Three Poems

Marie-Elizabeth Mali

Gratitude Prayer


Timing is everything, as they say,

though who they is I don’t know,

but the fact that you didn’t see me

the first five times I sat at your bar,

nor I you, until a month ago—once

our eyes lifted from the books of grief

we’d both been busy writing—when

we saw each other as if for the first time,

tells me they may be right, for that night

we danced, discovered our shared rhythm,

a sign that the rest could flow, as it has,

entrepiernas tan rico through the whole

blessed morning deep into afternoon,

salt and funk rising from sheets you say

smell better than roses, the tattoos

on arms I’ve come to crave, your body

that listens to my body and brings

me to the third, fourth, fifth orgasm

of the day—I lose count—the curve

of my hips you can’t stop touching,

the way thinking about me makes you

hard, again and again, best lover

I’ve ever had, we both say, so today

I give thanks for right timing, here

in April frost, windows steamed

and shaded as we find new ways

to curl into one another and release,

in darkness and in light,




Cray Cray


I’ve never understood the crazy shit

people do after a breakup, like hang out

near the ex’s car parked outside

the coffee shop, waiting for a glimpse,

or to find out who the ex is with,

or the way people text and text and text,

or check Facebook a hundred times a day

for clues. Until you. I now know

I could turn into one of those women
the whole town shakes its head at

while drawing circles in the air

by one ear with a forefinger.

My first thought on waking today

was to drive by your house, knowing you

would still be asleep, to see if her car

was parked next to your truck. Trouble is,

I don’t know what she drives, nor did I ever

notice your roommate and neighbor’s rides,

and I’m not willing to knife my heart

over the wrong car. That must mean

someone sane is still in here, though she

and crazy are duking it out pretty hard.

I want to show up at your work tonight

because you haven’t responded to my three

texts from 24 hours ago, but the sane one

doesn’t want a scene, or to see your eyes

narrow and jaw tighten at the sight of me,

the one who made you shine so bright

friends and strangers would comment

on your unusual happiness, so I won’t.

Would it be so bad to happen to be shopping

at the store across the street around the time

you go in to work, to wait there so I can

watch through the window as you park

your hog in the illegal spot you use on the corner,

to hope you’d see my face behind the glass

and come toward me instead of turning away?





While we’re fucking I place his hand on my throat

to see if it feels right there, like yours did.

He says, What great sex, unaware that I’m floating

above the bed waiting for it to end so I can return

to remembering you with my whole self, something

I do more often than I should. Did you hear

last year almost 200 dolphins were stranded

on Cape Cod in one month, no explanation?

Over 1000 cetaceans stranded in the Gulf since the BP oil spill.

Every month you drift further away from me on a tide

that defies the moon’s demands for it to turn back.

Hit by a boat, a fin whale was stranded two months ago

and lived for a few hours on a beach near San Francisco,

a hematoma blossom over its heart, a heart the size

of a small child. As the scientists performed the necropsy,

one said, This is our first live whale, cutting out an eyeball

bigger than a grapefruit. Others extracted intestines thick

as an arm and snapped baleen with a branch cutter.

I can barely feel your body’s weight anymore,

barely hear your voice calling me, Mi ninfa. Mi cielo.

Today in class we read a poem about a girl who tattooed

Make of my life a few wild stanzas on her back, a poem

written by a girl who loved her. The tattooed girl

swam away too fast for the words to be read as she left.

As we discussed the poem, my words hung over the table,

unsaid, the lines of mine you tattooed on your thigh,

the lines you said you’d carry with you into the ground,

on the thigh I will not again touch, the thigh hidden

under your jeans, the thigh your girlfriend sees

when you make love, your hand most likely on her throat.

 About the Writer

​​Marie-Elizabeth Mali is the author of Steady, My Gaze (Tebot Bach, 2011) and co-editor with Annie Finch of the anthology, Villanelles (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets, 2012). She formerly co-curated louderARTS: the Reading Series and the Page Meets Stage reading series, both in New York City. Her work has appeared in Calyx, Poet Lore, and RATTLE, among others. She can be found online at