When you latch onto me, I can feel your heart writhing, and mine too, reaching. Tightens like any muscle. But inside the body there is no light. Standing in front of the mirror is a barren errand. Most mornings I barely resemble myself; it's like waking up with a stranger. I realize that you too have a profound misrepresentation of me as someone delicate and sick and needing to be nourished: looks underfed, looks like a trapdoor, looks like someone who owns nothing in the world. So what. I prefer to surround myself with little. I let you overestimate my fragility. I like to look like prey. Unlike you, always trying to need more than you need. Never learning that accumulation only makes you lonelier. I am going to break you of that habit, just wait. I am going to rearrange your insides until they are exactly to my liking. You're not even pretending to resist. Just wait until I smile at you with my teeth. Oh yes, what a lyrical, lilting laugh I have. I can see how nervous you get. But you never just go home. I know exactly what it is that you want me to give you, but I don't want to give it. This is not an attempt to be cryptic: you aren't going to get what you want. You don't even know what you want. Really. You should just go home. Even if we are alike, my dark is darker than your dark. Swallows it whole. I'll create more dearth inside of you than I've ever sated. Don't follow me. Don't look at me head on. The desire for nourishment can be nourishment itself. That's why. When you look at me, I start changing your insides. A look can do that. My eyes take on a new wetness to them. Don't follow me. Don't go where I am going. There is no bottom to my depth. And inside the body there is no light. You just keep falling.
It's a bad idea. Of course. I most love my bad ideas. It involves you, of course. And something I can't take back. What makes this idea a bad one. Is it the irreversibility. Is it the momentum. Does that scare me. How actuality eradicates possibility. Even if you like my idea, it could still play out explosively. Bang. Up in flames or slow burn. Either way. This thought terrifies and excites me. I try so hard to be good. Sometimes I can do it. When I concentrate very hard. Until I get restless, or sleepy. Either way. I start to stir. Gears start turning. They can't go in reverse. I found out. It is impossible to sleep easy here. This polite little town. Plain as potatoes. All that snow awakens something carnal in me. Seriously this place is paltry as hell. And really just a lake of blank faces. A roster of common names: Jennifers. Sarahs. Carolines. Makes me want to do something else. I start getting all kinds of ideas. You seem equally brash. Are you in the mood to burn something down. I know how. Want to see. Laurens. Emilys. Katies. Makes me want to open all the windows. Every door. Let's do something. Different. Take me somewhere. When it's dark out. Black vinyl. LED moon. I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor. Can I make you laugh tonight. Forget about before. Rachels. Jessicas. Amandas. Once they're open, they don't just close. The doors, I mean. You know how they say floodgates. Might result in a bang b-b-bang-go. I should not have looked. But I'm looking. Should we. Should we. Annas. Sophies. Marys. Their dishwater hair. Knockoff coats. Banal bird tattoos. Even the snow is muddy. I'm bored. I've been thinking about you. It gives me ideas. It gives me nightmares. Either way. Should we. Should we. What do you think about. When you are tired. When you are in your house. Should we. Should we. Will we. Do you want to. Tell me. Will we.
It's still dark outside, too cold to have coffee on the porch or take a walk around the lake, but if you come over, I'll keep my hands to myself. Really. I just want to show you the new watercolors and my latest oils: a scented jacaranda dripping over the cedar fence in the yard, leaking onto the sidewalk. The white brick wall splattered with poinsettias, like the aftermath of a shotgun. The rippled lake washed in gold. I have tried to tell a story, to make a record of things. Many things have happened since you left here, most of them disconcerting. A man in my office put his hand on my thigh, so he could try to know me better. I left early that day for a doctor's appointment. My test results came in, though I already knew I have anemia and amenorrhea and a small heart murmur. I had a lot to think about on my way home; I hardly noticed the man on the sidewalk until he whistled at me long and low, so I would know he was hungry. Never mind. But hey, come over. Winter has already polished off October and I need another pair of hands on my rib cage. I can hardly tell anymore if I am sketching your face or just imagining you on the front of the cereal box. This morning we could do something together. We could act out a scene where we fry the eggs and bake the sourdough ourselves. Where we open a book and flip through the pages. Where your hand rests on my shaky kneecap. We could rewrite the scene where we let the toast turn black. And I let you see the cities glowing in the center of me. It's impossible, you know, to feel calm in a city. Without the sound of birdsong. That why every love song begins like that: with a sweet piano, so two cursory people can pause to kiss in a doorframe. Composed for just that moment. That's never what I wanted with you. I wanted to be the doorway, the trapdoor that you would fall through. The pair of hands to open you like a moonflower. To whisper inside of you like an echo begging you: ruin me, ruin me, ruin me.
