So maybe I like the attention. I am eighteen and this is the closest I’ll get
to the summer romances I never had. Anyway, you like the reminder
that you’ve had a Nobel-worthy four-summer romance in your past. And I don’t mind
that this is a sad extension of that. It can’t get any sadder when pronouns begin
to make sense, but we’re sad people so at least sadness in this context has organic unity,
right? It’s a good selling point and enough consolation to continue
this conversation. Maybe I also like the exercise in persuasion. It makes me feel
like a strong female character—goddamned 21st century pop “feminism”—when I resist;
it makes me feel wanted when I don’t. The latter makes you gloat. It doesn’t scare me
that we need neither script nor motive. Only a bare compromise.
You don’t have to imagine my interview at the guidance counselor’s office and picture
an angsty pleading for mercy to lend me a sufficient amount of notice.
And what suffices is this: the regular midnight risk, the unsaid
I found a way to deal with my sadnesses without wanting
to fuck something, the running intellectual foreplay equals mindfucking equals fucking joke,
the traffic rants, the hashtag rants, the rich people village rants, the misreadings
of stupid people rants that only serve to validate each other’s rage, the rage contained,
the why cheap liquor, why cheap company, why never further
restrained, the where do we place this immediacy folding in on itself
until the next bottle of beer. I don’t have to imagine you in my mouth to know
we still won’t owe each other anything tomorrow. And the string of tomorrows
next week. Fair deal 1: I don’t judge you for your choice of profanities
and you don’t laugh at the petty reasons I hate my father. Fair deal 2: you don’t know
him, you don’t have to, and I never ask you to want to. Fair deal 3: we don’t keep quiet
about the poems we wrote for past lovers but we never praise each other
for how we crafted them, either. It makes strange sense
that you pay for the cab ride when I don’t have loose change and I take care
of the tip for the waiter you kept checking out and questioning your sexuality for.
Actually, a lot of things here make sense. Part of our charm is the things that don’t
we never press: you text me to ask if I’m already home five minutes after you
drop me at my doorstep, I help you find the right sentence because both of us can’t sleep
until you do. It’s rather pretty, isn’t it? It’s the kind of thing romantic people write about.
And fuck it, that’s the kind of reflexive statement that could either ruin this
or elicit the nonchalant scoff that would perpetuate it. But we stay sure.
We talk instead of sweaters and teeth and Coke and furniture, and decide we could work
in sales. We are good at this. You, especially. I say this and hope it doesn’t translate
as an insult. We talk of clocks and it always feels like we’re running. Except never
towards. Though perhaps not away too, because that is a lot to assume.
We talk of your friend’s physics thesis and my friend’s theology homework
as an attempt to lessen narcissism veiling the attempt to minimize investment.
We talk of the fucking French because they are better than us at articulating resistance.
Which does not equate refusal. Refusal is when we panic that no is in perpetual danger
of being forgotten as a possibility. Resistance is when we use too many big words
just to mean yes or no, or to avoid both. We use too many words that are too big for this
24-hour fastfood joint, don’t we? Well, maybe I like not worrying. And you like that
all this is in abstraction, still. Fuck, see, that is another big word for another day.
So now I won’t ask why you laugh at yourself for coming closer. I know
the answer is what I mean when I say I can’t yet stay the night
but I can spare another hour.
