Let me paint your skin with water
and we can say I love you as it dries
the light will stumble as it sees us there
trembling, the light from the car
will brush the hair behind our ears
when the night is stretched over the sky
like a blindfold over my eyes
the stars still glint like weapons.
I’ll lay my head down in your hands
for you to hold me here.
O, I’ll stay until tomorrow, here.
I can try to plug all the hourglass holes
lay buckets to catch escaping sand
and slit the throat of time,
but are we running out of time?
Let me curl myself as your tongue
around those foreign words
at three beats a minute we can
stop time for good.
Just let it go away.
Take the wheel and let’s drive ourselves
to tears, no stop to ensure our colors match.
We can dig a tunnel under this earth
and forget our names, our parents’ names
let our lives grow long with our hair
tugs suspended snow from the air.
We can crawl into the world we want.
Reinvent our names, redirect our days
in a thousand different ways
the dirt scraped from underneath our nails
will never tell them where we’ve been
we can sit and watch the feathers fall
from the heavens to the earthen floor
we can forget the day we were born
as the clouds like armies roll in
we’ll teach our hearts not to kill
walk them down all the streets we used to
past late-night cheap motels and candles blown out
as if in a dream, alight in a dream
a flame that we don’t recognize
a stranger among us that dies in the park
as a thousand memories fly away
like paper napkins, years slip away
in the dark and we lose them.
Our empty world, gardens never grow a day,
but we’ve forgotten how to dig and
we’ve forgotten how to drive.
Will the terror of our time ever forgive us
for this abandonment?
Is there anything we can do but embrace
the arms as they fall toward us from the sky?
There is only so long we can bury our heads
before the sand runs from the hourglass.
But I can lay my head in your hands, here
until tomorrow, even as the snow
thrusts itself from windows of sky,
and we’ll be fine.
I step off the last stair on the porch. Before I even touch down I feel the eyes on me. I land one foot on our concrete drive and instantly feel them in the pang of cold that leaps up from the cement and settles into my leg as if it were made of metal. My bones have an affinity for that cold the way cotton does for blood, soaking up every chilly leak, wrapping them up in tangled fibers. I know soon it will make its way up my torso to my heart, where it can safely build a home for itself curled amongst my ribs. I let the cold quiver for a moment at the bow of my lip before I push it out as far as it will pout in the October morning, and begin to walk. I cannot see myself. I feel my eyes go blank with concentration as I press my upper lip still out far above the lower in a pout, shoulders high, avoiding contact with every shapeless pair of eyes I pass. They watch me, their gaze rubs its muzzle on the glass of my eyes. Eyes appearing from moving cars and shop windows, slithering out of mechanic shops slicked black with grease. But they cannot see me. They cannot see because I have devised a plan.
A girl cuts through the park on a cold October morning. Their eyes follow her down the path. Her pouting upper lip seems to flutter slightly, tickled by the wind cartwheeling through the branches of trees whose leaves have long ago bled into the ground. Her beauty is like the lip of a very sharp knife; unfailingly seems to make the presence of the cold more acute, like a breath turned white on a fall morning. Her collarbones reach forward with her lip as they only do on a person that never lowers their head. Stalagmitic to the cars that slow down as they pass, the eyes that scan her from the crown of her head down her hair that falls down her back. Car horns and whistles that die in the rustling of the fall leaves, the bitten lips and lolling tongues, the muttered profanities, the hands and faces pressed upon car windows as if realizing they have just passed a long forgotten friend walking down the street.
She will get to work. She will fasten to her shirt the tag on which her name is misspelled. She will remember why she never said anything. With a pursed upper lip, she becomes the letters shining black off the tag she wears at her breast. Who will see through the face she put on to satisfy the faces that she meets? They cannot see her. They cannot see, because I have devised a plan.
Would it have been worth while, after all
To boil all the butted cigarettes I find
To release the smell of you? I know
It’s been balled up in these fibers
A long time. The thought alone
Brings me to my knees in the park
To peel back the blades of grass storing
Drained stubs plucked dry
Shreds to melt in time.
And of course, there will be time
Time to gather the stub-ends of all
Your hours, to lift and crush them in
Anemic fists. But do I dare continue
While the painted smoke lingers
In flumes of silent dreams
Streaming wet from silent eyes
In time turned white and dry?
