J. Bradley — The Ribcage Tries to Save His Latest Lover from His Poor Career Choice

You remind him how their hands
roam like wolves across his chest,
down his stomach, how their fingers
growl and snap at the carcass
of his waistband and he shrugs
at the thought of their hunger.

You ask him how he isn’t haunted
by the hoots and howls drenched
in watery rum and Coke.
The music usually drowns them out,
he says. You watch your lover
stack his money into a shape
you interpret as a mausoleum.

You confront him about the confetti
of phone numbers in his leopard printed briefs.
He apologizes for his forgetfulness, says
You’re the only one for me.

You offer him a better life,
one where he can retire his fake name,
one where he can say ‘no’ because he can,
one where his skin will never smell
like cigarettes, sweat, and nail polish again,
a life where he can do whatever he wants
as long as he’s at home, waiting for you.

Will I still need to be beautiful, he asks
and you move your body like a nod.

The next morning, you wake up
to the molted skin of his real name.
The voice on the other end of the phone
doesn’t know who you are.