top ten

My Photo

Christine Hamm has a PhD in American Poetics. She won the MiPoesias First Annual Chapbook Competition with her manuscript, Children Having Trouble with Meat. Her poetry has been published in The Adirondack Review, Pebble Lake Review, Lodestar Quarterly, Poetry Midwest, Rattle, and many others. She has been nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize, and she teaches English at Pace University. Echo Park, her third book of poetry, was published by Blazevox in 2011.  New Orlean Review published her chapbook, A is for Absence, in 2014. Christine was a runner-up to the Poet Laureate of Queens.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

What it Means to be White

White light pours raging from
my soul burning
blasting to ash everything
in sight white illuminates
the bones of my hand
white leaves my tears at dusk
white tears it all to dust
white rips
and tears and sings and soars and swallows
and makes me wish for night
white is the gnashing of teeth
the gullet that ends in shit
white is the needle
the halo
the lie
the sucking and fucking and touching
but most of all
trips from
my clit licked
like an electric switch hit
white is the power surge
that drains the city
scars the seers
rips the iris, the pupil
the tulips
throws school out of order
classrooms upside down
desks smacking
empty plaid skirts floating
white lights like a moth
stings like a widow
stings like an hourglass
White sings,
trills of sweet death.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

The Loft Poem

In your loft
with the lights low
we sit talking
as I want to fuck you

I look into your pretty
brown eyes and
will your fist up my cunt.
We talk about politics,
spirituality, the knicks,
who gives a fuck?

I try to radiate sex juice
in your direction.
If I get any more frustrated,
these dirty windows will shatter
like when a soprano hits a high "C".

I hint that I'm "a woman with a past."
I hint that I'm "easy."

It's 4am and my throat is sore
from all this goddamn intellectualizing.
I'm dizzy from lust, fatigue
and your cigarette smoke.

I say I need to get to bed.
You gesture towards the couch
and slouch off towards your room.

In five minutes I knock on your door
and let myself in.

Your belly is soft, concave
and covered in darling brown curls.
Your cock tastes of piss and scented
toilet paper.
Then just of cock.

Afterwards, I whine into my hand,
"Four hours of talk!"
You are hurt,
crease your sweet brow and say,
"What? You didn't enjoy our conversation?"

The Cul de sac Angel

with wings made of safety pins,
used tampons and bottlecaps,
softly swoops down
and kisses the place under
the left breast
of all the middle-aged single women
in Ohio
whose bras are too tight, who
get a little sore
spot right there,
on the fragile skin
over the heart --
every night before each
of those women
takes her last breath
before dreaming
of kisses she'll never have,
or had but never wanted,
she feels a tingle
right there --
like the start of a heart attack
or the glowing thumbprint of a saint
or how a thumbprint might feel
if a saint were to touch her
or anyone
to touch her:
Anyone who wasn't
coolly shaking
her hand

The Bad Secretary

She weeps into your coffee; staples memos to her blouse. She has acne; her lipstick smears. She breaks up with her boyfriend every other weekend and makes you hear about it. She is always twenty minutes late. She sometimes answers the phone with a stunned silence, as if she’s forgotten not only where she works and who she is, but what a phone is. She loses files. She erases files. Her nails are so long she can’t type. She has carpal tunnel so she can’t type. She shows up one Monday in a neck brace. She forgets to wear a bra. She swears (a lot). She refuses to get you lunch. You find a voodoo doll of yourself in her desk. She makes you hate her. She smells of cinnamon and dog shit. When she wears a tank top, you swear you see the flutter of wings around her shoulder blades. Your palm pilot melts in its cradle. Your tie makes like a lobster and pinches your nose. Your titanium G-4 explodes. You can’t stop yourself from putting your tongue in her mouth. She doesn’t wear underwear. She doesn’t bathe. She makes you love her. She is your master.

Magic Trick

when you fuck me
I disappear.

you touch my spine
and I become your fingerprint.

you hurt me
I become your teeth marks.

you bend me over the sofa,
and I become
a pink
on a
Tuesday night,
the last day of July.

