Two Poems by Piper Wheeler


My Split Lip Spikes

Night thick with rot. Trash barrels and jasmine
and mad encampments under the overpasses.
On bare mattresses our neighbors’ nightmares
make their rigged tarps tremble.

The minute we fell I felt new wings beat,
then pavement crush and your body and the bike
and from somewhere my own ecstatic laugh.

We are ruined and we are fearful,
bright with mint and gin. The rim’s bent;
it will not spin. We swing between us, like a child,
the mangled frame. Spring, spring, let our throats
close over rot and blossoms.

My split lip spikes this song with iron.

Let me tell you: in the museum they’ve hung a rubbing
taken from the ball courts at Chichen Itza,
where men dressed as gods and men dressed as beasts
played to the death. The victors, the fallen.
Centuries on, the rain on carved stone.

We are bleeding and we turn the speakers up to high.
We’re going to Graceland
in our underwear and bruises.
Though I don’t know grace, friend, your little thighs
make me want to eat your whole heart
once this album ends.

Let this city be our court. Let the jackal’s grin light up
every darkened door. We will wrap ourselves in the robes of gods
and allow the gods to speak. Neighbor,
come teach the secret of decay,
of what flowers in rot and fades in rot.
In coyote’s flared ears, with coyote’s wretched mouth
I listen,
I am listening, I will learn.


Oh for the boredom of young summers
—the three of us altogether
too female in our pink rental.

I envied the hard work of others—
their paint-spattered masteries—
and exiled myself to my backyard shed.

Mattress, milk crates, spider’s web.
I did the work of desiring,
without object, without craft.

It looked like going to bed.

About the Author:

Piper Wheeler lives in Oakland, California, where she edits the Hypocrite Reader and translates Russian poetry and prose.