Unruly Combinations: Two Poems by Isibeal Owens

Heat Exchange

The man I met at the party

does not bother to place a pillow

against the headboardーin fact,

I think he enjoys the rhythm

of my skull against the wood.

His penis continues its fracking,

its endless slamming, ripping

through membrane and cervix,

through sheaths of rum and rust.

I do not hate him. I assure myself

that my body is a stagnant pond:

undrinkable. From all the thrashing,

his student ID card flips to the floor.

He has the same name as my dog.

I want to laugh through the bile

in my throat, to point and woof

at his ugly chode. Instead, I let

the socket bleed. Two hounds,

humping to oblivion. Two sets

of primal teeth, flashing

at one another like lanterns

in the final storm.

Before long, he stops

to wipe my legs with a dirty towel,

pausing to scratch at the razor burn

on the scruff of his neck.

I slide my tongue over

my own aching chops.


When the doctor tells me I’m infertile,

I imagine my uterus sliding out of me,


gasping like a flounder at my feet.

It is prehistoricーan unruly combination


of feathers and gills wrapped in a slimy

sheen. The doctor tells me I’m not a failure.


This is very common.  It’s better to find

out while I’m still young. Beside a container


of cotton balls, there are pictures of the doctor

cuddling her own drooling toddler.


I want to laugh. At 21, have become the spinster

with a pit of sand between my legs. Somewhere


in the back of my mind, I will always

measure my life in unsung trimesters.


The ancient Greeks would have probed

me with lead rods. The ancient Egyptians


would have force-fed me garlic. Apparently,

I am nothing if not a vessel for younger nothings.


I pass by the baby food aisle, thinking of

my daughters, my blood-gingham


angels, forever trapped inside

my ovaries. They call through conch shells


for pureed sweet potatoes. I indulge them.

I am happy to keep them bundled


in a film of membrane. The world is not

yet good enough for their velvet toes.



Isibeal Owens is pursuing her Bachelor’s in English at Rutgers University.