Tenants by Layla Lenhardt

There’s a spider in my throat whom I’ve swallowed whole.
She lives there and climbs up when I least expect it.
In silence, she’s watched me twist against you
at violent angles, and she clings to my larynx to muffle
my screams as I watch the shadows slant on the woodgrain.
She’s been there since I was seventeen and she speaks
in a voice I do not recognize.

*

Late at night, I find lashing reminders of when you came back
from Mexico and tried to haggle with the gas station attendant
over a carton of orange juice. I couldn’t tell which was more
bruised: the carton or your ego. I walked to the car, wringing
my hands, rock salt crunching under my feet.

*

In the Northern Hemisphere, winter doesn’t last forever.
I’ve learned to tough it out for those four months, but this
chill is unrelenting, a koi fish is frozen in the pond.
It’s a low hum, a 40-decibel reminder of this unforgiving
sharpness in my chest. Loneliness is palpable. We sleep
in crossed positions on the floorboard mattress in our flat.

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