wipe that octopuss off your face. you’ve got a tongue like
a tentacle, and i never liked sushi. there’s one too many
‘sometimes’ in this conversation. i’d like to know exactly
when you’re going to sink your mandibles into me, what i’m
going to taste like. like nothing your mother ever made.
i’d like to stab you in the hand with a fork but all i’ve
got are these lacquered chopsticks. maybe i could get your
eye if you’d only hold still long enough. we could wrap it
in seaweed, call it a delicacy. see, flipper was actually
a girl and she committed suicide by refusing to surface,
and isn’t that like human beings and how i can’t always
(read: sometimes) bring myself to do the things i know are
good for me, like taking vitamins and loofahing my skin
every other day, like being sure to check all the mirrors
when i drive and going to church. like not sitting here
with you and eating this goddamn raw fish.
while you wear an apron (i imagine it to be frilly,
and pink, though you are not really effeminate, not
really) and make us vegan food i sit on the couch
with a beer and watch the football game. the remote
is wedged somewhere between the couch cushions
and i am too tired to get it. these long days at
the factory take their toll, and i wonder if you
are quietly becoming a desperate househusband,
thinking about putting razorblades in the apples
for halloween, thinking about how to get out of
having sex with me later this evening (though i
will probably be too tired anyway). while you
are sleeping i sneak over to the neighbor’s house
for a handjob and a hamburger. i smoke a furtive
cigarette under the awning and then spray myself
with that sandalwood hippie shit you gave me for
christmas (you called it a “commercial holiday”
but i insisted on exchanging anyway–i gave you
a box of chocolate with ‘moo’ written on it),
and go back into the house, upstairs, where your
thin body is covered with a blanket, and i sit
next to you and in that moment i want to just lay
my hand lightly in yours–but i don’t. i go back
downstairs and crack open a can, slouch in front
of the tv. and when the home team wins, it still
doesn’t feel like it.
sad girl (n.) see girl, sad.
girl, sad (n.) see sad girl.
the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog
(but was not quick enough)
i had a second grade teacher who could recite
the entire alphabet backwards
but stumbled when speaking it forward
a b c d what do you see
w x y z there’s nothing to be
in high school i loved spelling
love is evol
love is evol
love is evol
i guess i wasn’t a believer even then.
he packed peat moss into the spaces around my heart
spread the rest where we had buried the fox
peat moss (noun.)
peat, repeat (life.)
i don’t believe in karma.
endlessly dying (v.) see dying endlessly.
dying endlessly (v.) see endlessly dying.
we all do what we can.
so i ran away from home and joined the circus. i was part
of the Disappearing Girl act. the other girls i worked with
were all beautiful, with paper-thin skin and huge black circles
under their eyes, like skinny pandas that wore pink feathers
and skin-tight lycra suits in neutral colors like Homogenous
Crowd Beige and Television Static Gray. my job was to bring
them plates of food, steaming platters of roast beef and lobster,
cream sauces in pink and white, mountains of mashed potatoes
and tiramisu so big it would almost brush the top of the tent.
the act would be seeing which one could hold out the longest,
who could disappear first. i would parade cartons of french fries,
pausing just long enough to hold them under each girl’s nose,
and watch them sweat and blink rapidly, teetering right on
the brink of bingeing. pancakes slathered in syrup were next,
replete with bacon strips spelling out EAT ME. sometimes this
went on for days: the audience members knew to bring blankets.
then eventually the cue would come and the janitor would
waltz in, dressed like Ronald McDonald, and sweep up the piles
of bone and dust, and the people would file out, feeling
lighter than ever.
stir up the silt from my dreams. we wound through these waters
rich as the amazon, holy as the ganges, in search of the woman
who eats her own feet. serpentine currents of air whipping
blue and green to foam on your lips as you update your online
status: [ we just saw a jaguar and i don’t mean the car! ]
just as the calluses were beginning to form on my hands you
shouted to me that you think you left the refrigerator door
open. but it’s too late to turn back now, the milk will just
have to spoil, and i imagine the beaded condensation on
the bottle like the sweat on your brow. we hit a rock and
the compass slipped overboard but we never really needed
it anyway. there are so many things that we have but don’t
really need, like that insulated cupholder that you covet
and insisted on putting at the front of the vessel. while
you weren’t looking i threw your iphone into the river.
