA applications, she lives in Washington, DC with her cat and her best friend in a rented basement.

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