Posts tagged: 365
Eighteen came at me like a blade
or a needle. I arrived at your apartment
in a nightgown. It was still almost summer,
warm enough to wander barefoot.
The pair of us, psych ward
salt and pepper shakers.
You lived in the Midas room.
Each bulb on the string of white lights
hand-colored yellow with Sharpie, a mania
precious enough to preserve. Twenty-four
came over you slow, like too much
champagne. The mess was nothing
you couldn’t hide under that pristine bed
with the mustard blanket, or behind
the bleak altar crowned with
its spare vase of poppies.
Just like a teenager,
I crushed on that melancholy
year, your striped socks, the cigarette
we cut in the yard.
We exchanged names, laughing
at the way depression had come
conveniently into fashion. The dancers
bubbled through your living room naked
as late September sunrise. An apt party.
Your absent smile was impossibly hip.
My shaved head got rave reviews.
I worry you
into song like a violin’s unmarked neck,
tenor too taught to rest, shake of a blue bottle
fly shedding its old
case. This, the skin I wear
to meet strangers, without bruise,
bloodless, behaving. Lies
unravel on my tongue, sugar cubes
losing their corners.
I am dyed rubies, slice
of some cave’s cheek, my voice a rope
scarring gloveless hands.
My pictures are Polaroid
in the top drawer of a desk:
ass up on the unmade bed
reading some glossy, glancing
over my shoulder, sure.
Film as unstable as widow’s web.
I found yours in the Vice
a night vision crime
scene, your breasts
the pane of a Xerox
machine, your mouth
a green-gray smear
across fourteen pages.
When I am alone
in front of the mirror
I wonder at what might be lost—
if someone could carve that full
white curve from me and can it,
an unwilling ghost.
The moon’s been keeping me up at night. Everyone says it’s stayed big for too many days. No wax or wane, just a bowl of spotty milk after all the cereal’s gone. It must be waiting for something. I decided to follow it. I watched for the streetlights coming on, then walked into the woods without shoes. The twig and pine needle carpet gave without snapping. Milky light had softened every patch of ground it touched. A smell of spoil hooked my nose and I ran for it, chasing the swollen moon’s face like a ripple following its brother. I nearly tripped over the scent, stubbing my toe on a smooth stone near its eye. A shark in the middle of the woods. Hours from the sea. The moon had dragged it here like a tide. I’d interrupted a strange burial, swatting the flies as they tried to pay their respects. “How could you moon?” I asked. But a face so far away can never offer answers. I stroked the fish’s still snout and sang a little tuneless thing. Covered the body in damp leaves and left. A nightmare is still a nightmare, especially with the lights on.
I wanted him gone
hard and bright as a struck match.
The kind death afforded
by steel. A car crash or bullet
in lieu of that coward needle.
When the heart is weak, it goes to war
with itself. I fuck hoping
pleasure will push the grief
from my body, let me sleep easy.
But the dreams set me walking:
my father, a silent film, now mute
of his stories. The last man
who gave me flowers will never meet
the first. I run a length of tiled hallway
to find the machines choking them both,
my love strangled by efforts to save it.
My eyes fall out of my head. I turn over.
We collect crabs from the tide line
and my father says, “Don’t stay.” I turn over.
I collapse at my own wedding. I find six wax-white mummies
beneath the pear trees, one for each death’s visitation.
I cut off a finger and bury it at sea.
I wake up alone, every time. Draw a bath of warpaint.
I want an accident, electric, instant.
This slow swell feels nothing like dignity.
When the meltdown came, it smelled red. Smoke the color of thunder. The sirens are teaching me. This is how to panic before you’ve met truth. Miscarry a summer. The blood clots. My sisters and I tangle like weeds in this heat. We’re getting bad at the business of belief. Our stomachs swollen empty. I caught the last goose in the shallows. Her feathers came off in my hand. Her children, capsized and bleeding. We didn’t eat her. I found her new eggs, like pearls. Perfect white eyes rolled back. They’re buried now. If the chicks ever hatch, they are already dead.
If they ask for the story
I will tell them this:
the orange tornado
sky over my very own
chain-link sand lot
and how the fast lane
just beyond the neighbor’s
yard sounds like rain fall
and the year of trading food stamps
for beer and the creature of blood
I found in my bed Monday morning
and how I gave birth to a fishhook
and the sun shines warmer here
alongside the ocean and there was fog
spread across the New Haven highway
thick as sap on your palms and we ate
King of Spain chicken the first fickle
afternoon of spring, grilled it before
the rain came in sounding like traffic
and I’ve not had a yard with a tree
since the pears stopped growing
so I try to be kind to the bugger
that makes it hard to back out my car
and the upstairs folks walk like elephants
somersault in the womb and their arguments
never take naps and there is a stain on my bed
from the first night I slept here
without my favorite sweater
and I keep wishing the weeks would collapse
into smaller units of time so we could grow
old together before the commuter train came
to carry you back to the city I can
never afford to love.
The room, emptied
of all contents,
has my dreaming
of ghosts. A past lover
builds a statuary
in my sleep. My busy
eyelids pray there.
When I wake, I feel
a traitor to my own skin.
The flesh gave up
that flickering night
when he would not tell me
how his mother died
or that she was even gone
though I’d found her treasured
absence in his every closed-
The horizon sits
unflinching before us
like a dare: if we could
upend the sky, it all
might drip golden forever.
So we started making plans.
When the sea ate Danny Williams
no one saw. The town went looking,
a search party of wrung hands,
but they only turned up his shaving case.
Adrift among the brushes and blades,
bottles of pills not bearing his name.
Lacking a body, the story dead-ended.
The newspapers printed his car’s picture:
the sedan waited on the cliff like a dog
mourning his drowned master.
How still the street
when it feels
it’s been recognized.
How I’ve betrayed
belonging once a year
with this mountain of hope
that straddling some fresh
threshold will change
the rise and fall of the sun.
All the books are packed away,
the first to go. The dishes,
all laid out on the kitchen table,
chipped and eager. Rain splashes
through the window screen. I am stuck.
The typewriter ribbon has rusted
to its spools, a thick white film growing
around the machine’s teeth. My hands fail
me here, so close to the end of this house.
A shark beached itself
just down the dunes
from the summer place.
I caught a glimpse
of the thrash from the patio
and ran to it—the poor,
blunt death took hours.
I could not leave the beast,
though it snapped those teeth
that looked like rows of opera
house seating, a stadium of silence.
When the gills moved only
for the breeze, I pressed a hand
to its flank for the final shudder.
The rain ran red
after the house was taken,
a stain slipping down
the shingles. The gutters
could not hold the color.
They slept all night
with their mouths open.
The storm painted the robins
blush, gave the woodpeckers
their hats. The trees were up to their knees
in it. The sky and its slumber had a knife fight.
A dream carved night out of the dark
with the moon’s sharp crescent.
The water just kept falling,
painting the world the color of closed
eyes and sun. That sun rose. The yard,
bloodshot. Even the lilacs
that summer came up crimson.
I brought the picnic
basket to your city.
We found the very last
patch of grass
untrampled and lay
down. Made a fort
with the blanket,
a shadow puppet
theater. The daffodils
clapped for the slapstick.
We drank champagne.
Could not be seen.
You kissed my temple;
I squeezed your elbow.
A choir of mourning
doves chased our crumbs
on the lawn. You carried
me and the basket home
at twilight. We lay down
on your clean sheets,
made a fort with the blanket,
smiled at the lightning snap
of static between our rumpled
clothes. Took them off.