at the delta of my memory we will toss out the last vestige
of these electronic delusions and the birds will sing of
our search for infinity as we head out towards the sea.
i believe in iridology, i believe in haruscipy
i search the ancient texts for the secrets beneath
your tongue–then google it instead. these days
we practioners of dead arts are more practical,
and as heretics we bomb the south street seaport
in protest of this collage of skin, mosaic of bone
that threatens to reveal us as charlatans–there
is no rabbit in that hat. you point at me and call
me witch, the birthmark on my neck proof when i
don’t bleed, but i bleed in so many other ways,
i turn to blood in your hands that you scoop to
your mouth and why do we have to kill so many
goats, they didn’t do anything us, except maybe
eat the begonias. the pagan gods will blight your
genetically modified crop for this, and you’ll
be sorry you ever planted that monoculture.
everytime you sneeze someone will curse you.
the flickering televisions inside your irises
will never tell us the truth, but the potato
chips in your gut will herald a new age.
it can be the smallest of things: she shows no enthusiam
when you tell her about a song that moved you, or she still
hasn’t gotten around to reading your poem. she doesn’t ask
how you’ve been doing, or if she does, she doesn’t expect
you to really tell her the truth. it’s a kind of negligence
that will eventually kill you like rust in your veins. when
was the last time someone said hello to you and meant it.
we have so many ways to connect with one another and yet
our circuits are crossed, our wires frayed, or whatever
other convenient electronic metaphor there is as a substitute
for human empathy and compassion. the isolation created by
all these things meant to transcend loneliness is staggering
in its ability to warp us into posterboard people with no
real communication, no real depth, no real capacity for
happiness. take away the screen, take away the keyboard.
take away this opacity of thought, this disingenuity of
your pixilated face. and i’ll find your pulse and let you
i am, and always have been, a poor judge of distances.
they told my mother while i was still a baby that i was
going to have extraordinarily bad eyesight, and as a child
i thought the cracks between the pavement would swallow me,
that the descent into the bathtub would break my neck,
and that grew into the fear of walking in cities and a love
for bubble bath, which i believed would break my fall.
i still see everything as though it were over a vast
stretch of water and i am adrift on waves cold and dense.
this inability to make out near and far probably accounts
for the fact that i am a terrible driver, and most days i
can’t even make a clean leap from bed to floor, let alone
from synapse to synapse, and it leaves the conversation
dangling like wrists cut. i have spent my entire life
trying to touch the horizon. but now i have learned that
even people with perfect vision don’t always see. now i
have learned what a single strand of your hair feels like
when i twirl it between my fingers, and now i measure the
warmth of your palms against me and measure the amplitude
of your body with my hands, and my closed eyes see farther
across the endless sea of your love and farther still.
i have forgotten the song of the sea, that primordial sound
that once flowed beneath my skin. i have inside me now fractaled
memory with razored edges, emptiness that repeats itself,
infinite and breathtaking in its ability to erase. the tide
within me has ebbed and the years on dry land have left me
dessicated with a paper mouth. but the gulls still watch for
my return. they know the moon will pull on me just as it does
the water. i shatter easily against the jetty where you wait
for me, and like sea glass, i come to you already broken.
when will we run out of beginnings.
the past is ruptured by the present
is encroached upon by the future,
and i can’t tell you who i think i am
supposed to ought to be from one minute
to the next. but we know what the future
holds, we are the seers of all projected
hope, which is to say, none. and the past
is like ether over the mouth. and the
present is a wound that never closes.
and we are all dying, dying, in eternity.
stipple dot stipple
bug bites love bites insecticide kiss
grope and press the sores like buttons
rash rash rash move
screen your comments
leave the window open
the mosquitoes were breeding
in the clefts of the tire
they cordoned it off and
tore it down
don’t pick at it
it’s just a memory.
just the right vein
blood like honey
honey, for christ’s sake, stop picking at it
he expected me to just drop
to my knees
beneath the florescent light
i was fourteen
on my arms and legs
too much wandering in the woods at night
hey girlie, you lost?
don’t forget to turn off the porch light
it attracts bugs.
