It Isn’t Over Yet

"The past isn't dead. It isn't even in the past." 
-- William Faulkner


The past should go away, but it doesn't.
Even if you try to throw it out
with all my perfect cursive notes 
and the white IKEA furniture. There is still 
the insomnia and a few mottled bruises 
on the inside of your sternum. 
You once told me there was no such thing
as a heartache, so now I feel no obligation
to resolve anything. 

The past should go away, but how can it? 
Once I went hunting for your loneliness,
and I found it,
my round breath sewing loops
right through you.

Everything that happened
is still happening and happening.

The past should go away, but instead 
it waits for you, motionless,
like a flood at the bottom 
of your basement steps.

You. You breathed out like a map.
You said worship; you meant it.

The past is merciless, fills 
every recess of a heart;
fills all the holes in the sky
where there should be stars. 

The past should go away, but it follows you home
like a starving junkyard dog
with something dead in its mouth.
Haunts you. Looks like you:
covered in filth and eating 
from the garbage. You've always
been a sad stray, desperate
for affection or a warm bed to sleep in.

In that case, the past is a chain
for you, dear.
You wear it snug around your throat, dear.

See how it covers you like daybreak. 

The past should go away, but it keeps unfolding slowly
like a dense fog falling off the stage.
Or breaks open like a swarm of locusts.

I once let you in. Yes.
To my garden of drowning violas.
Led you, lured you. Halfway.
Left you there alone. Then
just when you began to see a crack of light,
I stepped in your path, 
closed my eyes,
and swung the blunt object.

Your head aching like 
a broken heart.

The past should go away, 
but it won't stop breathing. 
A black assault of wheezes.

The past looks right at you with its eyeless face,
as it drags itself across your filthy floor.
Laughs darkly. Rotting wood
where there should be teeth.

You asked why I was crying,
and I said it was because 
I was so happy 
with such earnestness 
that even I believed it.

The past keeps spinning
on its demon carousel. 

You feel guilty because
you are guilty.

The past should go just away,
but it hangs from the beams
and sleeps upside-down inside of you.
Wakes up and immediately
starts beating all its wings.

Scrapes against the rust on your heart,
and makes a bony sound. 

The past should go away, but it never does.
It isn't over yet.
It's barely even started, dear. 



 

October Again and Again

               I think your face is beautiful, the way it is
               close to my face, and I think you are the real
               October with your transparence and the stone
               of your words as they pass, as I do not hear them.
	               -- Bill Berkson, October


October again
and again it's full 
of you. Can you feel
this small sadness 
as it climbs inside 
and undresses you.
How an orchestra 
of hands can promise 
to be noteless.  
Outside everything 
is beautiful and dying. 
Can you feel this yawning
mouth that only wants
and wants. The intimacy
of small talk without 
the immutability of its 
damage. Is it possible
to fall back asleep
in your contours
without subverting your 
heart into a hallway.
I know I didn't get it right
the first time. 

Can you feel that. Inside me
something insatiable
comes to life.
It reaches up my throat
with its claws. Wants
to be petted and fed
cold milk. Wants to show up
on your doorstep. But aren't I
an expert on restraint. Again
and again. I practice small refusals.
I do not touch. I throw out 
the milk. I try to unremember
the sound of you laughing.
The way your face looked sad
but honest in some moonlight.
The way time continues to elapse
patiently. A heart that beats 
slowly and sadly 
still beats. Still ventures
to unremember. What 
could you have stored up
to tell me anyway.
After all this time.
What would you 
say to me
if you 
were not 
afraid.


There is no suffering if you do not want anything.

               Please forget me. I won't forget you.


You were right about poets.
How right you were. Poets are liars
and obsessive.

Always trying to excoriate reality
into something aesthetic

and effortless
and love into something 
digestible at all.

You were right. They shouldn't do that. 
It isn't possible

and they shouldn't carry on
like it is. It is true 
that I went too far. 

Something simple about boundaries
and delicacy or discretion

had begun to elude me. 
You may continue to blame me and
I can live with that but—

according to a very famous play
(which I'm sure you've heard of)

Blanche explains that the opposite of desire 
is death (death!)
Asked Mitch: So do you wonder?

I don't wonder, or really 
we didn't have to wonder, did we?

It was the easiest thing in the world to do
but very distressing and painful
to have done.

I mean, physically painful.
Like a stomachache.