To Greenpoint

July insects buzz the sidewalk.
It's twenty minutes of rectangular and bleak to anywhere.

See the cracks,
the lines crisscrossing
the telephone poles, the concrete
and your hand,
this street disappears into empties --
beer cans and sky.

You're walking through airless shadows.
Your shoes don't make a sound.
And we have no idea where we're going.

Empty Bed

The muscles of my tongue cup him.

Broken backed chairs lean forward expectantly
and the rug curls in anticipation.
No one can close their eyes but him.

Then moonlight does what moonlight does,
but faster.
Shadows speed across his face
like a hand struggling with Braille.

I struggle for something not so solid.

Preparations, retreats --
strategies are traced on the sheets
covering his thighs.

Only when he's sleeping can I think.
Such things can be done
with a shadow.

The Anatomy of Distance

Picture an oil painting,
In the Medical Academy, by a Dutch master in 1741.
The walls are in shadow, appear to be black.
Our walls are blue.

I. The Doctors:
In the auditorium,
in our room,
spectators surround the body.
One touches it and looks at us.
He doesn't mean to touch the body
in a way that has any kindness in it,
As your fingers attempt to sign nothing
with their grasp,
but his hands are as gentle
as the soft astonished faces of the men staring at us
as we stare at them.

II. The Body:
The body does not appear
to be sleeping but dead.
Not just the pallor but the lack of eyelashes.
The upper lip curls in ecstasy or disdain.
Although the kidneys vena cava intestines
splay into our faces,
the body
is the only one
who escapes in this picture.
The one
truly alone and hidden.

III. Us.
You and I are hidden
from each other
by the body,
the deeper we thrust
our cutting, fondling instruments
the farther we float away like unmoored boats.
Until we lie next to one another
on the same bed
in different rooms
the same color as the inside of an eyelid
or eggshell,
the same color blue.

Hysterical Blindness

My life is pain.
I could be a hypochondriac.
There's some kind of multiple choice here,
but I lost the pencil and forgot to mark the page.

I'm not quite sure -- I wake up sick
in the morning, nauseated by all the light.
My feet leaving the mattress
for the floor gives me shooting pains

I'd have to ask my doctor,
but she stopped returning my calls last month.
She said it was getting too intense
between us,
all that blood and exchange of bodily fluids.

She had a thing for latex.
I think that shows a fear of intimacy.
We only kissed twice the whole time
we were together.
Anyway, it's over now.
She won't even renew my prescription
for codeine.

And I'm left with this migraine
and an unnatural swelling behind my left ear.
My skin, it tingles
sometimes, along my fingertips.
I'm sure it's the precursor
to some sort of paralysis.
And the light, ah,
the light!
It scalds my eyes.
Makes them tear constantly.
This can't be normal.
Tell me, this can't be

Sex in Middle America

Moonlight clings
to a slip on a clothesline.
The light holds it like a dance partner
a hand around the waist
a knee nudging between knees.

The line sighs with brilliant expectation.

In the breeze
the lace hem
reaching with hips
and subtle
invisible groin
the shivering moon.

Bite Me

The South African junkie
bites my breasts
with his broken teeth.
He refuses to believe
the bruises are from him.
I love him in exact proportion
to his disdain.
His rotting breath
flat ass
and constant farts
remind me of a dream
in which I ride a black donkey
in the mountains of a desert
and hit it with a switch.
With his arms around me
I can hear flies
as if we are already dead.

The Addict Renames the Days

This day is called Screamed myself hoarse at him
while I sat naked and fat on the futon.

The next day is called He punched his fist through
the wall and I kissed his broken knuckles.

The next is called I am too stoned to remember to
move when someone fucks us.

The next day is not called anything.

The next day is called My head is a snow globe
that’s been set on fire and is cracking.

This is followed by the day of Vomiting and regret.

The final day is I’m leaving you and getting a real life,

then the week starts over.

