Rules of Engagement

This is how 

you get him to hate you:


Of weakness, of weather 

of money and mothers; 

guileless, you dribble the barbs 

hook the soft spot between his ribs

where it aches cavity-sweet.

What he once thought sweet 

turns bitter; your sapling 

turns kindling between you.

The more you speak 

the more the words abrade 

until even a comment ground clean 

of edges sends him thrashing.

He loved your voice once 

but now you see the snarl 

before the words ever vibrate 

out of your collapsed throat, like 

you’re coughing out flies, 

maggots on his dead pride.

You spiderweb your words 

before they have a chance 

to weave a glare from his eyes 

but sometimes you forget and 

something buzzes free, 

alighting on clenched fists.

To calm him you must be 

an ornithologist and study 

the exact manner in which he nests his anger, 

how he spins bloodwarm insults 

and stumbled memories of your mistakes 

into a wreath of thorn and tinder.

Note its shape and contour 

cloistered in the net of his tendons 

brushing his lungs, embraced by the soft things 

he no longer shares with you.

The rage is stone, 

like his fists,

crudely formed and unyielding, acidic 

when named.

This is how 

you get him to hit you:

have skin.

Wear it before him, plain or 

glazed with pigment, 

just wear it 

without care. 

Pump blood through the fields 

of your flesh carelessly and let 

the lullaby throb that catches his ear 

ring out against the laundry basket.

Bouquets of flowers become 

bouquets of bone; caress his gift 

of knuckles with a hemorrhage of your own, 

cradling everything he can’t say 

in the space between

 the wind up and the bruise.

A flinch is an invitation 

to draw the violet from your cheeks.

A scream a request 

to ease the red from your flesh.

In the mirror, you tilt your face, 

noting all the colors his hands 

can wring from you.

This is how 

you get him to kill you:


Become unbearably alive, 

an insult of 

an existence.

Exhale and watch 

his rage crown from 

his skin with a snarl 

sharp as birth.

Inhale his fists, and let

the snake of blood from your temple 

coil on your fingertips.

Wear the nature of his defeat 

like rubies.

This is how 

you die: