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.
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 there was any better way for this to end. 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. But yes. Eventually 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. 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.
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.
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.
i always think about this French chef who committed suicide a long time ago i'm sure you heard about it, he was so troubled with everything i don't want to be like him i have nothing to lose and that's something i never forget hey i'm starving let's go get some breakfast and some coffee, okay? we're in the weeds, okay? in the weeds we love to be in the weeds you know, a lot of artists were here triggering something inside of you, the memories inside of you memory is very important you have to look at yourself and be hard on yourself every fig will bleed milk if it is not ripe memory is very important see looked at my life and said "i am not happy" it was too beautiful, in a way, not in a literal way you had all the sensation of life sweetness bitterness darkness a simple recipe who doesn't want to work with someone like that? give me a different life we would hide here my little bedroom i thought that was amazing i cried that day, for sure i know i am doing the right thing you need to be hard on yourself reflect on what matters, what doesn't matter what i remember the only thing he told me: I do love you. for how long? Until the end of my life.
I held my breath as you carved a line down my thorax, sliced clean through my chest plate. I needed help & you saw it right away. You in your white lab coat, absentmindedly chatting about how you love the southwest, the empty, the canyon. You cracked me open & began removing all the junk stored inside: my insomniac nightmares, my darkdecade lullabies, some extra wishbones & molars. You stood over me a long time, inspecting carefully; my skin splayed open like a messy star exploding. You apologized to me sadly, as if my body was our bedroom & you'd left your wet towels on the floor. Listen you said we are going to have to take everything out. It's going to hurt, but that's temporary. You looked sad. Things just don't look right and your insides need air. We'll put it back after, but your insides need air. I was sad, too, about that pretty face. What a shame to gut it all & the changes to be made seemed slight but costly. I said I understand so you bent into my redcloud and began the process, wincing as you pulled my pieces out one-by-one & you talked about love. But you didn't mean it. I mean, that much blood can make you say stuff. You sung softly to me about happiness but with a blackvamp voice that meant sadthing. Of course, singsong is still more comforting than silence for obvious reasons. Then you put everything back inside me neatly, sighing loudly & those sad eyes. Much better now, you're going to be okay. And you left me there, sleeping, curled up on the table like a heart.
You and I are lonely birds. The last two laborers. Maybe we don’t always know who we are. Even our shadows melted together; we made up every polished stone in this mosaic. At first I didn't know how to live outside of the world we carved out: that astonishing garden of nowhere, those deep lakes inside a mother, the train track down your spine, the wet canvas landscapes we used to wander together. How do I keep from returning to the ghostly oleanders in our arboretum? They are bending back and forth, promising to open to me. What would it take to grow a garden in me? There are days I feel that empty canyon inside me, pulsing like a lighthouse and I miss the years before my childhood. When I was still a pinhead egg, buried in your side and we never were apart. Then after that. Every morning was chamomile and maple syrup, the color of your hair in the winter sunlight. Your careful voice like notes from an old record that float across a dusty room. You never did wash out of my clothes. Those things that happened, I had meant to move through them by now. But such a cold river of grief ran over me that I couldn't remember who I was. It was your voice that told me: this is who you are and pointed at my grief.