In the elevator

going up to your apartment
you jam your hand
down the front of my pants.
And I'm not wearing underwear.
This is sudden and
makes me wet
but I think you
close your eyes
not to see me
but to see yourself.
You're living
in your own
private porno flick.
I'm not starring.
I'm just an extra.
I'm just along for the ride.

Things that are Left at K-mart,
According my Dream on Wednesday

Stitches. Spines. Saints.
Folds of female flesh.
Waterlogged books, swollen pages spreading.
Scallops. Clams.
Seawater. Ski masks.
Hatchets. Tea leaves
in the shape of an anchor.
Long-legged blondes.
Window blinds.
Vikings. Mustaches.
Gold hoop earrings.
Plaid checks. Chocolate chip cookies.
unsets like pink daisies.
Mannequins with chipped lips.
The torso of a woman.
A marble quarry filled with rainwater.
The torso of a woman. My mother.
Black fingerprints.
The torso of a woman.
The rhinestone glasses she wore in college.
The Venus de Milo. Cumulus clouds.
My Venus. My torso.
The torso of a woman.

Dream Cats

My cats hate electricity.
They are scabby, fetid, dark.
They nose the alarm clock off the dresser.
They unplug the TV, the fan, the microwave.
My cats circle me in the dark,
teeth shining like
the memory of that night
the one I turn the lights on trying
to forget.

1,000 Words for Snow

Adolescent Anorexics:
can be nothing but a cliche,
their necks and waists
pared down to a commonality.

They are becoming feral and angelic,
Fur springing from their forearms and upper lips,
Cheerleaders with yellow and navy polyester croptops
revealing an emptiness,

Their hair
like blond rain,
more giving up the scalp for the pillow
each morning.

The scent of vomit, bleach and strawberry
lip gloss
coalesces in front of them like
Skywriting bargaining with God, the body.

Their eyes burn like stomach acid
Their mouths drool uncontrollably at the refrigerator light.

They are reducing
To satin bows around necks, the texture
of new teddy bear fur, and
curling into an earlier and earlier knot,
Recapitulating into a
sparrow, a
fish, a
A wishbone of endless white ice,
or vast vanilla ice cream.

They are returning to something everyone remembers
But cannot say.

They are ivory novices in an abbey
with blood colored shadows,
prostrating themselves before
Before it happened
before the ever slower
beating organ, praying
for the final reversal of miracle.

And in their ears they always hear
the tinny ringing --

A scratchy voice from a swollen
Victrola, singing
of the snow-white
beauty of bones.

Getting Over

I keep his cigarette butts in my cereal bowl
on the kitchen table
next to the bottle of wine he drank.

It's become an acrid shrine to forgetting you.
A toast to his teeth gentle on my ribs,
to his thumb beckoning inside me
until you were just
healed bruises and

It's a souvenir of his whispered
questions, my answers always
yes, yes,
with the breath of
a woman who has run a long way
to get to this place.

American Dream

This is a poem about a lawn.
It's green.
It's square.
It's flat where the chairs went in August.
There are dandelions.
A bulldog digs a hole and buries a hand,
buries a handball.
The lawn is mown at near regular intervals by
a flamboyant transsexual.
I mean a moody teenage boy.
The mower is gas powered and full of deadly thoughts.
The daughter of the house
sniffs gasoline in the garage.
When she lies on the cool invasive concrete
the rafters full of her father's tools spin above her.
Later, she will become a moody teenage boy.
I mean a second grade teacher.
Until she marries a red haired man
who dies suddenly.
She finds herself feeling nothing and
questions the nature of her reality.
She's not real
so she doesn't question it for very long.

But this poem is not about her;
it's about her lawn
and she's ten and
hasn't turned into anything interesting for
the past 24 hours.

The lawn, however,
has become a sunset, a stick of flesh
and a tic in the gunman's lower eyelid.
Near midnight
it becomes a weeping man,
stands up and
walks out of this picture.