The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


R/B Mertz

(We all end up in) the CAN


                                          for Jill Soloway, Ke$ha, & Tig Notaro




What I would've been's objects/relics

collect at the drain

of my wrist

opening & closing,

scarred over like a road

not walked, nor funded,

blistering adjectives

& artifacts showing through

thin skin: lighters, shells,

chargers & wings, unlearned instruments

& languages.


Albums of art forms chorusing

what it's about:

being dead

at the right time,

in the right place,

with your tubes tied

& your cock out,

in your Sunday clothes.





Were they grating us (a block of cheese) into littler, more easily melt-able parts

or was that you I saw clinging with me

to the sharp plastic cliff of the sieve

the women shook over the sink?


Was that you in the jar across the counter

getting pickled in The New Yorker?

I was patting myself

on the back for being

able to dream

from a compost bucket—I

was a garbage part,

sent back to the garden

to resurrect with a little more

effort, somebody said,

Just some makeup, or

Just smile.





Kids in the street sound the same as 2002.

Bob Dylan's voice, too.


A little girl turned her book around

to face me with a page of

what was lost.


I can't count the faces out there

I used to know & wouldn't now.


After years their numbers drowned in old phones

washing machines & toilet can water

sopping in the cracks of old friendship's teeth

& eventually, I had to stop moving

all that stuff around.





In the new world, you don't change

your number, or your locks, or your town;

you change your name, your face, your tits.


On the internet everyone is aging

year by year, thicker, grayer,

eyes obliquely rolling.


The unblocked march on,

army of silverware

placed correctly.


I wanted to ask a few more questions.

I wanted to laugh about that time we thought

we didn't have anything to write about.





Finally the girls

like us are crushed


bloody. Spiced 

& shelved

& kept.


On a beautiful table

they open us,

taste us


& scowl. We looked

alright but we were

done wrong.




R/B MERTZ is a genderqueer dyke artist, poet & writing teacher. Raised a Christian homeschooler, she's working on a memoir called Burning Butch. New poems are out or forthcoming in Fence, PPR, and Menacing Hedge. Her essay Whiteness Kills God & Sprinkles Crack on the Body was just published on the awesome blog, Mistress Syndrome. Mertz is 33, which surpasses expectations.



Previous | Next