Like sleeplessness. 
Sometimes desire
is it's own death

and has no opposite.
No one ever battered me

quite like you. 
Early on you told me
about a set of mathematical proofs

which show that two curves
with infinite length

can have a finite area
between them. 
Koch's snowflake. 

Gabriel's wedding cake.
But the converse is never true.
I don't know why 

you told me these things,
but I did want to understand them.
Poets are always trying 

to manufacture metaphors
even from mathematics.
I did try

to understand you.
I shouldn't have told you 
that I wanted to know you

and I shouldn't have wanted
to know you. This is another character flaw

among writers. The general inability 
to let things go
unsaid or unknown. 

I still don't know 
what happened between us

or what any of it meant, although
I am starting to feel 
okay about that. As every day

it became harder and harder
to measure 

any finite space between us.
To even understand what counts
as a thing.

One can claim 
they don't acknowledge 
unspoken subtleties, but

isn't unspoken subtlety 
the only way anyone can distinguish
something viable and breathing

from all the pointless sediment
floating along with the rest of the river?

I'm not making that up. I think
people discovered this 
all the way back 

in the sixteenth century.
With letters and glances

and common sense.
I'm sorry for falling in love with you. 
(Really, I am.) Even the idea of you

is revolting and obscene
like eating food off the floor.
I'm not suggesting

this could have ended
any better. In general,
I'm okay. In general, 

I think solitude 
is a good thing. It's just that
your message was perplexing

and took a long time to sink in. 
Because you spoke in opposites.

So yes. Your moody distractedness
began to unattract me. The way
certain words can create a story

but aren't the story itself.
Eventually everything you said

ceased making any sense at all.
(At all). So I stopped trying
to understand anything.

I think the problem is that this 
went down really deep. 

Well, for me it did
at least.
Deeper than I wanted. 

(But then you snap out of it.
Then you realize that the well is deep
but empty. 

So you throw in a cigarette.
And the whole operation 

bursts into flame.)
Do you see what I'm saying?
I'm sorry that I fell in love with you.

That was where everything collapsed.
I started to sense 
that you didn't really want to know me

anymore or know anything at all.
You just wanted to wander around
and pontificate and sulk

as if things couldn't be knowable
(only you called it brooding).

Well. At least I know a few things
about you now. Who you really are.
It stung but I couldn't unknow.

I said I wouldn't write you anymore,
and I didn't. And that I didn't love you anymore.

And I didn't.
I had thought it was a pretext
until I looked you in the face

and said it out loud. 
Then I knew it was true. 

You know, sometimes
words can do that, actually.
I've realized. Poetry can do that

to a story 
between two people. 

Make it into something, I mean. 
And then into nothing. 

Tell Me I’m Nothing

Only

the atrophied animal
sleeping at your ankles.

No need to chain me
to the bedpost. 

Every seduction needs only
the smallest of aches.
Every concession: my shoulder
tapping your shoulder.

My teeth
tapping your teeth.

Call me your error.
Call me your stray. 

Know that I am more than my heartache.
More than my strangeness,
more than my arms
tied up together.

You can't fix something broken
with something else that's broken.

Empty bucket. Spineless 
bird. 

Although you now know me
like a nightmare

and undress me
with your moonlit mouth,

I know it's not enough.
Sometimes
everything works out. 
But

no. It doesn't.

Please don't 
do that thing
anymore. Please

forgive me. For this
and for everything else
that's coming.

And believe I never meant 
to let you tunnel into me
like that. The way love
twists into a heart,
mercilessly. 
And keeps twisting.

I believed you when you said
you would not be gentle. 

I just thought there was nothing left
unbruised when we met. Only

my threadbare heart
crawling with larva,
brimming with ghosts. 

I thought I could take it. 

But then we got quiet. 
Eventually,
I opened my mouth.

Call me your downpour.
Call me your death.

That night, I know
I dragged you through
the gutter of this.
How could you refuse me

once you'd turned me over.
Once you made me 
your sorrow, your specter.
Your spiral staircase. Your 
cistern full of pond water.
When you said do this
and I wanted to. 

I would live here for another year 
just to feel like that again.

A sharp grip around my wrists.
Cool breath like bee wings up my spine. 

But now all I feel
is the vacuum of your egress. 
Believe me 

I have enough grief to flood the basement. 
And enough regret to burn the house down. 

Tell me, what could stay upright
in the aftershocks
of this.

Even my doorframe is now
a skewed and haunted thing.

So everything broken
keeps breaking. And we can't 
take the bones 
out
of our bodies. 
I can't unsay that I loved you. 

