he kisses the girl
shoots the bad guy
sometimes there is even
a shocking revelation
i begin to think that
there must be something in that scene
that is worth picking apart.
we’d talk about it afterwards
unravel plot while lacing fingers
talk about your next break
you wanted to be unforgettable,
every word deliberate,
to utter something quotable on a friday night.
i remember the carp in the pool in the lobby,
the bouquet of white flowers, the view of the skyline,
what you smelled like under all that cologne
when you hit me across the face, then fucked me
stars finally dancing around your face.
surely there is something in that scene
that is worth picking apart.
at the pharmacy, i waited at the counter
feeling like i had something to explain
some excuse for being there
at the threshold of the door
where you signal me
to be silent,
that this was the part where i die
the applause is thunderous.
how do i explain all the lost time, the mornings
spent sitting motionless when i should have been
exploding like a star, throwing light in all directions,
crippled by inertia and the thought that no one may
ever forgive me, ever, and that i am still that same girl
from fifteen years ago, slinging blood and hate and pills
and we like our memories shaken, not stirred
but the trees have already dropped their acorns of ire
and my skin is studded with seeds that grow too fast.
my lighter is empty but i still have a box of matches.
i used to climb trees trying to be closer to the sun,
but it was just the reflection from the airplanes.
a satellite emerges from my head but the signal is lost
and i used to think freewheeling was fun, but now i’m
nauseous with regret and the downhill doesn’t stop
until you hit a tree limb the ghosts of some teenage
kids left in the street. all those things i never told you
are sealed behind the flesh that has grown over my mouth
and instead flood forth from my eyes, bathtubs flowing over
the porcelain lip of reason. i was supposed to be past all this,
i was supposed to be all growth like the lushest rainforest,
my brain a well-tended garden, my heart a conifer that never
would brown, and i would try to reframe this all,
but i have already dropped the match.
where was i supposed to be
somewhere within that light
deep inside your heart
a forgotten place, but one
of my own making.
these days i can hardly pick
up the phone without feeling
like atlas, my shoulders gone
gray and heavy.
i shudder and sputter
in a twist of lingering fragrance
from the blood orange mist
squeezed out from between
your hands your lips
as you reach for me.
maybe i don’t pursue close
friendships these days
because i just want to
remember you as you were,
as we were,
before i ruin anything.
my heart is full of general love–
isn’t that enough?
i’d hug you but it would first
to put down the world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
unearth the sky
rounded cataclysm of sound
volcanoes of cloud
buried in the virgin’s veil
pricked by starlight
slow migrations of rain
if it were not for the dew
or the contiguous sea and air
a birth of a horizon
a sundering of recollection
i do not remember before you,
only that the dew gathers at your earlobe
and the hummingbirds unfurl their tongues
for a taste
and i fold into the dusk
awake beside you
making and remaking whole worlds
silent as all of them.
in the wet light it is hard to distinguish between the aspen and the sycamore
my skin becomes mottled like the tree bark, hot to the touch as if summer sun
shone upon it–i remember afternoons in the chess garden, where someone had written
on the black and white tile, the incense stick lodged between the paving stones–
all becomes light and air when i think of the trees reaching, bare-branching, into
the sky, and how we mimicked them with our bodies, stretch-stretching to the side,
first to the right, then to the left. we made our own language, made our own world,
laureled our own deities that had the faces of tree knots and a bunch of three
hibiscus flowers that you so lovingly tended. i sat in the passenger seat of your
car lulled to sleepiness by the movement of the car, the way my mother used to
drive me around the block when i was a child until i finally fell asleep, finally
slipping off the precipice of consciousness to land pillow-soft among the birch
branches. now i stand beneath a circle of sky and feel you in the migrations of
birds, the falling of leaves, the snow edging the evergreens, the knowledge that
even the trees do not live life passively. and the pinpricks of light in the canvas
of night shine for us as we rise to meet them.
flooding up to my forehead
where my third eye cries
the deluge of desire
the silt of stillness
in a place where the sun
hazes over and hides
pain pills, pain pulls
i am a swamp that swallows
memory that means nothing–
give me meaning that matters
the gift of guilt
do you construe my confusion
as anything other than
what is already inside me?