Gabrielle Freeman

Waking Up Alone

The bar across the street from my heart
is small & you can still smoke there
& there is 5 dollar scotch on Thursday nights
because Thursday nights are hard.

Theyre when I want to make that 3 am phone call
except I don’t have good reception
& I dont have a phone number to call

The bar across the street from my heart
is small & has a smooth wooden bar with tall stools,
hooks for my purse, crystal glasses for my wine
when Im feeling fancy,

& picnic tables with love notes etched like constellations
on their rough tops aberration: see also desire
sturdy bottle openers screwed into their sides for my beer
when Im feeling plain.

Behind the bar, an old mirror is losing its silver, a spray
of dark stars, & in it, I dont have to see myself as anything
but an obscurity. Not quite
connected. The bartender wears crimson garters

on his crisp, white sleeves, & hes got
my number. When I walk in, he asks, Are you feeling /fansē/?
even when my jeans & flip-flops tip him off because
he knows I like watching him say the words, teeth pressed

flush against the back of his bottom lip,
velvet vermillion,
a voiceless labiodental fricative
like fucking.

One doesnt have to employ the vocal cords to make the /fff/ sound,
which is maybe why fuck is such a powerful word,
the /uuu/ hauled up from the gut,
that final /k/. The sound of a shot tossed back.

It doesnt take much to move from bar to bear,
and by the time the bear lumbers in,
star-crossed, besotted,
I am killing the bottle. The bear orders scotch, neat,

every time. &, every time, it turns to face me. Asks
to see my heart. I list across the room,
creak open the heavy door, point across the street.
There stands my heart, my /byo͞odəfəl/ heart like

something a starchild would draw.
This heart, four chambers, each chamber a calamity
of mass, of plasma, of gravity. Each atrium emptying
into its ventricle, each filling up & pulsing muscle.

At the center of each chamber, the murmur of fire,
softly spoken words heard from the next room.
Each a little belly, always hungry. I close the door
slow, watch the latch click into place. /klik/.

The smallest sorrow sound.
The bear is asleep in front of the cold, dark grate, & I
submerge into familiar fur. Fat & grease & scotch &
absence. Hulking slumber, empty cage of bones.


Ghazal for Decomposition

You are bleached bones sticking up out of the weedy shoulder of a two-lane.
A year ago, I buried you there after a breakdown on the shoulder of this two-lane.

Ive tried most techniques I can think of: chemicals, mechanical maceration,
softening in water to slough you off. Some techniques fail, like, so far, this two-lane.

Burial in soil is effective, but can result in disarticulation,
the body ripped apart, coveted and strewn by scavengers over a two-lane.

Parts of you show up in the strangest places. Under my tongue. In the epiphyses
of my long bones. I grow toward you even as you grow colder on this two-lane.

I would like to ossify. To harden and be picked clean. Arthropods are your friends.
There in the scrub, your dear clavicle. You come back, over and over, on this two-lane.

There in the brush, your beloved ribs. A cage designed to protect your heart, revealed.
A revelation. I am fierce angelic splendor on this two-lane.

Gabrielle Brant Freeman’s poetry has been published in BarrelhouseEMRYS, Scoundrel Time, ShenandoahstorySouth, Waxwing, and Whale Road Review. She has been nominated twice for the Best of the Net, won the 2015 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017. Her first book of poetry, When She Was Bad, was published in 2016. Read her work at