i am sick to death of supine struggles, jocular intentions
and the feeling that i’m going to be alone beyond the next
cigarette. make an incision in my words, tell me what’s inside.
i spend too much time thinking about all the poems i’m going
to write after you’re dead. standing at the edge of the rooftop,
i wonder who will write poems about me when i’m dead. this was
in cambridge, 2004, when i was in love with a girl who didn’t
shave her armpits and confessed to not flushing the toilet
in order to conserve water. i was not concerned about conserving
anything in particular, least of all my breath. but nobody ever
tells you to conserve death. the angel of vertigo holds a finger
to its lips, whispers sssh. when there is silence i will have
no more poems. you will write the memory of me and sing
of my fallen grace to the pistils of flowers, and that will
what you can’t do for me: snap the horizon in two, fill in
the gaps of my memory, make decent eggs. i wrote you a poem
but you didn’t know it was about you. and you. and you.
some days there is nothing better than indolence, not having
to get up and go to the office, where you only want to
repeatedly slam your head inside the photocopier. i try
to have conversation about meaningful things, but my words
are like so many blades of grass. cut this monoculture
with a pair of scissors, measure to the centimeter your
greenness. unaware that there are cross hairs aimed at
the back of your head. i denounced materialism but kept
my ipod, of course. suburban life leaves me empty as
the bird feeder you fill with snow-melt pellets. stupid
birds. stupid dead birds. wait for the rain that will
wash me away into the sewers, know that i will be in
that glass of water you drink. i will only tell you
once to get out of the house before i burn it down.
afterwards, you just thought about burning everything.
but this was not a pg-13 love story,
and your neighbor, the one with the hairnet who
had brandished her gardening trowel at you,
would probably just call the cops.
you collected the remnants of the last year
and shoved them under your bed,
hoping that one day you might
be able to read the cards
with their handwritten notes
and not feel a thing.
there were times when you so ached with
that you ran your fingertips over your own shoulders,
because some part of you didn’t want to forget.
some part of you didn’t want to forget the way
he sang to you, the bruce springsteen song
that you can’t listen to even now,
the way he twirled the ends of your hair
around his finger, making knots like those
knots would keep you tangled with him forever,
the earth in his eyes,
the fire in his mouth,
the shimmering air like a halo around your head,
the water in your voice,
the flow and the current of the blood under your skin.
now doors that were opened are locked shut,
and the things under your bed gather dust
and there are sometimes moments when
you can forget the sound of his voice.
the scarring on your heart might one day
lead to complications that the doctors
won’t be able to cure
but for now
you don’t wear the shirts he gave you,
you find some other favorite restaurant,
browse past his favorite james cagney film
on the shelf at the library.
now you bowl twice for yourself friday nights
at couples’ bowling,
the pins falling with the sound of thunder
the beat of rain inside you.
i once broke into the heart of a whale to see if it could fit
more than mine. i broke my birth mother’s pelvis as i was coming
out with the force of my silence. but i curled in on myself with
crumpled audacity and watched as people turned to scab and fell
off. i picked at them so they would scar to better remember them,
they looked like a row of puckered lips on my arms. when i fell
into his mouth there were no puckers, not that kind of smacking.
i never felt more alive than when i wanted to die, never had
that kind of longing for mechanical motion and tempered teeth.
some people you never see again. there are things just as
permanent as death that are just as effective. i always moved
with the intent of leaving, every hello being a guarantee of
a goodbye, that kind of certainty in duality. the very fact
that you were always there being a promise that you would one
day leave. you broke my breastbone where my heart burst with
the force of its silence. scar tissue sealing my mouth shut.
symptoms of the illness: plastic spine showing
through translucent flesh, pulsating heartbeat
in my mouth, see it flut-flut-fluttering–my
grain is not your grain, it is mine and mine
alone (though i refuse to eat it in the same
way i refuse to eat wheat, grapes, insects,
and pillowcases.) i once saw a man stand up
from his wheelchair after a faith healing on
the television–gelatinous thoughts, my head
like a jello mold where mildew grows–
amputate, amputate they chant–two
scalpels in a cross, an aspergilium dipped
in my blood–the people all raise their hands
as it falls on them and cry out in ecstasy–