Now that you're gone,
the moon follows me home. 

Call me your aimless. 
Call me forgotten.
Call me your fuckup, your weakness,
your garbage.

Your favorite
aberration.
Tell me I'm nothing.

You refuse 
to dismantle this,
so I will. 

If it's harder to unlove a thing 
why didn't you just leave me
there that night

on the porch
to whimper and crawl
up the steps
alone.

Sit Still Until I Finish Your Portrait

.

will i always digress?  i think so
impossible not to
as i am
a wistful type

and forgetful

i only wanted
to watch you.



..

first love always begins
with this sincerity, 
perhaps because
its earnestness 
curtails my other desire 
to possess.

what is the point
of so much silence?

let's talk about something else:
let's reimagine a story
where we both
say the right thing
at the right time

i've seen you do it before

i swear,
it is a sure thing

stop turning around

try to believe me



...

can i have some more?  it's so good.
for once i don't feel so empty

less is a lexeme
that keeps coming back
over
and over

it is the perfect example
of something regretful:
i know what i did

to get us where we are now.
look, i don't feel good about it

i was bored stiff. that's why
i was so distant and agitated;
why i looked so small. it's why
i noticed someone else across the room,
just the kind of guy 
i like. 

don't
be jealous.
i liked you that way, too

you know it anyway,
that you're really cute?
are you blushing? you are too.
so then who
is in charge here? not
you.  you
seem out of it tonight,
you look like
you had a bad day

those wet lashes

sorry
i didn't think

that you would ever
get so hooked,
that you would make
so much of things

but tell me you wouldn't
have done exactly the same
if you were me

tell me



....

"you're not sad out of the blue.
there have to be reasons."

 there's a reason.

"come on."

 i'm coming.

"stop torturing yourself."

 it's over. all settled.
 i'm sorry. i swear i am.



.....

i'll finish my drink first,
then i'll come. i'll watch
first, then i'll come.
promise.

so i followed you
out of the bar. i followed you
into a bar. i followed
a crocodilian instinct
i had about you.

why are you here
all alone? being good.
your type is so rare,
that's why i followed you.

i followed you
because you have a pretty name,
in latin it means
hammer

i could be so serious back then

only cared about art and language
i didn't know much,
but i liked it.  all of it
especially egon schiele,
picasso and schiele. i'm lousy
at english, so i linger on the art
and only watch movies with subtitles.
in fact, i love english actually.
oh i can't remember.
anderson, scorsese, aronovsky,
i could go on
but i'll try not to.

am i even allowed to be here?
i wont talk
more than five minutes.
i'll just get that dead look
in my face.

doesn't it make you happy?
i so rarely
do anyone else's portrait.
"the mysterious weakness
of men's faces"
and that sort of thing. instead
i have obsessed myself
with richter. it does me good.
the rigorousness
of his brush strokes,
those wide commitments.



......

how does that look?
it's strange because it's you
and it isn't you.
i have to go.

you don't have to like it.

someone wolf-whistled
on my walk home.



.......

i always prefer to be clear.
but don't tell me
to relax.
you just jumped
down my throat
do you realize? when
you mentioned

a pathological scruple
and what is that? does that
mean gravity? like how
everything in nature
is perverted, and vice versa.
the opposite
of right-mindedness.

"are you following any of this?"

i can follow this, i am
living this.
i'm alive and
i will do anything

really its scary

"so you're voracious?"

you can't even imagine.

"i can see."

can you see me
clearly, i don't want to know.
it's nice
being here.
a little too nice.
that smile.

i admit
i was shaking
i was tired
but i didn't give up

i told my bones to go
i went 

big words. to love.
delicious.



........

i am still studying the anguish
in schiele's oeuvre.
those delicate nudes,
emaciated and grotesque,
gaping
in such unlikely positions.

twisted, obscure,
something very dark.

i've tried to keep that out
of your portrait
but it never works. 

