from The Wound Is (Not) Real: A Memoir



I am alive for a second, then not, then burning,
then my subject is ruptured with its halves covered
in hair in the light of the swimming pool, O unborn daughter
can you hear me now when I lie on the floor
with my head to the heater and the wind thru my sockets
I bleed by the river from my open chest
to contaminate the hole at the center of town
where the men scream from pickups, you fucking beast
you hallowed object ordained to crawl on all fours
when you present your own self on the slaughtering floor
they hold the bolt to the side of your skull, they hold the bolt
and you’re on your back for a moment kicking
the underbelly of the gravitational pull, then nothing,
then they track trails of monochrome blood on tiles
then white snow with flecks of flesh
and an ecology of fingers comes up through the ice
they hold the bolt to your belly and charge your nipples
and your wretchèd sternum, and you feel semen run
through the greenish tunnel then you’re spat to the curb
with the Bud Light bottles, then your body is emptied
of first its sweat blooming through your cotton shirt
then the other fluids follow suit, then the primary parts
of your autonomous self melt down in a puddle
which makes its way to the sewer where roaches converge
where the abject children are touching themselves
where the milky mouth of the roach senate is writhing
like mites in your eyebrows, like the involuntary flicker
of your post-coital eyes, the economy of ants which crawl
on sticky plates on the counter in spring, you’re listless in bed
you’re thinking of God, the light flays the rumpled sheets
and bisects my shadow as it crosses the floor, it crosses my eyes
for my birth was a crime that split me in half
for it was this banquet that made me this way





Holy valence, my lover sick in the tub
in the bathroom of our rental home
I’m sitting silent by her thinking
of our unborn daughter, of ceiling rot
and broken plaster floating in water
she slides down in the tub and soaks up
to her neck and closes her eyes
shaking expectorating phlegm in a can
I don’t have a job and keep odd hours
I wake at four AM drink coffee and think
of young bodies buried in banks of snow
and unwrinkled flesh at the bottoms of feet
and what do we do if our child is born sick
or lacking limbs or is a victim of a plague
that comes in like a shadow crossing the county
I carry both autistic and schizophrenic genes
my own brother was born sick and my parents
devoted most of their adult lives to ensuring his well-being
I dream I’m a piece of meat in amniotic fluid
I dream I soak on linoleum all night in the convenience store
with muzak on the radio and the teenage boy
he cleans me up and squeezes me out like a rag
and puts me in a bag of trash and draws the strings
and throws it to the curb and the truck it comes
and sickens the air, and a man throws my bag in a larger pile
and I eventually convene with a larger order
and suffocate in a sea of raccoon bodies rotting
and scrap metal and computer monitors
I dream of water birth and water burials
I dream a deer with a skull split by an arrow
I dream hedonic eyes and wrinkled flesh
I dream the phenomenology of a weeping body
and we’re driving on the highway at dusk
and a fawn writhing on the side of the
and we pull over to the shoulder with cars swerving
each time they pass I take out my phone
and touch the bright screen and while I’m thinking
of who to call you run out in traffic
and grip the deer round its belly and it goes limp for a second
in this second I know I will always love you
as cars weave round you, you make it back
to the shoulder and set it down and it kicks manically
on its back with its three good legs past the bags of trash
piled in the ditch and it kicks its way down
to the thicket and disappears and we walk back
to the car and sit in the dark and say nothing,
turn the radio on, a Baptist preacher screaming
of holy violence, I dream of my manifest body
and coexisting with toxic waste, I dream of cops
who murder babies, I dream of teachers who murder babies,
I dream of a doctor who says You want a boy
and pulls a cock from his drawer and glues it on
and it dangles flaccid and huge from our infant’s body
I dream of a spinal injury and punctured disks
and fluid dripping on sheets and cum on my pillow
I dream us both hooked to an IV that runs from the moon
and you’re running more water into the bath
and you’re soaking your body, and I’m telling you
about a video I saw where a baby elephant
plays in water in a moment which appears
to be actual bliss and the dream of possible joy
and our desire to replicate that joy though we know
no numbers are even though I will love all
my waking days with no more dying in this womb-like room
the walls swell and I remove my clothes
and join you in the bath, I remove my clothes
and sweat runs from the pits of my withering arms
and I lie in the water and put your ankles round my head
and kiss you up your thighs and between your legs
and I dream leeches from the Delta that cover my body
I dream a field of tubs that are covered in rust
and I dream we make love on a towel in our sunny yard
with its lack of partition from our shitty neighbors
who sit on the roof in plastic chairs shouting and drinking beer
and the rows of pickups lining the lawn, and I dream
we rub fluid on all their windows
the cicada drone the sound of rainwater
in the drainage ditch, we collect rotting rats
and slaughter roaches in the middle of the night
I dream I adjunct for the rest of my life
I dream we come home drunk and lie on the floor
and stare at the ceiling, you soap your body
you say Read me a story, I know the story
of the bird who learns she is a mother
but is terrified to have an egg and wakes shrieking
each night dreams of it breaking on the pavement
and the yolk running to the gutter, so she goes on a journey
and crosses the ocean and dives into the mouth
of a shadowy face that fills the Pacific
and in the moment of death the water is revealed
to be a cloud, and in the falling-through she feels actualized
and the egg leaves her body and the shell cracks open
and the egg leaves her body and the chick is screaming
my lover an actual child will live in your body
and a symbolic child will live in my body
and eat thine food and drink thine water
and our embodied fear it burns out at sea
and I dream of frames that surround our bellies
and I dream of a hum that wakes us at dawn




Marty Cain is the author of Kids of the Black Hole (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017), a book-length pastoral elegy about punk rock and southern Vermont. Recent work appears (or is forthcoming) in Fence, Action Yes, Public Pool, Tende-rloin, TAGVVERK, and the anthology A Shadow Map (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2017). He holds an MFA from the University of Mississippi, and presently, is pursuing a PhD in English Language & Literature at Cornell. With Kina Viola, he edits Garden-Door Press, a handmade chapbook micropress.