I have known the eyes already
Known each and every round
Heavy-lidded white to brown,
Eyes dragged along the gutters, turning
Upwards in sleep, eyes that wrap around
A silent need. Do I dare to meet
The sunken lids, or only
Hold soiled knees to chest,
And curl into quiet sleep—
The days I am not scared for my life are the days
I think most about why I did not leave.
I press into the notches of my scalp
let the pressure force you down
wormholes of brain. Knee deep in
gluttonous water, I never scared - and yet
the thought of the dark licking at my shins
plasters me in sweat.
But I no longer jump at the snap of a twig
under my shoe, or press my back
to the wall as I sleep.
I’ve learned to breathe as you sit on my chest.
My heart has learned to beat with you holding it.
It does not take much to pinch my eyes shut
against the dashed lines diving under the car.
We had gathered up the odds and ends
sucking at their yellowed tips
we smoked until the filter
let the last of them turn to ash
in our ember fingers.
Tentatively we turn away to brush
the evidence from our hands
embarrassed by what we have
burned to the ground.
Silence ignites matches
in the weakened light
I look at you for the last time.
That morning I misplaced you
in a cloud of smoke.
You filled my glass with wine
blackened in the fading light
a proper toast to a proper end
stained my lips forever red
with the itch of your skin.
One day I’ll send you a letter
press my kiss against the back
like a teenager
calling to thank me you smile instead
and we retire our funeral shoes
at the foot of the bed,
you softly swear “I won’t wear black again.”
With my tongue pressed to my teeth I watch
the half-hearted lies leave you as you sleep
and scale my walls to their hiding place.
Sometimes when your form
is not impressed into the left
side of my bed where it should be
I find myself turning on
the TV and losing myself in
an old black-and-white “talkie” until
half-closed eyes turn the white
into flecks of sun peeking through
the leaves of a canopy.
My brain knows black and white.
Sees the patterns and forms
the shapes into negative space,
as a shadow can only be seen
outlined by light.
My mind finds taunting shapes
in the dark, forms and patterns
unfinished draped in sheets of black,
as a world fully lit is lost to
A world of equal black to white
furnishes my mind with clearly outlined
lines it need not carefully dissect
from surrounding space
and in vacant ease, can finally
I can tell time is passing by
the lines that drip from my father’s
eyes, past his cheeks and down
his chin into the news he’s reading
every headline screaming
THIS IS THE ENORMOUS SIDE OF LIFE
But in the backyard the diving board
is broken and the tips of all the leaves
are turning brown as the heat rises
from the ground where I bury the red
flowers when they let go of their stalks
I can never get to them all in time.
I call you up some nights when
I’ve dreamed that you died.
Because in this enormous life
if you scream and no one is around,
have you really made a sound?
Flaunting shining bodies
They fan out their plumes
Shake them free of dust
Near a stream of silver chains
Two by two they glint
Proudly in the light.
The air absorbs the rusty smell
Of coins exchanged from under
The table, as the pretty earrings
Are whisked away.
Warm from the sun
In the man’s big, colder hands
Shrinking beneath their $8 tag.
93 years, and all she left
is the cracked gold enamel
of a passion,
now being exchanged for small heaps
of green linen.
Hiding a warm 80’s vintage
Safe under my tongue
My aunt tells me open up
And out it comes
In Good vintage condition
I feel the pearls in my throat
I used to remember their names
The memories now fluffy as a child’s finger painting
The easiest thing to lose
The 8 o’clock movie makes a clamoring scene
Distracted, a pinch on the cheek pulls me back to
the last row, so young he begs
my kiss with cold clammy tongue
Cold stinging my back naked as a frog in the grass
I didn’t understand, I watched the stars
reflected in my eyes as he navigated limbs
tickling my skin.
He had two years on me.
Two years, one memory:
A bed, I say no
He says yes, yes
IV, V, VI, VII, VIII
The carousel goes too fast
turns and turns, and when you
want to get off, you can’t
clutch the braided brass bar, knuckles
sticky and cotton candy white.
They take your picture at each round
and you smile every time.