Rumpus Original Poetry: Four Poems by Cate Lycurgus





[I cannot bear]

heat of triangle pose

another episode of Friends

the super-sized box of Depends delivered to the porch & which I rock end
                        over end to the carport for keeping

to thin arugula up from seed

leaving brownie bowls unlicked

fruit—clustered oranges, candy-cane figs, pomegranates, a dangled persimmon—like ornaments,
                        bowing to rot

with the finished quilt across my lap, to pull the basting out at last, slip by mysterious thread

to re-spool the twinkle lights

most Wednesdays

the news. to witness to another my baby face down with the red/blue lights, bleeding

another blown save and pennant miss

the gargle thick in daddy’s throat that chokes the whole house

madrone, now as smooth stump at the asphalt’s lip

to sling blazin sauce on a bucket of wings, their pink-pocked elbows like mine

emaciated polar bears shuffling nowhere off-screen, my own face in its darkening

in the closed-down dark of a dinner party, to blow the candles out

to go. stay.

to take you in my mouth or

mamma’s face turned aside

deleting all the texts

to race through the novel’s last pages, arrive at a final line

a child

mine without life after life


Everybody’s Hero

I am not waiting
                                    for my father to die
just forking waffles
                                    takes a long time
watching for swallow
                                    the rough descent
& clear-throated
                                    I must convince him
I have nothing else
                                    to garnish with zest
each mourning
                                    decades as he has
I try not to show
                                    through endless surrender
any burnt edge
                                    means he will not
take another corner but
                                    have wasted away
with this sticky plate
                                    for naught—only
maple 100% pure
                                    syrup will do—
he assures me even
                                    he genuinely believes
his heart will fail
                                    his days are shot
but I repeat
                                    shot in the arm! to all &
how he champions me—
                                    halfway this soaks in
& I do not know if
                                    we are our chronics
I am done or
                                    waffling & so
live not yet


[Dear Lord          if this is all there is          for us]

              to do:         start our left-right blinker-ing           sidle

up to gain a car-length (make     the green-to-gold-to-no-

            going-any-        where-quick lights)

                        accelerate          to slam on brakes

please   break in insist on space

          where none exists      and fumes’ mirage

                              is all we have

to go on why     now gain a lane     just for it to dis-

             appear ahead Lord       let me over in

        on how to drive to ease the clutch

                                               smooth what asphalt

                         offers up and thrive just like this

oleander               blowing through the median       with semi-drafts

                            not semi but—in all parts toxic—total

            shock    magenta white          knuckled now

                      I inch along    against

accident how to not be                accidental and if the point is death

                            to self      help me buckle up knuckle

down count

        the hours the idle ours the stall        out I’m calling

                                from my blind

                                         spot so wide that I might

                   crash      if highway trash      is what I’ve got

plastic lids and tire strips     mattresses

                                    by noxious blossoms     don’t mistake me

                  I’m not asking        diamond lanes

                                     to take me home to lay me down

               to sleep to wake           another

                                               drive another       shift don’t make it

faster but                  un-clutch my chest

                                                it’s so stuck

                                       Lord shift me so

                                     I love this


Point Perspective

I drive in double vision but am told there’s one white line. To follow, though it

perforates, or splits, from mile to mile. Where potholes moonlight as bright

slicks, two possibles reside. In one I’m flagged for slightest weave, the other

sirens strobe for me and my back left tire. Flat. One silhouette gets chalked

roadside while who, me? unzips who she be from a purse’s hide. Knock-off. &

though I try to cut it out, can feel my leopard surface in a thousand darkened

eyes. Which spot the stare in grocery aisles though lightweight me lifts peach

lip gloss, gets yanked to first in line. I watch the queue around the block and so

the stigma widens. An elevator opens both to lobby and to laundry sides, on

dirt-streaked tile I’m mop-waltzing; on black marble, smelling lye. Get advice

to patch one eye so the other clearly sees. But I’ve been pirate and diseased,

each—changes how you’re seen. In stereo or ghost. Cannot blame this on dry

eyes since mine are cataracts of tears that do not blur but make the hurt hurt a

painful clear. That the clapper rings against each lip of bell and just as easily, I

could hail from the 5th or 95th percentile. Or that within a storm’s pupil, one can

shut out entirely the iris of nearby. The cries. The PBJ I bless, divide, sucks

apart to one limp slice, the other berry-butter thick—I beg to not do the halving,

not to have to pick. On rest stop benches I lean back—a glutton for the light and

yet there’s blind inside that bright, to find it—floaters multiply. Let’s keep

passing loaves and fish—one, two, old, new—picnic with our stunner shades

but no one stunned and no one choked, no one broke or broken, done with

everybody woke—


Photograph of Cate Lycurgus by Frances Lacuzzi.

Cate Lycurgus’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2020, American Poetry Review, Tin House, Boston Review, Best New Poets 2019, and elsewhere. She has also received scholarships from Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences and was named one of Narrative’s 30 Under 30 Featured Writers. Cate lives south of San Francisco, California, where she interviews for 32 Poems and teaches professional writing. You can find her at More from this author →