you’ll only see me if you blink. i move so slow you could close
your eyes for whole minutes, open them, and i’d still be there,
winding wire around your heart. blink twice because peripheral
vision is not to be trusted, or maybe you just have something
in your eye. i don’t know if she was winking at me or just had
dirt in her eye. i’d bet on the dirt. blink and wiggle your–(ah,
you thought i’d say something else)–nose and i’ll call you genie.
i’ll shove you down into that lamp and never let you out. winkin’
and nod got along fine, but blinkin’ was always the one putting
the cement in their bed. when it hardens you stay asleep forever.
dry-eye syndrome just means you get to see more ghosts. your
cynicism took your tear ducts away a long time ago. you blink
but you cannot cry. you’re an adult now. now you’re old. you’ll
go blind and i’ll say i told you so.
your shape is an illusion, i know not what holds you, what you hold cupped inside. i slake my thirst with my own blood that is carried in this unerring vessel like a punctuation mark so carefully placed, so esteemed in its rendering. the moon might hold you but you would balk at even that like a calf, though you are aging and even the skin of your upper arm will soon have the texture of a deflated basketball, worried by the sun, who envies the moon for its ability to hold without scalding. at the crown of my head you can find a chakra and you may keep it, i have others. i suddenly feel off-balance but i blame it on the lithium, this glorious thirst that never goes away. you glare at me so and the moon falls into shadow in sympathy. you are the shape of all things to come, i tell you after you wheedle me for a while. this pleases you. so i am also the shape of you? you ask. i don’t know how to answer this. i don’t know how to tell you that you are the sun, evaporating all liquid from the terrain, that i must extinguish you before you take away all that is left for me, even if it means sacrificing the moon, too.
i want to whisper in her ear
i have seen your boyfriend naked
but i don’t because they just look
so damn beautiful together
why ruin a good thing. the table is covered with linen and we all look so nice in our sweaters and it’s been so long since i’ve seen you. the chiming glasses are filled with dark wine that would make a terrible stain on the carpet. we talk about the snow and people we know who are less successful than we are. cigarettes are lit on the balcony, where our breath comes in plumes that seem to crystallize in the night air, and she comes up behind you and slides her arm around your waist and i look away towards the lights of the city, which is filled with millions of people just like you and me, people who might have once had a shot at it, but that all happened a long time ago and we are not the same people we used to be, but i still wonder who we were back then, who we are now. she laughs at some lame joke i make and gives me a hug, then goes back inside to the warmth and portishead on the stereo, it could be sweet… drifting out through the half-open door now fogged with condensation.
i want to whisper in her ear
i have seen your husband naked
but i don’t because she’ll discover
his ugliness soon enough.
you incubate inside me. or i thought you did, but you were really just unfertilized, waiting for my mouth to take you in. i settle over you to keep you warm through the chilly nights. you settle over me like layer after layer of plastic wrap. we lay next to each other, cold. suffocating. i want you to turn the light off but then i won’t be able to see what you do with your hands. what they will be holding: a knife, a hammer, a frying pan. make me a story. make me a story of a girl and a boy where only one of them falls in love and you have to guess which one. skip to the last page. i think of hearts being factory-farmed, each one reduced to a matter of expendiency, which heart is the biggest, which heart has the richest yolk. which can be digested most easily. this is not the story i wanted to tell, but what happens, happens, or does it? put my heart in a carton but close it, don’t say it’s cracked. we lay in bed and our bodies are perfect in their unblemished whiteness beneath the fluorescent lamp. i want you to turn off the light. we lay there silent, thin-shelled and so easily broken. you don’t turn off the light.
this october night finds me lucid and sober, and by sober
i mean i haven’t taken the benzos yet. i could write you
a pharmaceutical history but it just begins to repeat over
and over, the way the pills sometimes repeat in my throat,
along with so many other hard foreign objects. sometimes
when i stand in the shower i open my mouth and try to inhale,
as if through drowning, i could relearn how to breath again.
what do you do in the shower?
–stands in the shower so long my heart starts to pucker
dear stands in the shower so long your heart starts to pucker:
i am glad for your sobriety, and yes, the days pass in such a blur!
i’m not sure what a ‘benzos’ is but i’m sure you’re a nice girl too
and did you ever think that maybe you ought to transfer
all that negativity? when you cry you should wear a raincoat!
here is a pamphlet where you can teach yourself and others
the heimlich manuever. thank you so much for sending me mail!
i always make sure to wash behind my ears and could send
you a sample of soap that smells of lavender!
it doesn’t really matter now, whether i remember your eyes as black or as
brown, just like it now doesn’t matter how white your neck looked beneath
the dark blue sheets or how your chest glossed with hair tickled my nose,
or whether you smoked all my cigarettes, or whether you loved me or just
had this thing about being alone. and who i was to fault you, i knew what
it was like to be in the middle of summer watching the fireworks all by
yourself and secretly hoping one of them would be fired right into your
gut, your chest, your mouth. my heartbeat was in your mouth, always in
your mouth, firm and red, red like sparklers and roman candles. and i
always knew just how to set you off. but nobody talks about the ash after,
the ash that falls from the sky after the lights are gone, that settles in
your eyelashes, this dirty snow that falls during a memory that always
ends abruptly after a sparkling vermilion flash brighter, in that instant,
than the surrounding stars. and gone just as quickly.
85,967 miles and i need an oil change.
i remembered you the way i remembered freezing
when another car rounded the corner,
my hands still locked around the back of your neck
if you’re patient you’ll become familiar with
the backseats of cars. sometimes we didn’t even wait
that long. gearshift digging into my calf.
pick an empty street.
they can actually give you a ticket for that.
(he didn’t even need a ticket to get in.)
the green audi, the red solara.
the silver honda, the black honda.
i need an oil change.
when my mother was in college a girl she knew
turned the car on in the garage and ran a pipe
into the interior.
she didn’t drive anymore after that.
and the oil light’s still on.
the guy at the valvoline station laughs when
he sees my car pull up. he leers at me as he checks
off all the things i need to get serviced.
they don’t teach girls to negotiate things like that.
so i keep pushing the car the way i push myself–
relentless, without mercy,
always in such a rush to get somewhere.
i need the light to change.
i need my battery changed.
i need a goddamn oil change.
i need a change.
i am the smudged phone number on the back of your hand
i am the phone that rings and never leaves a voicemail
i am the one who never requests but always demands
i am building a cross on the hillcrest, and i am the nail
through your palm. there used to exist a requisite
goodnight kiss, they were always goodbye kisses,
when it was the hello that was always the culprit
that incited the riot of hands and mouths that missed
the mark when it came to saying what we really meant
and fingertip to fingertip, we tried to send signals
to each other’s brains that never really got sent
quite the way we wanted, always garbled, and it pulls
at my heart like the static electricity of thunder,
or maybe just hands trying to pull me under.
wooden boxes, styrofoam filling, most of the pieces are there:
we take count once again and then sign off on the shipment
the truck rumbles off into the night, past the cinderblock
walls, past the barbed wire, and we motion for the packages
to be lifted and brought into the compound. spread out on
the tables inside, they look so fragile, so so red–these
organs that we trade for, this business of ventricle & aorta,
the arms race of the heart. we separate them out, discard
the bad ones–the ones turned brown and dried out, the ones
that have already been through too much heartbreak, the ones
too scarred or the ones that give too easily when touched,
rotten. we work quickly and efficiently. we plant them
in people’s cars, in the elevators, in their briefcases.
we put them beneath the pillows of sleeping post-adolescents
who still haven’t gotten it yet, who still don’t know how
to love. and we always, always leave the wounded behind.