Natalie Eilbert




I was a boy until they found me


lost in the woods. Then I was a


stupid girl lost in the woods.


The neighborhood kids were


just that, until one stripped me


down, one found my sex tapes,


one made me mouth the word


victim until the cable came back.


But I wanted something to fall


from my mouth in a gesture toward


inculcation. Narrative saturation.


With his toe, my brother pushed


away my drinking bowl until


I was a boy thirsting for its very tin.


I can’t tell if when the rapist


called me a ditz he meant me me


or this me, and I suppose this


is the sine qua non of ditzhood.


I have a necessary dumbness


I couldn’t live without, do you get it.


It was the dumbness over wine


and quiche last night that led


to my confessing to beautiful Amy.


My history congealed in the crust


the waitress cleared away.


The talkshow host retired


as I hung my damage to sound


all over the shitty velvet curtains,


contrapuntal and entire.


What velvet curtains, what ladder.


When we are finished, a leather


takes hold, and I am not long


for the slutty skirts of this world.


I never even owned a red hat,


not in my whole dumb life.




It matters how you speak of failure. The term lover.

            I have never used this term outside poetry.


Why lover, monsieur croque, when what I mean is

dah-na-na-na-na-na-na-na, dah-na-na-na-na-na-na-na,

dirtbag. I guess it lacks the pert trochee. The exact volteface.


I speak of failure the way one might salt meat, the water

of the animal comes up through the muscles to praise

your hunger with a meatsong. I fork my failures until tender.


Certain unreal terms: watermeat, failprotein, tearcartilage.

           I have more feelings of being meat than being a lover.


There was a girl about your age who queened herself

in front of her personal mirror. Pushed back the skins

to get a closer look, queenly inspections a sign of choice propriety.


Desperate for narrative she consulted her gargoyle nook,

the pink cleanse underneath where no one dared finger.

She could wake up. She could be the kind of girl who woke up.


I placed this anecdote here like a toytruck on a carpet

           to evoke something about place and the dumb decades of girlhood.


But I want to live inside the coils of a menstrual rug, and for salt

to sing me out of my troubled blood. Lately I’ve dreamed

of nothing but my girlfriend in a pink tulle dress collapsing

in the road. I wake up and pink lace crowds my eyes in hot yoga.


The naked women in this dressing room are my lovers,

the yoga bodies and the yoga bodies and the yoga bodies,


I place them on the back of an ampersand I’ll never use,

they ride away like galloping horses. &&&&&&&


These naked women virgin-oil themselves into horizons.

Grateful for the opportunity. I am the kind of sunset

that can store the world’s goods without a speck of responsibility.


Speak of failure, says the girl to her figurines. The term

failure of imagination is a failure of imagination

so don’t throw that shade on my legion of rich oiled twats

when the problem is clearly we’re beautiful shitty idiots.


I wrote a poem about a horse named Galaxy once (ugh)

and all the boys gave me treats they said, wow lady wow

wouldn’t you know it this is such a pretty, pretty poem

Swan Meat



Why do you look so angry all the time.

Smile. I have placed your flesh delicately in tin,

sealed it shut, designed a periwinkle label.

There is nothing to worry about. No one

worries over the image of a beautiful swan.

My spear cracked your breastbone with a swiftness

so exact I ran home to my wife to cry

in her lap over life’s constant perfections.

Her lap smalled with my tears of gratitude

and suddenly every limb smalled too on her.

What miracles! You can split birch with an ax

all day long but the women you want always stay

the same size? What are you doing, neon goose,

with your wild hair and your split tits and this hip

to waste ratio. Don’t look a man in the eye

if you don’t entertain the fantasy of a hack

hack hack of his [my] blade on your neck.

I smell your bottoms, your flat feet orangeing

my cock into new and gradual definitions

of system. Men choose what animals bleed,

what animals purr. Because of me you’ll

never be the acid-spitting wife of nothing.

I want to digest your proteins but won’t:

you’re better in the package, better steeped in juice,

plum-sick and plucked until yonic,

in the connubial sweat of death and its promise.

Believe it that no one will taste the difference

in the way you chose to spread those wings.

Remember to smile for the fork and you’ll be

swallowed down with gold, gold soda.

Freaky Friday



Morning commute is sexual, my genitals quake

and yes my lord my breasts rise like a train out the tunnel over

a bridge. The aphrodisiac of mobility must be

what prompted the man this morning to snap

three pics of my ass from under my skirt. This is

freedom / I was standing / he was sitting / hallelujah!

The sound of the camera click is America ringing

in that we add the ghost of function to invisibility,

the click and the click and the unnecessary click

of devices, the underside of my ass trapped

in the intransigence of his photo gallery. My throat

when I saw myself unfamiliar myself blushed

and myself anonymously myself, yes my throat closed

and myself felt enormous. Felt enormous and sexual, lordy

he chose me! for his dark immaterials, should’ve fucked him

right there in the orange commute. Should’ve spoken up,

but I basically fucked him. Wasn’t taught to give lessons

to the men in whose intercourse meant a magic batter

of yes’s where no yes’s left my tight throat, wasn’t taught

what those lessons could mean and instead looked

down to my heels and away from my heels.

Dear Mickey Mouse, dear Minnie, when do you strip

off your gloves and lashes, and when does the border

between your distinctions end, and is this the height of your sex life.

Every day I exercise and I tone and I skinny myself

into a spectacular hell lathed in coconut oil: this is dignity

we’re talking, myself dignity. What difference could one blind ass be

to that lordly fapping, says the masculine syllogism, says who,

says I cowed between the myself of victim and righteous,

me a mouse wedged inside the bovine rumen

/of American transit, the death and life of, American America/

in a frenzy to be grateful for the chewed cud I am gifted.

My ass skin blooms a dinosaur blush before these dense lordly teeth.

I said nothing, left him with his art, I left him on the train with his art.


NATALIE EILBERT‘s first book of poems, Swan Feast, is forthcoming from Coconut Books in 2015. Her two chapbooks, Conversation with the Stone Wife (Bloof Books) and And I Shall Again Be Virtuous. (Big Lucks Books) are forthcoming later this year. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Kenyon ReviewTin HouseWest BranchHandsome, and many others. She lives and writes in Brooklyn where she is the founding editor of The Atlas Review.