if this is where i must find you
a ruined footpath in the woods
the edge of a shadow against a
wall of water, a salt-stained shaft
of driftwood, endlessly drifting,
then this is where i will find you,
aggressive as a bird even in dreams.
there was one piper, a clutch of
ducklings that spun apart like a
clove of garlic beneath the thwack
of the blunt edge of the knife, in
a kitchen where the roots were
baking and i did not know how,
i could not tell you why, i never
gave you a copy of that poem.
if this is where i must find you,
then let me find you dead and cold,
with only the feather of the piper
between your palms, on a shore
where i lay scattered as broken
shells, denuded and ever-quenched
in your memory.
she detested the maneuvering and sidestepping that always accompanied
the crossing over the threshold, over into that place that stymied all the thrashings
of her elegantly violent soul. she was a satellite–she sat in the middle of the room
surrounded by glass walls and, when appropriate, pulled out clots of her blood
and tossed them into the wastebasket. no one saw her. but they watched her all
this is how we change–nautilus chamber, spokes of a wheel
some passion i don’t speak about. i see the growth curl, i see
it siphoning water and glory, i see its breath as it breaks through
the gutter and reaches towards the sky–my waist expands rotted
wood and i feel tendrils of myself steadying, then sinking, then
sinking. peat-moss fingers on me–i kiss them as i would the muzzle
of my lover’s gun and dose myself just to be sure–hazy smoke-filled
thought these days leaves me nostalgic for the past and angry about
what happened then, all those wrongs adding, multiplying, staggering
the numbers–just when i think i will tear you key from key you hit
depressed ivory notes and i can feel the terror in them, the quiet
hatred and the laughing crow and the white egret and the great
blue heron all become one sinuous figure in my mind, a summation
of all the greatest parts of my life–a raindrop staining a window that
you turn from when you hear someone call your name down a hall
in a house that is torn bit by ragged bit from my memory, until all
the edges are worn–i remember who has died and who has remained
and wonder who is the better for it. the sunglint is too much–it blinds
me with its radiant angle, its disastrous glare in the rearview of my
youth, and the sparksun becomes a single point of light–i press it
into your hand, then scatter.
returning is not an option. the tide has gone out
and taken all the sea glass that i might draw across
my wrists again and again, singing the song of
not-knowing, the worst of all fears.
the dye runs off my tongue and stains your skin
you look towards the rain-washed window
and i instinctively turn my head,
gazing back at myself, naked as a fresh page
that which will survive, only time can see
that seer indifferent to all the little catastrophes
that make up my heartbeats, my breath–
even the trees will eventually shake me loose.
i have come to this place because i am
no longer the one i once was,
because it is only in dream-space that we
might reveal ourselves and the stars
would not rage in jealousy.
this is where i tell the truth
for the first time in my life.
i was raised by the earth
cast out by the earth
and now am dead
wandering the earth
gathering silt and loam
the crushed abalone
and the green stems
that grow in the furrows
that run along the highway
all thumbs point north–
no, all thumbs point to the sky
and i am sun-blind and weary
with a dessicated dream under my arm.
we were all asymmetrical desire
the earth remembers me not
and i have come to the city
to revoke the rights of those
who haunt me
to return again to the tide
of human flesh
to bring you my brackish words,
so that you, too, might remember
who you tried so hard to be.
she puts a needle-sharp word to my tendon
and my wrist twitches. a few carefully aimed
stabs and i am moving not of my own accord.
she knows how to throw the acid of guilt over
my musculature to make me do what she wants,
how to twist bone just to the point of snapping
how to make me smile and nod, smile and nod
how, at this point, i yearn for strings,
just because it wouldn’t be so painful.
all i want is your love dripping into me like an iv–
people drive by my window, boxed into their little
cars, their big cars, worrying about the origins of
the universe, and hoping that dunkin donuts will
have that cheese bagel twist they want. these days
i think about all of the people i have loved and how
presumptuous it is of me to think i know love, love
in a closed fist, love in a bandage. some damage
the hospital can’t treat. the bonesetter simply looks
at me and sighs, the surgeon puts his gloves on.
even my veins shy away from your love. they get
out the saw, let the acid tabs dissolve. here it comes.
the interstate makes no promises. but this is new haven, and this is providence, and this is boston, and this is love. i wake up too early in the mornings in new jersey, an empty space at my back. shivering in the summer though my small windowless room beneath the stairs is quiet and cool. a profusion of dying flowers in the dining room. lilies are for death, my mother had said. then lilies are for all of life, i thought. the clockhand is a spindle i prick my finger on. come on, i’m waiting.
all i want is to meet the sea as an equal.
when the words don’t come, it’s time to
go hold my head under the water in the
bathtub, break another heart. such things
these days are locusts in my hair. i’ve
learned to flinch at the setting of the sun,
wondering if what they said about me
was true after all. i read my diagnosis again
and again. intense stormy interpersonal
relationships. can’t keep a friend to save
her life. often dates the people who sew
up her wounds. i put the paper down and
blot at my wrist. this kind of seepage was
meant for lovers less than 250 miles apart.
