Pet Sounds

"Pet Sounds is a long love poem written in and out of the collective of us. It truly has a surfing kind of energy, doesn’t get bunched up for long, even pleasantly gets a little specific and gross, but bobs again. Invariably she deals sharp and close because Stephanie’s seriously interested in a total ride through relationship and humanity, song, family and what else." - Eileen Myles "It is the power of the nothingness between us – call it love, or love songs – that is the center of all sensation and its interpretation. " - Simone White


I come to you dripping from head to foot
from every pore, you’re covered with blood and dirt:
the shape togetherness was taken by

dispossession and constraint

the shape our togetherness took
not exactly our decision
not exactly not

I come to you in the warehouse after work
over lunch I suck you off at a public park
against a backdrop of container ships

you drip from head to foot with bankruptcy
from every pore with debt, I’m covered with
food stamps, worker’s comp

faced away from you
dripping with the blood of countless
free applications for student aid

filled out as I instructed
covered with the breath of board
members and executive directors

you enter dripping with nonprofit diversity
and inclusion, I drool onto the cover
its fabric of deans and department chairs

letters of appointment kept and broken
dripping from column to column
from every pore with demographic data

I feel your presence in the joint account
your expenditures and wages
I touch them

from Pet Sounds

riding around on a blow up dolphin
in the pool with my friends
you’re not here but it feels like you are
extruding all these pieces in the water

I remember how pretty Bonnie was
dancing in a long skirt, how she squirted breast milk
over the van, the time she was superwoman
for Halloween even though I was never there

she careened through the photo of you and Mark
last weekend I caught it. your ex-wife, your brother, your
family. sometimes it’s still a little weird. sometimes I forget
we’re not going to have kids. these aren’t exactly

sonnets. I tried, but they didn’t turn.

you didn’t go to college or grow up with money
but in a suit you pass for a businessman
walking up Durant to rehearsal some Cal students
drove by in a truck. fuck you faggot suck my dick.

in a photograph on the boat your family took
from Scotland to Vancouver, you and your brothers
wear red wellies and pajamas. three small santas
some kind of pageant. after they moved everyone to California

you found your parents in bed new years day morning
with friends and the head of a suckling pig
which is to say your dad made some money in the 70s
but spent it all on clothes and Le Central

where he barely touched the food. smoked
endless cigarettes, drank endless brandies.

when your boss sexually harassed you
nobody including us knew what to do

when a rich white married gay guy with a lot of power
harasses a not rich white married bisexual guy
with a medium amount of power

the co-pay for an appointment I pushed you to
make this morning came to $360 after all the tests
because nonprofit insurance sucks so bad

you said you’re taking yourself out to lunch
you’re looking up the thing it could be
the thing you asked me please not to look up

I’m writing this in my office at work
because you’re home sick. I knew
if I worked there I’d take care of you instead.

maybe you also meet your own needs
by meeting the needs of others. I think so.

that I do may or may not mean anything
about how far we haven’t come. I am not
every woman. every woman is not in me.

from Pet Sounds

what did she tell me about Madame George?
driving home to California, hers not mine yet
probably it is about drugs. I still don’t know anything
except how to feel in the car inarticulate

moaning along. we gave the old man pepto
when he got carsick. what were we thinking?
he was just a kitten then for real
we were coming from Spokane
a place so white it felt satanic. she was not.

it was very bad there for her
in ways I cannot fully account for, her best friend
first love dead less than a year before we met

I was running away from home
out of Colorado into the Presbyterian college
where we spent a lot of time in a closet-sized single
dorm room watching Star Trek. outside it was the 90s.

when we reached her grandmother’s house it was late
or it was early, and jasmine. I stepped on a snail in the half dark.

I wanted this to have that same smell
cool night air up against the bathroom door
the hallway lights begin to dim

that’s when you fall
you’re in the front room, touching him

from Pet Sounds

on the scooter model People 150
your back looks like a boy’s
I follow you home from the repair shop

I carry my mother’s fear of motorcycles
but not her fear of cancer
my father carried a fear of the heart attack

that killed his father but in the end
a weird form of cancer killed him
and two of his seven siblings

ragged on a country road
in a photo from the childhood
he worked hard to get away from

I like that you are slight
strong jawline big hands

I like the top of your head
the way it smells

the fur that starts on your chest
has gotten thicker with age

you’re an otter
a bear


some things that really kill me include
you got into the WNBA first
you’re all about the squad game not the star

when we fought most recently about working from home
you said three things: open the window sometimes
can you scrape the old man’s plate once in a while

I forget the other one

you’re ok with me calling the boxer briefs
your panties. when I went to the store for frozen pizza
it felt weird because you do all the shopping.

at SeaWorld you sat with Avery and Colette
and cried or tried not to cry in front of them.
it hurts to be around the way adults are

always putting their hands in the shape of
here is the church, here is the steeple
open the doors, see all the people

we don’t own them, so we have no say
in the shape language takes around them