better not
to tell it
slant, actually

better to embrace
one's own disfigurements
with an emotional directness
that makes others want
to look away

pleasure being so obvious,
and so obviously tangential
to torture

is it ever possible
for pleasure to be shared?
unlike pain,
it is not a competition

even my portraits
are really
self-portraits

it is part
of my wistfulness

A Litany of Things I am Not Telling You in Chronological Order

I have a bad feeling about all of this.
I have a question with a devastating hypothetical inside of it.
I once had a long list of questions for you, but I answered them myself.
I am the one you are losing, remember?
I am not a very good person, but I keep saying
I am trying.
I want to be let in, I said looking at your diaphragm.
I used to imagine: [            ]
I am making an artform of my own heartache as an enviable talent.
I am starting to adore my own unlikely need.
I am making something millable out of this, I am. 
I could mill a life so full, there's no room for you anymore.
I am milling around in the quiet space you left, feeling fragile. 
I am starting to like it.
I used to be yours; now I am mine.
My dear, my darling, my dark cloud.
I have no rules or secrets anymore. 
I am sure you know by now:
you cannot possess a thunderstorm
or bring one back from the dead. 
I was your first full stop, wasn't I? Wasn't I?
I don't know anything for sure anymore. 
I don't want to haunt you anymore.
I never said I would keep searching until I found you.
I don't tell you what I'm thinking anymore. 
I keep ripping pages out of my notebook. 
I am not eating all my meals anymore.
I never said I would. 
Okay, I did.
I am making small but meaningful improvements.
I am starting not to love you anymore.
I still think of how beautiful you are, how
your face fits your face. Fits the palms of my hands.
I don't tell you everything I am thinking anymore. 
I am not a nostalgic person.
I try to focus on the things I dislike about you.
I love you less and less.
I am erasing you, slowly.
I used to miss you all the time.
I used to want to talk to you even when I was talking to you.
I finally realized it was the compass that was broken, it just
took a long time. 
I finally realized the map wasn't even right, and anyway
I can't read maps.
I touch my own sweet and nervous spine now.
I will still be the death of you.
I would do it all again, but I wish I wouldn't.
I don't feel like a ghost. I am not a ghost.
I know you'll be okay without me, but not the same. 
I am learning to forget as a self-defense mechanism.
I tore your pages out of my diary and stopped writing your name.
"Write down everything and of course you'll remember things
you wish you didn't," I read somewhere.
Even if you never read this, you'll still feel it.
I suspect you will grow to miss me terribly. 
When it's over (and it's almost over, 
I promise) just know
I meant everything I ever said to you, even if 
I wish I didn't.
I am taking nothing back, even if
I wish I could. 
I would do it all again, even if 
I wish I wouldn't.

A Litany of Things I Am Not Telling You in Alphabetical Order

Even if you never read this, you'll still feel it.

I am erasing you, slowly.
I am learning to forget as a self-defense mechanism.
I am making an artform of my own heartache as an enviable talent.
I am making small but meaningful improvements.
I am making something millable out of this, I am.
I am milling around in the quiet space you left, feeling fragile and raw.
I am not a nostalgic person.
I am not a very good person.
I am not eating all my meals anymore.
I am starting not to love you anymore.
I am starting to adore my own unlikely need.
I am starting to like it.
I am sure you know by now:
I am taking nothing back, even if
I am the one you are losing, remember?

I can't read maps.

I could mill a life so full, there's no room for you anymore.

I don't feel like a ghost. I am not a ghost.
I don't know anything for sure anymore.
I don't tell you everything I am thinking anymore.
I don't tell you what I'm thinking anymore.
I don't want to haunt you anymore.

I finally realized it was the compass that was broken.
I finally realized the map wasn't even right, and anyway

I have a bad feeling about all of this.
I have a question with a devastating hypothetical inside of it.
I have no rules or secrets anymore.

I keep ripping pages out of my notebook.
I keep saying I am trying.

I know you'll be okay without me, but not the same.

I love you less and less.

I meant everything I ever said to you, even if
I never said I would keep searching until I found you.
I never said I would.

I once had a long list of questions for you, but I answered them myself.

I still think of how beautiful you are, how
I suspect you will grow to miss me terribly.

I tore your pages out of my diary and stopped writing your name.
I touch my own sweet and nervous spine now.
I try to focus on the things I dislike about you.

I used to be yours; now I am mine.
I used to imagine: [         ]
I used to miss you all the time.
I used to want to talk to you even when I was talking to you.

I want to be let in, I said looking at your diaphragm.

I was your first full stop, wasn't I? Wasn't I?

I will still be the death of you.

I wish I could.
I wish I didn't.
I wish I wouldn't.

I would do it all again, but I wish I wouldn't.
I would do it all again, even if
it just took a long time.

My dear, my darling, my dark cloud.

Okay, I did.

"Write down everything and of course you'll remember things"
When it's over (and it's almost over, I promise) just know
you cannot possess a thunderstorm or bring one back from the dead.
"You wish you didn't," I read somewhere.

Your face fits your face. Fits the palms of my hands.