there is no truth other than what lies in my heart.
where were you when the light was gone,
after it had dropped like a stone below
the horizon of my body, that vanishing point
of myself where i was alone. a dip of tonal static
and you might hear my torn voice scratching
at the walls, don’t look at me, my face like
a broken windshield. you wintered in the eaves
of my heart but the spring drove you in search
of more hospitable dwellings. do not under-
estimate the malice of a picket fence when
it pierces your skin, where i fell with scabs
on my back and a dark twist of hair lamenting
its own length as you plucked ingots of tears
from my eyes, beautiful and worthless.
i sit with my back straight out of habit
not learned from school, which didn’t
teach me much except how to fit an
entire sonnet on the toe of my converse
sneaker in sharpie, how to feint & dodge
and faint & be dislodged to finally settle
in my own ire. my knees have been giving
out on me lately, locking like a canal where
i could see myself rise and set in the same
day over and over again, an unearthly clock-
work bound by laws of science which
fascinated the both of us, but we could
spend our lives theorizing about quantum
existence and it wouldn’t really change
anything, not the way we fight or make
love or read about new developments in
technology, which still hasn’t gotten
anything right about love, and probably
i read the same forty books over and over
you didn’t understand how i could get so mired
in words, a fossilized sentence, an endgame
to a paragraph, complete unto itself.
sometimes i laughed and spit out a used word
used wrong, the same way i twist in my perdition,
what i wanted were coals to walk on,
the edge of a pier to stand on,
empty air to try and reach across
to touch your face
some way to show you
how much i loved you
of baby’s breath, i want only the flower
i might have woken up
detached myself from you
like a shadow leaving an object
detached myself from feeling
and remembering what feeling
the rationale lacking
some secret voice inside me
intense, stormy interpersonal relationships
my hips are not meant children
children crawling out of them
children tied to them
children clinging to them
staring up with wide eyes
staring up with nightmares in their eyes
the reflection of their mother in their eyes
i knew this wouldn’t work. you can’t get away
with having your point-five kids because someone
will eventually coming looking for the other half
and they’ll call DYFS when they find the mess
and what of you?
with a kiss, i could send you over the cusp
a whisper of breath to send you over the edge
there would be no coming back, you say.
we can never go back.
we were feathers fused to bone
vaguery you had called poetry
it is these vague words that save me
were i to go insane
would i write more
would i think more
in the space between
the wax of my memory
and the heat of inquiry
did it really happen that way?
two people in a room.
an event occurs:
i slash at the air
and your wrists start to bleed
i slash at myself
and you hold me closer
let me speak plainly:
were it only for a vast stretch of bed
that needed to be filled by my body
i could have stayed forever to fill that space
that emptiness inside each of us
(respectively, of course).
i wake early
you draw me to you
i am drawn
stark stick figure
the moon is a cheshire smile
and i am unmade.
if i am able to tell one truth about myself it is this:
i never felt more complete than when i was completing
you, never wanted anything more than to see joy
suffuse your being with its luminous truth. these pale
words tell only the story of a moon that drifts beneath
your skin, milky radiance. what do i know. i am a bumbling
idiot, skin like a crocodile and lips bee-stung and rouged
tonight i swim in a sea of diamonds
faceted images of pinpricked skin
the sound of the moon upon the window
wakes me, and i follow to the rooftop
and whisper secrets of old memories,
of calm seas and steady winds,
of things yet unspoken in the daylight hours,
of new love and greater beginnings.
the scarlet fish that swims around my
can see out through the pores of my skin
growing and growing
a bulge in my throat that
keeps me from speaking the words
you want to hear
…that madness that lured you to me like an
angler fish from the depths of my memory,
dark, murky, cold.
yet so, so luminous.
this year i must maim memory.
i hold in my lungs the breath
of an entire orchestra, ready
to tell you. but we crumble
like old teeth, and my exhal-
ations are silent. this has
become too much.
nothing is truly sacred here; nothing is truly profane
we turn magpies into martyrs and our fresh carrion idols
glisten in the lamplight like beads of sweat upon your
forehead–even my jocular insufficiencies seem like they
could be used to wipe your pedestal, that marbled glass
that bears witness to the tedium of the day–were it only
for the irises in my hands, your eyes, i could give them
up to the unappeasable gods and pray for blood to water
the soil that will eventually cradle me as softly as the
woman who birthed me did, or at least must have, or at
least–maybe not. my skin turns to parchment that coils
in your hand like origami by any other name, and the
cranes fly into your mouth like a building, shattered.
still tonight she writes with words in water
a curl of blood as lonely as a soliloquy; even
shadow bends away from her light that is more
like a flicker of fiber optics rather than some
constant glow–she lifts lidless eyes to the moon
and asks for guidance but tonight the sky is full
of faraway answers that stray into questions dark
as eyelashes and full as the bathtub she stands
in, and each time she bends to scrub her skin
the water sinks into the drain and back again
where the starkness of a candle flame betrays
her in its hurricane lamp–she is left between
a memory and a moment, an evaporating stare,
a graceless hand and a fistful of air.