2 Poems

Poetry / Denise Duhamel



I’m dead by now—car crash or bad fall. Or I’m still here, but feeling dead inside, yelling at 
Target cashiers or maybe staying home, my Tower Vodka delivered by Total Wine. I have more 
cringy stories or stories swirling about me. I might have slept with a student by now or a dean 
who’s a drunk like me. I might have been fired, actually, claiming my dismissal was all someone 
else’s fault. I never developed the good habit of flossing daily or trying to get eight hours of 
sleep in a row. I might have drowned in a pool or the ocean or a bathtub. I might have pissed 
myself in public. I have surely forgotten the rent check, credit card payment, lost my voter ID. I 
might have stopped writing poems entirely, with excuses about why they are stupid. I might have 
stopped reading them too. Or there I was, until I wasn’t—a high-functioning, lampshade-wearing
jokester who tripped on a step and hit her head, who tore through that stop sign on her way 


During quarantine
a lizard so green
she looked like a toy
latched onto the screen
door of my balcony—
she must have climbed a tree.
The sound of her scared me.
My blinds closed, I thought she
was someone trying to break in.
I peeked through the slats
ready to scream,
ready to dial 911.
The foot-long lizard
had climbed as far as my knee
and I shook her off, gently,
afraid she would rip the mesh.
I kept talking to her
the whole time. I was so lonely
that Florida winter, I almost
invited her inside.
She had matching lime green
eyes. When I googled her later
I learned she was a Cuban Knight.
Clearly she was able 
to fend for herself. Still I mashed
a banana and served it to her, 
al fresco, on my best earthenware. 

From the writer


:: Account ::

These poems are from a series in which all the titles con­tain the word “in which.” I began this series as a way to imag­ine oth­er out­comes to my life or what might have been—a prose poem, for exam­ple, in which I nev­er became sober and am pos­si­bly dead. But the “in which” was also expan­sive enough to bring me to glimpses elsewhere—private moments of shame or lone­li­ness, imag­i­na­tive leaps into the inner work­ings of my body. For me, it’s been a mag­i­cal lit­er­ary device, the “which” like a “witch” cast­ing her spell. The work in this series has gone in sur­pris­ing direc­tions, the titles teth­er­ing me down. I find it increas­ing­ly lib­er­at­ing to state my premise in the title, to let the title do a lot of the work to ground a reader.


Denise Duhamel’s most recent books of poet­ry are Sec­ond Sto­ry (Pitts­burgh, 2021) and Scald (2017). Blowout (2013) was a final­ist for the Nation­al Book Crit­ics Cir­cle Award. She is a dis­tin­guished uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor in the MFA pro­gram at Flori­da Inter­na­tion­al Uni­ver­si­ty in Miami.