To you whose attempts to inhabit this persist
and resist mine: How many ghosts do you have. Which of them
would you believe. Of all the strangers I could meet,
whose glasses could I look into. How do you shatter
this teapot without alarming the neighbors. How do you shatter
the tenacity of distance. How do I walk
away from the bite, the insistence of biting down
at crumpled tissue, the smoke and its laughing exodus
from your nose, metal and cement when I have nowhere
to go, cold pizza, weeks-old ice cream, the celebration
of what has long been rotting—again, what have I been
biting? sorry, I am at lost with grasp, my tongue is better
at being a hand than my hands—hunger, yes, the insistence
of biting what could suffice to satiate. Let’s go back now
to ghosts. How well do yours convey their howls. How
do howls convey anything else other than sound. If electricity
dies on us right now, will the streetlamps discover mercy and give
us a warning. Have you thought about clarity
as light or labyrinth. Do you still gaze
at the highway even when you say you’re tired of watching. Are you
promising me another bottle when you knock
the one I hold out of its nearness from my lips. Shall this be
another lament about lips. Another accusation to pull out
of my panties when I find you stammering and you forbid me
to sing of your mishaps as though there is no such thing
as secondhand embarrassment and I tell you I’m embarrassed
for both of us but it’s fine to fumble when my furniture is still
in mutiny and I’m not done moving into this room and you’re not moving
anymore because I pointed out you were stammering. It’s fine,
stagger all you want upon my lips. Am I coming home to lips
again—sorry. Is there no more material to my poems than our body
parts. Would you wipe my shoes clean just to bless me
with something else to work with. Would you ever give your lovers new
shoes; are shoes romantic enough as presents. Allow me a poeticizing
when I plead for us to keep walking. See what I did there? Fill
the last three sentences with the cliche they seek, and we have another
poem. Keep reminding me to go back to ghosts. Can you tell
between question and imperative. Do I hunger. Am I running
in circles again—sorry. Sorry I keep saying sorry, sorry even
my apologies are circles. Ghosts, lips, hunger, apology:
can you help me jail them in boxes. Are you helping
when you gift me gasoline and a stray breath, is a stray breath
enough to tell. Fund my telling. Maybe we are not ready
for each other’s hands yet. Maybe the movements of hands take too much
brain space. Have you ever tasted pig brain. They say
it’s a delicacy. Will you refuse because you’re delicate—are you,
am I—fuck, sorry I keep straying, surrendering to sound. How easy
is it to keep slipping. How easy would it be to let each other
slip. Maybe we are not ready for each other’s hands the way we’re not
ready for the water just yet. Here’s something else: are you ready
for the mud, the mire, the puddle. Am I ready to throw
you into sulliedness. Again: interrogative or imperative. Make sense.
To the boy who is suddenly surfacing and haunts:
Let me fumble with my house keys for a while.
It has been a while since the last time
clamor has licked its name upon moist windows and my knees
have tasted the floors.
When you are realized, asphalt perspires and the streetlamps
find a way to congratulate me mockingly. I am waiting
for the closeness, the itch in my fingers for when you arrive, the thrums
in the street, the drumming of the town’s
little drummer, proclaiming He must be here now!
I lied: I am not waiting. I’m barring as much as I could
from the inside. Even the carpets now are
whispering The waltz might yet begin, the waltz might yet die
again. If I ask you to walk away, will you
call on a deluge, screaming? Will you scream until I stop
asking you to leave? The chandeliers chant and I remember
having to remember you have yet to come. Soon
the storm comes; this house’s howling calms.
When you knock, your first recreates
this house: its holy, its haunted, its haunting, its body,
my body. Begins to wake what is left of the wrecked
door, the crumbling porch, the Atlases we call posts.
Your hands wakes. Come in, please, would you like to
drink? What would you like? I can only offer
some tea, some coffee, the usual—
except it has been years and the cupboard is decaying.
I forgot how to offer
what I have. What remains untouched revolts. We remain
aching for the stroke whose slowness blesses
whatever it may pass, whose passage blesses
whatever it may warm, whose warmth condemns
stillness. So: touch or revolt. Or both—this convulsion, this
resistance, ours. Will you hold? If I ask you to
dance, will you be a jester, a deranged knave, a promise of unironic
laughter, the king in his preschool pajamas? Will you be
willing to be crownless, headless, spinning like the jaded
ballerina in a music box from long ago? I am not a lost child but lost
childhoods. I am the ogre mask, the drunkard elf, the flightless fairy
whose ruin was forgotten
because unwritten. Let me teach you to dance, and you will
be given whatever story you ask for.
You answer: sip the dirt from under my nails, nibble
at my callouses until I am new again. I don’t. Won’t. You still turn
new. Now the refusal only serves to make you
laugh. The multiple-choice question when your fingers begin
to traverse my skin: fangs, feather duster, ice pick, gaslighter.
Shall I be grated, gnawed at, or dusted? Pierced or gaslit?
You near my spit like you would a decapitated
mannequin’s limbs; I wear you like a ringing
in my ear. You dangle your feet, dallying with decay before nailing
a maelstrom to my dress and taking a front row seat. Hang me
on the mantelpiece. Sniff. You may smirk or sneer. You may
revel in this allowance. Dislodge fragrance from spillage. But let me spill
narratives of long ago rugburn: how you taught me friction in the midst
of waking gargoyles and thunderclaps, how you taught me fiction
as we wrote and writhed and gasped and thrashed, how you crawled
through murmurs, how you murmured protest after protest
whenever I pleaded. I am not pleading now
but waltzing. You are still in the front row.
What remains untouched revolts. We remain, we ache
for time. We let each other let this happen. Again I let you
happen. The morning happens.
We second-guess the dawn as we suck the wisps of prolonging. Let us
keep second-guessing. Already I give you the freedom
to stay; take.