there is a torch
and the only thing
which will prevent us
from lighting it
is whether or not
you can allow
in your otherwise
it would be easier
to dismiss this view
as simply pretty
and walk away
because it is getting cold
and we forgot to bring
to cut off this conversation
because its levity
so why make me say it?
when you can see it
in my eyes and all these lashes! spelling out:
something tells me
to be careful here
and oh how i do hate being careful
i have not been delicate
but i have been precise:
gritty and colossal.
and you know what
that took courage
i see you've found those crevices
in my character
the curve of my spine
that arch, that apse
such a spectacle so sure
i like to make my messes there
we are both learning
how worlds start
and then they don't
there are birds with bad wings
there is winter honeysuckle
growing wild everywhere
there are places we can go
all of this means i...
all of my thoughts
are going down
a chimney somewhere
but it's okay,
we are learning
and i only regret
that it is taking me
to learn how to live
if i could
i would do things
differently, i would
i would have
in that dim parking lot everything
in the dark
we looked at each other
so long it felt
like bursting into flames
your eyes said want
and they parted my chestplate like an arrow
i could eat salads
for a month i swear
i am cold
but i am learning
that before nourishment
there must be docility
you can live
by the ocean
and still die of thirst
hand over your kingdom.
it is still
so do you
want this? torch
if only this metaphor
were more complex
i could allusion away
my own existence i swear
i have done it
before, have you?
for a lifetime
i have been defined
by my distance
and my exclusions
by the love that i dismiss
when i try to fly away
bird with bad wings
fly away if you need to
am waiting for you
i am lying
low in the grass
and staying perfectly still
i am burning up
so i know
all the math
in your head
says you shouldn't
but my torch
if you want it
and if you don't
i have nothing left
to hold onto
and this sweet
right through me
It's still dark outside,
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.
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.
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
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
in a doorframe.
Composed for just that moment.
That's never what I wanted
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
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.
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
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
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.
We were standing in the church parking lot
Figs were falling from the sky,
splatting on the asphalt, and you were heaving
with laughter, I had never seen you
so swollen with joy,
your head thrown back, baring your throat
to the weak winter sun as the sound
burst from you like a geyser
We both were wearing mittens
You were gazing at me in a way
that I wanted to bottle up and keep
forever in a mason jar
and for a second I thought, this is it
So I took out all my ribs and tried
to hand them over
but you wouldn't take them, you couldn't
make up your mind about me
and it was too late by then
to put them back
I laid them on the ground--
a streak of white bone
floating in an ocean of figs
I looked up and you were gone
I looked down and I was knee deep
in a clear blue pond
There were oranges and water lilies
and human ribs drifting on the water
I woke up from the dream
and you were still
making up your mind
A Buddhist monk once said
that life is like stepping
into a boat
that is already sinking.
Death: it’s the apples rotting in the yard.
My mother says she is not afraid of death, but of dying.
Not me. I am terrified of death,
Or else, eternity.
But first, the dusty volume propped open on the welcome desk,
thick as a phonebook
The careful catalogue of my choices
to be considered:
The lies I told without blinking
All the homeless I have walked past
The mornings I left without saying I love you.
Humble, courageous, and kind:
my mother will go to heaven.
Her heart is just enormous,
like Audrey Tautou in Amélie,
dipping her hands into sacks of grain
at the market.
I might go to hell:
I don't save birthday cards
or love letters.
I hoard unread novels
and believe I am what I wear.
I am bad
even as the Buddhist Zen says gently
until death there is nothing