Nina Puro


is a rupture an artifact or just a wound?

shadow that does not match the shape that made it

how much of grief is a performance to the dead?

shadow sliding across a lawn

if the performance is only to the self, does a tree fall?

bad pears in a wooden bowl

how much of my starvation was a performance to the sky?

vomit leaking from plastic bag

if the body is a house, was I burning it in protest?

house as wine bottle filled with snow

can an action take place in stillness?

mesh bag of clothes I couldn't sell

to what extent was I making myself an artifact?

pallet of gently used winter clothing on a barge to Burma

to what extent was I a bad architect?

pallet of H&M’s new spring line on a barge from Bangladesh

to what extent was I a lazy artist?

people in a shipping container on a barge from China

to what extent did I invert the lie?

people in line for bread or phones, sweating in rows of ellipticals

if at first I wanted to be small, then for 14 years couldn’t get better, was the disease always false?

circle of women’s bodies making snow angels

if photographs do not exist, was what happened real?

circle of thin white womens’ bodies eating

if starvation changes the brain, what else could have occurred & would I remember more?

voice on a tape in an archive

was it an effort to forget?

Ana's body slamming into the deli

if starvation changes the brain, did I become fluent in a hidden language?

to see snow, see her silhouette

if I got sick in order to leave, rather than the usual regression-into-childhood model, what was I trying to escape?

to see, try to unsee

was incessant weighing & measuring a comment on capitalism or a reiteration?

circle of thin white girls in hospital gowns begging to see their weights

did the revolving door in the Seagram Building blur to snowflakes or make me see better?

circle of thin white girls in kimonos taking photos with “warrior” makeup to learn to be strong

when was the last time you got undressed & measured by a doctor or a man?

silhouette filled with powder

on a warm February day, how far do you walk with your coat on without taking it off?

silhouette drawn with white police chalk

how cold are your hands?

circle of girls with sharpies on butcher paper, tracing how big they are vs. how big they feel

what color is the sky now?

in our separate showers, mornings, steam curled from our bones at the same angle

what about the color of the sky when you were born?

white rock into a river

what coin from what country paid to stitch your mother up?

throwing up into the river quiet after snack

who wiped your mother’s brow after? who didn't?

phone ringing in an empty room

what coin over her eyes or under her tongue, later?

whales in an ocean

what phone numbers have you memorized?

murder sites on a map

what do you say into the disconnected phone in case the other person can hear?

public bathrooms & grocery stores on a map

so ok if my bulimia was stealing massive amounts of food & scheduled twelve-hour blowouts every 1-3 days, rather than frequent quickies while in & out of company, how do the lack of spontaneity & isolation play into what occurred, which is to say: did I protect the rest of my life & keep myself functional or did I make the rest of my life a waiting for that period?

I'm losing you I'm losing you I miss you

to what extent was the stealing poverty and to what extent adrenaline?

white bread crumbs on a kitchen table

to what extent gathering evidence I was a bad person?

white powder to gums on a kitchen table

when I had to be restrained & tube fed, why did I want this? why did I not comply & try to get better?

three-car pileup, body kept from ricocheting around car by seatbelt

do I just crave intensity?

ID in a wallet

to what extent was I reacting to those boys when I was four?

loaf of bread in an oven

to what extent was I inventing an invisible friend because I was lonely?

girlchild in a well

to what extent did I want to shut all humans out, burn my forest?

father in a coffin

to what extent did I mistranslate everything I was told?

mother’s voice on a phone, rapist’s voice on a phone

to what extent was it ingrained habit: purging as quotidian as tooth-brushing?

panther pacing a cage

how does the desire to escape tie into being queer, e.g. being taught my basic perceptions & desires were wrong?

medical chart thick as my thigh in a dump

if bulimia taught me to be angry instead of passive, as in anorexia, was it a gift?

plastic bottles in a dump

if I had gone to prom or college instead of hospitals, if I’d had family or mentors, would I have become a queer poet?

green beach glass washing ashore

if I had been functional enough to be in a relationship, might it have pulled me out?

Ensure in a can

had I not been granted benefits, would I have forced enough stability for a job?

napalm in a can

was my protracted convalescence just simpering?

empty cans clattering in the backseat, half coors lite, half diet coke

what if I don’t know how great the scene was five years ago because I was too busy dying?

empty gurney, empty shopping cart

am I using someone else’s marginalization to demonstrate my own?

shallow stitches in a teenage girl’s arm

is correlating the murder of a brown person with my white lived experience problematic to the point that this poem is irrevocably flawed?

meal plan on a tray

a building can melt in enough heat, as from burning napalm, right?

meal plan in the body

so why do freezing temperatures only create tiny fissures, at worst?

ice in the marrow

what does a woman’s body build & what does a man’s body build?

scraps I’d throw on the floor “accidentally”

how fine a lace have I knit my bones to & how early will I know?

UNICEF rice on a helicopter shot down

what is the use of bricks?

body thrown from Pinochet’s helicopters into the ocean

what is the use of mulch, of peat?

baby cut from corpse’s stomach

why did I make a winter garden?

ovaries shrunken grapes or swollen pears

why did I not stay in the winter palace?

kwashiorkor stomach

why is food used to describe a woman’s body?

a house’s shadow sliding slow across a lawn

why is architecture used to describe a man’s body?

bone chips in a desert

does a decade of amenorrhea create visual changes to the appearance of the ovaries?

dimmest star in a constellation

what was I trying to say without using language?

the smallest white dwarfs collapse & are never named

was I using the master’s tools or my own?


Nina Puro's writing is in Jubliat, Guernica, the PEN/ America Poetry Series, & others. Each Tree Could Hold a Noose or a House, winner of the 2017 New Issues Poetry Prize, will be published in 2018. They are a member of the Belladonna* Collaborative and recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Saltonstall Foundation, and others.
Mark Cugini