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.
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.
a man who used to know me said that
i am not worldly, as i once claimed.
even if i add up all the empty moments,
it still leaves a taste, a richness in my mouth
like the cake i will not eat because i am
terrified of gaining weight, so i stuff down
cigarettes to stave off my hunger, but
the hunger goes deeper and deeper still.
i didn’t fall from heaven. i grew from the
earth beneath the pavement, in cracks
and voids, pushing through, just to see
a bit of sunlight. my hands often have
scrapes and cuts on them and i don’t
remember where they came from–
it is with this same kind of carelessness
that i leave the front door unlocked, but
am not nervous about anyone entering.
and should i be. what will come, will
come, through windows and broken
screens that flap in the breeze in the
hall of my heart. i would devote myself
to the sky but i’m not sure if it would
matter. i am not your angel, and i proved
it to you by leaving, as i have left every-
one before, before they could leave me.
i do these things out of a fear i can’t
pinpoint, out of a vulnerability that i
must cover with earth before anyone
sees what may fruit. these pills are
supposed to balance my brain, but i
am already upside-down and gone
before you even knew i was there.
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.
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.
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.
i am an asterisk on the bed, an aster just picked,
hovering over your shoulder with my hands full
of caveats–the truth is, it was never easier
to lie to myself than when i knew i was right
about how much i wanted to fabricate an alternative
to these days where i don’t belong to myself,
never wanted myself, and yet can’t imagine wanting
anything different. a cluster of stars in the pit
of my stomach that give me heartburn will eventually
die one day and then i’ll be sucked back into myself,
complete in my own vast emptiness. if only all of life
were just a matter of physics–my words just free-fall
back up into my mouth when i try to vomit them out
where the lightness of evisceration is not an illusion.
a brittle-shelled query that can’t be spoken–
i lay down my bucket of ashes, memories i carry
with me everywhere. my heart made of thin smoked
glass is intact, but there are never any guarantees
in the great depth of ambivalence. i hold yellowing
oak leaves in my hands and quake, mimicking a storm
that has yet to pass, and to tell the truth, some-
times i forget why i came here and then when that
happens, i cease to exist for just a moment or two,
right before a hand makes skin-to-skin contact.
these secrets fill up my eyes but i’m too polite
to blink them away, cover my hand with my mouth
(much like that way you used to), to let a trickle
of truth seep out, to tell you that our kind of
love was the kind meant for the fire that burns
me now and leaves behind an oily residue that i
can’t get off the insides of my eyelids. but the
clouds wash me clean again, and in that vaporous
ascent i know that i too will turn to rain again.
i could never be a mailman,
not because i am not a man
but because i could not resist
opening up the packages
addressed to people who weren’t
me–once a box-shaker, always
a box-shaker, and that would be
your new china set, tinkling as
i tossed the package to you,
already torn open. “it’s a bit cheap,”
i’d say in your sister’s voice.
i’d be there in my saggy blue pants
with the latest season on dvd,
saying, “they all die at the end.”
or i’d be on your doorstep
holding out the new waffle maker,
saying in your mother-in-law’s
voice, “you can’t cook anyway.”
the worst would be the heart
i would press into your hand,
saying in your lover’s voice,
“you can have it back. i don’t
need it anymore.”
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.
the weeks pass and i become convinced that my headaches stem
from the quartz crystal i have not cleansed that sits by my
headboard. i run it beneath water, let it catch the sun’s light,
bathe it in the light of the full moon, blow sharply over it
while brushing the tip with my thumb. the headache persists.
i then begin to think that it is caused by those endless hours
spent squirming beneath florescent lights, where i writhe and
twist to try and avoid the giant pin is trying to come down
and stick me in my abdomen so i will stay in place. i throw
out all my needles and call in sick to work but the pressure
inside my head only seems to be getting worse. surely it
must be the humidity, surely it must be the dry air–i vacuum
seal my head in a plastic bag but there is no relief. these
days i can’t tell it the pollutants are coming from outside
where i dug around in the banks of the river or from inside
(which might be more poisonous) or from the radiant glow
coming from my refrigerator. my head is on the verge of
exploding. i think of all the built up rot in my head from
years of watching television and falling prey to a perpetual
game of telephone inside my throat that takes what i mean
and morphs it into something so awkward and alien i can’t
even gather up the guts to say it’s mine. the relentless
gush of memory never stops, i have called the plumber and
they have given me the wrench, i have called the doctors
and they have given me the pills, but nothing seems to work.
and now i’m getting desperate. i want these cycling images
of you to stop. i want to forget the hugs that were always
too tight. you gripped me as though i were something that
might try to get away. i should have told you that i wanted
nothing more than just to stay. now my headache is blinding,
i can’t see your eyes, the color i never could catch because
you never looked me straight in the eyes long enough, not once.
so i pull the chain, listen to the whirr–this won’t hurt a bit.
goddamn field engineers get me every time–
his cheekbones are chiseled and his eyes darker, but there is still
the point where i want to tear him open to see if you are hiding inside,
underneath all that tanned skin and weekend insobriety. i don’t even
know what a field engineer does–only that you go to topeka or omaha
or some other place i only know because a favorite musician is from
there, that you prefer girls with dark hair but that mine is too dark,
that you prefer short thin girls and i was never thin enough–my body
dragged over itself despite the apparently nimble way i could pick
up a dozen library books on the floor in a minute, the way you showed
me how you far up you could jump down from the nonfiction staircase,
the way you turned me with your bright green cat eyes and how i could
swear that when i would see you last november that your english was
less accented and that somehow made me sad. i slept in a cold room next
to yours on a mattress covered with cat’s hair and wished i could at
least see your breath in the air like we were in russia, or cold like
i think russia is all the time. i thought about your lean, hairless chest
while you prepared smoke in a jar for us to share, how we can never go
back there. when the new guy speaks to me i jump in the air, clinging
to the florescent lighting, convinced i have seen a ghost. but ghosts
don’t stick around unless love has been lost, and how can we lose what
we never had?