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so there you have it, Jack…
my desire and my withholding.
what I can and cannot give.
I don’t know how to love, she whispers to me from across the table. It was
the beginning of Spring and little flowers were starting to pop up in the strangest
places. Lifting the sheet this morning, I found a cluster of rosebuds growing on
my right thigh.
She continues, When I was only three weeks old, my mother gave me away to
another family. She looks like a crushed bee. They were almost hippies, this
family, only they dressed better. I can’t remember my mother’s face …
I begin to feel bored. Why did she give you away? Looking at her pale face,
she reminds me of a calla lily. The couple at the next table bicker over the
remaining crème brûlée.
The waiter brings our ginger teas. I bite into my blueberry scone. They wanted a
boy I suppose. I think about myself. Is that what my mother wanted?
We abruptly change the subject and go back to talking about our screenplays
and our lousy boyfriends.
Right away there’s thinking. Right away.
No matter how much I want my face to moon
with no contortion, leave all talk to voiceovers.
Hands take after purrs. Nicknames remind us
mostly of the fun inventing them. Every beach
fire is a kind of desperate flag. Cops pull over a
riding lawnmower, and the man won’t turn it off.
We walk the dike that crosses I-91. Headlights
pan like reasons. We’re keeping warm. Cars aren’t
fireflies, which is not even how I feel. “Funny isn’t
the same as being happy,” I tell you. Duh. Neither is
that. A family of tiny arsonists live in burned out
delivery trucks behind your neck. They are your
bad pillow. Hands wobble. It’s never been infinity
with me. Infinity is something I can fist bump.
It’s more like when I chew the top off a lightbulb,
and there’s no blob of light to hold. Carry. Get
close. Let me eat your eyelash like a mission.
If we plant it in a divot on my cheek, maybe I’ll
grow your love of coats. The lay of your wrist
when you’re tired. What plays in your head after
you gnaw my finger, look at me, teething the skin like
wrapping paper you want to save for next Christmas.
Sometimes I know that I don’t know what’s going to happen
next, but I know exactly who I’m going to be with when it
does. This feeling is called kiss me. This feeling is called hi.
But maybe you’re not thinking of anything. I’ve thought
about that. We’re on a hillside. Night grass. Grass face.
And the sky is clear enough to see exactly how you feel.
My friend, I went to your stupid mine,
carried in obligation’s very hot mitten.
Everything was ticked as Gift, Scar, or Luck.
The new parasail made you look post-history,
as we do feel, or feel-ish, long enough to
fuck up. I did that eyebrows thing like good job.
Then we stood on the roof, years of stilt training
between us. We chewed Sudafeds and ham, chuckled at
by all: all that passes for beloved these days.
Why is cake in the shape of a rocket not
you? Someone wants to draw your face and I say
ransom. When my friend makes a good joke,
my other friends are in the shower distantly,
as the minutes of the sun left wait to be
picked for the dodgeball of sentiment.
Half the time I feel like U.S.S. Bitchface,
and all the people line up to pet me. Other-
wise, I cut burritos with a pizza slicer and you
laugh and I think “if that is your real laugh,
go to sleep. I want to steal it. Don’t go.”
Most of my time is spent displacing want.
In some of it, the water heater’s bugged.
When I turn my face under the cold kind,
what I’m trying to do is divorce my head.
I am most proud of my existential friends
and secretly embarrassed by sweet weather.
We follow the road back to the missed exit.
That is the worst mood I can think of.
My moments of inward congratulation are
offset by meals alone in pants I really like.
There is a harmonica under the river.
There is the time we kiss our own wrist.
Now I have talked my way through dawn
and then some, hot up with promises.
No longer do I pack my own face towel.
Trust lives by its own impossibility.
One girl sat in the shopping cart, almost
asleep. Her friend didn’t know what to say.
There are things you keep dust off.
There is no way to explain this.
What they don’t tell you about God
is that it waits for one kind of laughter
to appear in two people at once.
This has never happened. Wait.
Downstream stood another set of bathers.
We felt like someone was writing a song.
Give me something to give into.
It will be weird. It will be so weird.
That’s us in the satellite photographs,
in flagrante delicto through the atmosphere.
You can tell by the tattoos: starfish ashore on your ankle,
daggered Ace of Spades bloodless on my shoulder blade.
You’re pressing your knuckles to my vestigial tailbone.
I’m saying something urgent to your jugular vein.
See: that pile’s what we wore that day: your mismatched lingerie,
my NASA boxer shorts and T-shirt with wine stains.
It seems, at least, we’ve bathed, but the soles of my feet
shine with calluses. Your toenail polish has flaked.
Thank gravy we’re not wearing outfits, or, heavens,
playing Prison Escape. By the sunlight on our bodies,
it’s neither early nor late. Something shadows my face.
Your eyes are closed. You’ve made a cradle of your legs.
Excuse me. You’ve parked in the towaway zone of
my confidence. Until I’m archaic I’m attachable.
To covert wars with your black underwear.
To a rain that makes duct tape out of May.
The Me as Lincoln logs with feelings: solder
resin. Think of my picture open in Photoshop.
When feelings are easy—but then I’m in a
bus on the Hudson Expressway with a peeled
roof. Choke on my granola bar. Shaving kit
spills down the aisle. Mexican priest with a
gash and moans. A man holds a bushel of his wet
hair, bloody, rolls it up in a Snickers wrapper
and leans out the wreck’s window to smoke it.
“This is an induction of a crash!” I tell my
court reporters, my career in tastes, my how-
itzers of pantyhose and yellow dresses in the
night. Some of you I’ve given perfect games.
Or seared a wink in cinnamon, honey, cinnamon,
for a great supper on TV trays with sex too.
I don’t want a song vendor beside my turnoff.
I don’t want a ride to the hospital, thanks.
The guests I love have done my dishes for me.
If you want to know whether I’m in love with you,
put an olive in a bowl of Dr. Pepper, put a blue
berry in an even larger bowl of coffee. Sodium
floats, bonds ceaselessly, shudders up against
pilgrims on the beach and mixes with the salt
they’ve brought. This started with you inside
me, which is something I’d like in a tinkle box.
I called you up because I almost died almost
significantly, and isn’t there anyone to vouch
for the pennies I’ve spilled under the pillow?
When I die, haul a mattress to the quarry, wet
sheets, then please make it up like I just rose.
If anyone can do this, it’s you. Congratulations.
Warm slipperiness of us in the car’s backseat
hot July afternoon coming home and we cannot wait
for bed’s winding sheet and mirror’s last glance before we fall.
Instead we have each other smelling of coconut lotion,
spangled with sand and salt crystals, wild wind-styled hair,
bathing suits still damp, still cooling our bodies.
White cotton shirt ties arms entangled in a hurry,
the light and dark of us tanned and not,
worn like smooth and seamless suits, marks that never leave
our skin, necks salty and offered, the back of this field
haven enough for this whirl of us in a moment of surrender
we practice like children with a white flag.
Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.
Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.
Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgiveable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.
Spend every cent on my final expenses:
fireworks and rock bands, one fur-lined coffin
for each card in my wallet, truckloads of snacks:
nacho chips and Chuckles, your Ring Dings and Corn Nuts.
Tattoo labels on my eyelids, one per:
Never Better or Miss You. Outline the skeleton
along my skin with black-light ink, Latin names
in cursive script. Finance a student film
of my libretto, contralto, from beyond the grave,
beyond the range of human hearing, twenty-four hours
of “Race car, race car, race car” backwards fast.
Fly a TV-special magician and whatever assistants
right here. Hire them at any cost to cut me in half
for real and make those pieces disappear.