Bad Survivalist: Three Poems by Rikki Santer

Bad Survivalist: Rikki Santer

Alteration Love Finds

Neighbors turn into bears, golden vanilla coats, curried
yawns, yellow teeth. We stroll through backyards, around
boxwood fences. At the party we hunker into a worn couch
inside a screened front porch. It’s a plague, someone mutters,
wash your hands in ways you’ve never done before.
In the morning, I’m a banshee snoring. Bursts of tiny breaths
against our pitted cheeks, mouths dry with sand. Outside
the kitchen window, the clothesline shapes the dialectic:
panties still dependable as lust? Next to the sink, cell phone
like a dying cicada. I fill empty bread bags with dirt to freeze
for what winter will implore. At a green light the accelerator pedal
flaps impotent. Fiat sputters while bears converge, plastic wine
bottles like tumbleweed. My elbow swollen hot & tight with fool’s
inversion. Soon my body no longer contains its wound. Pus waters
our front lawn cactus which expresses itself by growing thorns.


I could purse
my lips no longer
instead I opened my maw
to swallow the coins
of his small numbers
& the bristles
of his retractable tape.
His nourishment tasted
wrong & eventually I spit
the seeds back
exhaled all swoon &
hissed to that first day
that grew this last.
As I stood at his shrine
I felt his slow slink
beneath my soles
then titled
my new
summer hat.

Pro Bono Messengers in Baltimore

I squeeze a lima bean between my thumb
& index finger & with just the right amount
of pressure its slimy heart sails across the room.
We’re sisters, I think. Lizard’s severed tail,
small as my toenail, turquoise & rolling
over linoleum for a life of its own beyond
another Instagram dopamine drip.
Tap shoes still haunt me when I clicked
for my parents’ living room guests.
Cut to today’s neighbor, sleeveless t-shirt,
arms like skewers, fleshy baritone as the elevator
delivers her to the rest of her tale. Everything
in this world can be folded. Could that red bug
on the neighbor’s porch be a blood droplet
or does it dart like a cursor to undercut
belief? Giant roach on my ceiling, a planet
collecting story lines that I store with frayed
rubber bands. Then the earthy liquor of midnight
beans when I can finally reach a distant beach,
which is to say my tiny back stoop, where moths
almost blind, never mistake brilliance.

Rikki Santer’s work has appeared in various publications including Ms. Magazine, Poetry East, Slab, Slipstream, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO, Grimm, Hotel Amerika, and The Main Street Rag. Rikki’s work has received many honors including five Pushcart and three Ohioana book award nominations as well as a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Rikki’s eighth collection, Drop Jaw, inspired by the art of ventriloquism, was published last spring by NightBallet Press.


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