the first impulse

the first impulse is to lie, to say it didn’t mean anything.
the second impulse is to hold it like a small mammal against
your chest, something to be protected, quicksilver heartbeat
and a fine hairsbreadth away from being true. the third impulse
tells you to run, cortisol in your body, your body that you let
be opened too quickly with a scalpel made of air and words.
but the first impulse is always to tell the truth about things
lighter than a feather on a scale, heavier than the blackest
swallowing doubt. then the second impulse is to say it meant
everything, everything that could be imbued with meaning when
the strawberry moon is resting on my shoulder. that makes the
third impulse one of collapse, of imminent sleep and dreams
where you tell me the truth but i don’t want to hear it.
the first impulse is to lie. no, the first impulse is to tell
the truth.
always go with your instinct.


i have never learned to play the cello

i have wanted to write a poem about music for months now
but all i have inside is a vague whispering of a bow being pulled
across a cello, maybe a violin. i could once discern between scales
as i drummed mallets across a marimba that was wider than i was tall,
but such things have been forgotten. in a massage parlor in a mall,
the man who speaks silence kneads my back and shoulders but nothing
ever makes me relax. i wake in the mornings with my jaw strung taut
as a stringed instrument, and i know it is not a guitar because my
hands do not like the feeling of wire pressed against the soft pads
of my fingers, of these hands that are so cautious in reaching out
to touch your shoulder like two still images, over and over again,
two photographs in place of words, in place of sound that cannot
be gathered from where it sits at the bottom of my throat.
the first picture, my hand is a small bird made of tin. the second,
rusted wire and a bow i pull across my heart again and again.