i. open up like a moon-blooming flower
crossing statelines at midnight, i picked up a guy who told me
that if you eat enough marigolds, you turn into the sun, hovering
above an ocean that gleams like the sweat-soaked small of a back
where we could hear the chanting of om off in the distance
like the moment between dreaming and waking.
ii. fuck like phospherescence
it’s okay, you can hurt me, i want to tell him. he cups
my chin in his hands like an egg in a spoon. he kisses me and his
eyes are the color of lit televisions. he would never hurt me.
i graffiti myself on the ceiling afterwards, a glow-in-the-dark
picture of what could have been.
iii. close the world like a light
i will fold my hands into a brown bird to create an eclipse that will
shadow your heart, and feed you marigolds that will still shine
in the darkness. we will craft our own hallucinations out of glowing
filaments of loneliness and find each other there at the edge
of the world, keeping our eyes open as we fall into the universe.
my heart hangs on display in the window between
a magnifying glass where one might see the soul
of man and a telescope where one might see his
lust, in this relic shop where he lies asleep in his
chair, pale and perfect, tattoo-whorled like a
murano vase, sharp-tongued like broken china.
my hands, grasping permanently at nothing, hang
beside the browning muscle. next to them, a sign:
these have touched gods.
his heart is like a conch shell. blow in it
and the whole ocean reverberates. i find
his current and immerse in tidal flow that
spills from his mouth. the sea is frozen in
rapture. he blows a tradewind over my
skin, leaving salt-smell and sand in my bed,
a fan-shell beneath my tongue.
we don’t play Legos
instead we play with people
hearts come crashing down
i am an apparition in your dreamless mind. clouds
drip, saturated with memory and you pull your hood
up, blink your eyes that are the color of television
glow at 3am, when you lie awake in bed with thoughts
that loop like a bad techno beat. i am the many-
faceted diamond of your insomnia and i cut away
at the basalt of your heart to find lava on the inside.
sleep finally comes like a power grid black-out. i blow
you a kiss. you will wake with a bruise on your face
in the morning.
the sea was not a dumb stone
its soft moan called to me here
on the shore with heavy heart
the water will part, oh seer
under the stars, glimmering
light shimmering in the night
nothing more than the stark sea
adrift and free, soul apart.
it could have been worse, you say. you could have
been sucking on the remote trying to taste milk
while the channels flicker somewhere between a
horror matinee and a sitcom. building sculptures
of what your life was supposed to look like out
of wooden blocks and bendable wire, you turn
the dial in the middle of your mother’s face and
fall asleep listening to her sing softly in static.
drowning was something we could own.
we were children staring through the grates
from the top of the lighthouse, reaching out
to touch a horizon so flat we could draw a line
against it but our pencils would never reach
far enough. we breathed in the tang of ocean
air but wanted salt in our lungs instead, for our
boots to become so water-logged that they
would just slip off our feet and we could kick
away into safety. as we grew older we realized
just how hard it was to hold our heads under
the water long enough. how bodies betray. how
we were left with nothing but sand in our mouths.
she was a garbled transmission being spit out
into an indifferent sky. she blinked out morse
code but everyone was always looking the wrong
way. faces turned like satellites to false moons.
the louder she talked, the more static produced
reverse effects were caused by the humming
electrical lines, her heart an interference. no one
could unscramble the thumping signals beating
out of her chest. his radio was turned off anyway.
random acts of love, like random acts of kindness,
usually have the best intentions but most often you’re
just left with a smear on your hand where there used
to be a phone number, an empty lighter and an std.
in an attempt to put a face to the faceless you went
blind. but it’s always been like that. since you can
remember, every attempt to hit resonance has failed.
it’s like how the singers of love songs know that always
is just a relative term–i’ll always love you–
and then the song ends and there is no applause.
disappointment like the stickiness below your feet
in so many bars. you stumble out into the street filmy
and tainted, invisible fingerprints on your skin. they will
reappear in the morning, purple and black. you will be
found dead with twilight skin. they will photograph the
evisceration of your soul. file you in a folder that says
just like everybody else.
the airplane’s going down and we’re breathing into each
other’s mouths, trace amounts of oxygen in exhalations.
i want to punch through to your heart, inject it, love like
epinephrine. you don’t like needles so i keep mine hidden
under my tongue. save the moment for something worth
saving, and this is, i whisper to you as the hydraulics fail.
your mind is a black box, indestructible, holding secrets
that they’ll only find after we die. we are flightless kiwis
who dream of the sky. cloud cover can try to hide desire,
but this free-fall will last forever and we’re bound to be
revealed eventually. kiss me again, i am dizzy with dropping
pressure and if this goes on long enough, we’ll be swimming
through the air inside the cabin, astronaut imitations, where
we can’t tell which is spinning, the world or us.
