T.M. De Vos


We are dropping them

the small things we were sure of: 
snuffed filaments of lessons
and sun on floorboards,
pets tiled in spots.  

Our bones are scattered at fires
to prove we were here:
not as ourselves, but something like a species
breaking its molars on grain:  

visible only in clusters
like lights from space, 
in piles like old sacks
against seawater: iron
freed from blood types, amino acids
ready for a new creature— 

and the rest hold mass,
wait out the fickle dermis.


The markings

What could you say but that you had seen
and were hurt by it—you could do nothing,
like a ghost that has no power over living plasma,
who can only watch. 

I am too late for you, only now
piecing you from the dog-ears of your books
where you might have paused, or read twice.

Or maybe I am the gone one,
who is not permitted sleep
and balks at the doors of houses
as if shocked by some electric collar. 

I don’t understand anything in your world:
why people are still kissing
or why they pile into cities,
biomass scuttling in their walls, living off them. 

I am trying not to want my skin salted off
or to mind my human legs. 

I will try, for a while, not to mind
the crush of others
or the march at the end of the baton. 

I will walk back to you, and let the rain fall through me;
I will try to appear.




It begins as fatigue of washing
your same chipped dish.

If you called a friend
your voice would be static, or ghostly raps,
energy dissolved like a spilled boil.

It is subtle: a shade drawn even in day,
hunger that comes from a long chute.

You move slowly at night, snuffing each bulb,
dark settling on you like moss,
and wrap your knees in the burlap of your covers.

This is how they find a sacrifice:
warming itself for the long night,
draining the charge from its limbs.


Inside the battery

When I lived at home,
tapped like a bear, or maple—
both being living things
that produce a concentrate—
I wanted to be claimed, in public,
like other girls (a metaphor for the worthless hull, 
good only for cracking). 
I thought a face made people do anything: 
two boys fight and the winner is yours,
sure as he'd killed your father
and marched you off in shackles. 

But there were no battles, no parade
of horsemen gargling fever like bile: 
think of the prisoner clawing up roots,
returning after years of beatings
a featureless mandrake.
Love is crawling backwards
with your broom; it is learning not to feel the spigot
and the bitter cider you leak.

After all we have done in all these years,
all we want is to leash a cluster of cells:
soft pets to run on wheels like twin
grey chambers, storing their work on spools.


The ice maiden

for Juanita of Mount Ampato


He starts by following, teasing a little—
you have to whistle in the dark.
You’re nervous, but you laugh:
you can’t be stuck up. 
Your dad hangs back,
the way he does when your brothers play ball. 

It’s what men do: talk like this and smoke
and come home with bitter breath.
The days pass, the blister fills and drains. 

You want to show him the collections on your dresser;
you want to hear how lonely he’s been. 

But there’s a buzz at your nape
and a mash of leaves in your drink.
He’s telling you how far you can see,
how you won’t feel the cold.
You’re it—none of the others could do it. 

He gives you his jacket, and he’s leading you fast,
away from your parents who pen you
as if you’re meant for some mysterious thing
that going for a walk would ruin.



Leaving in a snowstorm


I don’t know what to say,
how days like this I can picture my cold, my pain,
the discomfort I will have to travel with.

In some countries there is no heat anywhere:
you dress and keep your head down,
walk home and work on the fire
till the nodes in your shoulders stop rattling
and you sleep, bright shards shaking
and settling behind your eyes.

I have only what I carry: my small heat
and my creatureness, the humidity of one body
on another like a compress. There is nothing
I leave, nothing fine or indelible, that one would protect.

There is no one to speak for me
or take me in: I am a fault, an interruption,
a truck of letters, all bound out.


Progress report for a friend

I think by now I must know
about half of what you did:
perhaps from exercise, my body has learned
how to release something that inks and pulls
and how to live with the liquid it keeps sending, 
in hate, for you to blot.

I do not know yet how to be shot,
least of all by someone who has just withdrawn from me
like a fat syringe—or how to fold myself
like a stack of dresses, ironed and fragrant,
and let my nerve impulses die at the hems.

But I am learning:
I have offered myself and laid down,
willing whatever would to fall on me.
No one has finished the job—
he always flinches or drops the instrument.
It is like being led blinded to your execution
only to hear your letters read,
all opinion and fingernails of a certain color—
full of the dimestore world—
as you wait for the shot that does not come,
face twitching, worthless and responsive.



T.M. De Vos is the author of Cimmeria (Cervená Barva
Press, 2016), a 2015 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow, 
co-editor-in-chief of Gloom Cupboard, and reader at
The Atlas Review. Her work has appeared in concīs, 
Juked, Pacific Review, burntdistrict, Quiddity, Hawaii
Pacific Review, Pedestal, HOBART, and the Los Angeles
Review, among others. She has been named as a semi-
finalist for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. She
is currently working on her first novel.



Published October 2016.