"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, a few mottled bruises rotting 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 mangled 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 the past covers you like daybreak. The past should go away, but it keeps unfolding slowly like a dense fog falling off the stage, breaks open like a night of locusts. I once brought you there, 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; such an intolerable black assault of wheezes. The past looks right at you with its eyeless face, as it drags itself across the floor, pulls the knife from its belly and threatens you with it. 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 even over yet, it's barely even started, dear.
I keep trying to push my words into you / even now I am writing you this poem as if it might fill you up with something I can really sink my teeth into. I am writing you this poem, even if you never asked for it. Even though I know you won't understand it. It feels so good anyway / and besides, I don't know what else to do. And besides, I like to see you / take the bait. I like to see you hoping. I hope one day you will understand the feeling of being lost inside yourself / though I know you will not. You are not one to turn your head away from something you want. And why should you? Although it can be equally delicious / Here, I'll show you. We stare at each other from across the street, waiting for the light to change, your breath unfurling in slow motion. I wonder how you hope this will unfold. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Tell me no / despite your spreading pupils and the skip of your pulse / but I know you. The truth is: we are as haunting as we are haunted. And it won't stop. I will wait until it is late and you are most tired. I will whisper something heady into your neck. I will linger on you / until something interesting happens. You are thinking: this is a bad plan. But everything is a bad plan when you are impatient. You cannot block someone's path towards what they want most. Well, you can try / but it doesn't do any good. You should know. Really, this is my last attempt. I looked over my shoulder to make sure you were watching. I wrote you this love poem. I stood between two mirrors, reflected infinitely / I fogged up the glass and traced your name in cursive. I painted a self-portrait / and for once I was so angelic. Lithe. Beautiful, even.
this is what I remember: his rare smile, those perfect canine teeth, almost blue in the dark above me. You have no idea he told me that night with his teeth. Everyone smiles, but not like that. He was so good looking, I used to watch him sleeping. What else can I say? I found myself singing along to all the bad pop songs on the radio. That was the winter it snowed and snowed. At night we drove around, mouthing the words, alone in our dream city. I came to know he was fearless about the weather, would drive in anything. I paid close attention to these things. I tried to remember every sentence he spoke, each cotton shirt in his closet, all of the food on his shelf. The night we danced through his kitchen around and around, dizzy in our happiness. His apartment was the only place I felt peaceful; it had good light and a pretty view of the chapel. Pendleton blankets and books. He didn't have a television. On the weekends he faithfully made me breakfast. Remember this, I pleaded: his thick wool socks, the eggs and the toast, the hardwood floors, the albums he gave me. On the cover of one, an abandoned farmhouse standing in a wheat field, ruined by rain. On another, withered flowers, rotting in a vase filled with dirty water. The last one: a thickly framed mirror, blank against dark floral wallpaper. I listened to each of them repeatedly; I laid awake trying to figure it out. Who is this person I am sleeping next to? I wondered. He was all I thought of really, and at night I practiced my remembering: the texture of his sheets, the amber color of his eyes almost yellow at the center near his pupils. The joke he made that morning about a dominatrix and the moon. And those teeth. This was when my love for him started to seem luckless. He asked so little of me, but what he did ask felt impossible. Try to be happy, and smile more. Don't be so reticent. Don't be so dogmatic. Sleep with the lights off. Eat all the foods on your plate. Remember what it's like to love him. Well I had requirements too, you know. Unflinching obedience. Loyalty, until death. Remember that it is possible to feel this way. But I didn't remember. I forgot, nearly everything. When all other memories of him had dissolved, clean off the bone, this is what remained: his teeth. The wolf smile. Years later, still promising to eat me whole.
You've snuck around here before, dangling inside the word forget like a tiny bell on a leash. Swaying inside our darkness you noiseless bat. Begging me to neglect you. Oh, I remember you said it will be okay, like you could know and like I asked you and like it would be. Well. The heart is like a mirror, it can only be broken once. I'm not mad. If love was meant to be bloodless then why would we have knuckles to grind and lips to chew on? I never asked you to go easy on me. Really. Show me true anguish, yours, and I will show you mine. Winks. So we glue the mirror back together and it still reflects, but so distorted. Anyone can love a demented thing if it is done just right. If it is just done right. I can't help the way I am. If only you had a sickly half-heart like mine, you would understand. This is my weak attempt at telling the truth-- I usually just watch you stumble around and feel your way through the dim corridor. Are you starting to understand? My heart is like a mirror, it will show you who you really are. I have always chosen a severe life even when I said I wouldn't. I was resolute. I was brave. But I still never figured it out: how to behave, how to be tender, how to be selfless, how to start over. I opened the book on my lap, but only sat there crying. It is hard to be your own terrorist. Really who doesn't want to be remembered as better than we are? Every day I have allowed you to overemphasize my gentleness. This is when I have been most selfish. Who can blame me? You said hello so nicely that I didn't sense any interpersonal boundaries. For once, I did not have to be gracious. I did not have to starve myself for days or defy my impulses. No, for once I let the desperate animal in my bones devour what it craved most. Yes, I remember you.