the reductionist view of love says that if you have
a heart in your hands you should eat it. he followed
directions and ate it raw, and i had a strange warm
sensation in my chest as i watched him swallow,
a consumption that felt oddly familiar, as if i’d been
through this before, as if my chest were a tree that
kept dropping off hearts to be eaten in a leisurely
manner. we remember ourselves through stories
of desire bitten and lost. i strike a match to burn
the orchard. you mix the ash with tears to make
fertilizer, he says. he shows me how to do it.
but even that will be forgotten. now i plant saplings
in the empty space in the cavity, pray for a good rain.
if it were only the machinations of sound tinkered with,
meant to form words riddled with cipher and code, the
sea might relent and lovingly rust salt-crusted syllables
instead of filling the engine with the watered oil of age.
there are never any guarantees that words murmured
in the dark reach the ears of the intended anyway.
we never say what we mean to say and if the ocean
splashing in through the window doesn’t wake us up,
then the suction of sand at the tide mark will. something
slow to speed us up, our bodies water-logged with the
threat of growing wrinkled before the dawn comes, of
granular hieroglyphics traced on our foreheads, racing
the darkness on slashed tires, already marked by the sea.
purgatory was a spot to be avoided by anything
living that had sense, the oil seeping up
through a fissure a thousand feet down.
we had been out there for two months.
at night we would eat barnacles on metal
catwalks, swinging our legs and talking
about what we would do when we got back
to the mainland. if you spoke too softly you
wouldn’t be heard over the waves, if you spoke
too loudly, the whole rig would start to groan.
every day a little more rust would appear
where the water slapped against the supports.
we sat in silence when we ran out of things to say,
listening to the ocean thrumming below us.
we are here
with no defense
waves and amplitudes
cresting in our bodies
the wind is shifty tonight
my hand seeks yours, finds only sand
we sprinkle tea leaves in the ocean
i look to find your blue eyes have bled brown
the lighthouse searches and finds nothing
invisible ships creep closer
i drink from your irises,
finally find your hand
feeling a swell rise.
the morning’s tide
will wash the
sometimes they steal pieces of your skin afterwards,
make bookmarks out of you, stretch you into lamp shades.
some of them don’t even realize what they’re doing,
wake up one morning to admire the wallpaper they
didn’t know they had. there is a piece of you in every
bedroom in every apartment, turned anonymous and
functional. they turn your tattoos into decorative doilies,
your back (once caressed in the half-light) into a placemat
where they eat at a table that used to be set for two.
you wake up one morning missing a few inches of calf
and know they’re just patching up a pair of pants,
smoothing out the old fingerprints, snipping with care
they never showed you in the first place. soon you will
be nothing but exposed muscle, a switchboard of breathing
raw nerves. press here and you will raise your empty hands,
press here and your heart will explode over and over again.
i ask that you remove your shoes before entering my dreams,
i ask that you enter on your knees, i ask that i am allowed to
search your mouth with my fingers first to make sure you are
not carrying any weapons. i feel for razored words hidden
behind your teeth, but your tongue is thick with silence.
i step back, let you in. i didn’t ask for yellow roses but i
got them anyway. i wanted red. i give you snapdragons in
return. mud clings to the edges of your jeans and the carpet
is ruined anyway. but you can’t get very far running barefoot.
i hide your shoes, smile wide, put the flowers in a vase.
but my heart didn’t come with an owner’s manual.
words are like triggered airbags that will only break
my neck, and if i sail through the windshield clear
of the wreck i’d be lucky. something you can’t look
away from no matter how hard you try. over the
squeal of the brakes i thought i heard you say we’re
going straight to hell for that hit-and-run. splayed
out in the middle of the road, a stray ventricle,
a bleeding intention.
you would make an ugly flowerpot and i am nothing
but burnished hope and unintelligible transmissions
through swimming pool water. there is no raincheck
for desire. i am severing the bungee of devotion, but
all i’ve got is the edge of a coin handled by too many
people. the dirt under our fingernails is proof we tried
to dig ourselves out, but i choked on peet and gave up.
so i settled for pulling out my molars because i was tired
of the daily grind. i am as bold as sumatra this morning
and we are driving into the dawn so you can fly into the
sunset. i bless you with egg shell and coffee grounds.
i will not see you for two weeks. (maybe longer.)
Don’t make the mistake of sitting dead in the cold ashes of a withered tree.
a wind will blow but the ash will remain
trunk turned gray, leafless with old wounds
in petrified bark. to be seated beneath the
tree is to know what was once held aloft in
green branches. as a sapling it dreamed.
but now there are only exposed roots, brittle
like sea stars, dead deposits of bitter want.
naked in a wind that never stops blowing are
secrets of a lust older than silvered willows.
the tree rattles a story of wishing gone
wasted. finger dipped in ash, a smudge across
your forehead, and still you sit.