They had run out
of your favourite ice cream,
so I put my heart
in an empty tub
and handed you that instead.
I watch you attack
with a vicious spoon,
trying your best
to eat in even layers.
that it tasted like strawberries,
but could use some sugar –
“It’s a little bitter.”
That came as no surprise.
I am a letter.
I have been sliced open
And arranged with all the others.
Bringing more bad news than good.
Sometimes pinned to the wall,
Eventually finding the hands of the right person,
Eventually discarded and forgotten about,
Not worthy of being cherished
Or hidden in the shoebox
At the bottom of your wardrobe
To be reread on a rainy day.
I am a crucifix.
Believed in by many,
Feared by some.
Adored by the faithful,
Notorious to the faithless.
I can be your constant,
I can be your last resort.
You’ll either mock me or need me,
My pained face hangs over your head
When you’re lying in bed,
And I will be there at the end of the aisle,
Watching you marry the wrong girl.
I might make you uncomfortable;
Or I may provide the greatest comfort
That you’ve ever known.
Or you can, you know,
Just wear me for show:
Don’t think about my meaning,
I am just an accessory.
I have the power to intimidate
And the power to forgive
And I can look pretty while doing it.
I am a vase.
Smashed into pieces on the floor,
Hidden from the parents,
Frantically reconstructed by a sibling,
Taped and glued and bandaged up,
Susceptible to further damage,
Praying that nobody notices,
Plotting excuses for when somebody does,
Playing the blame game,
Holding it together,
Knowing that it’s only a matter of time
Before the parents find out
And throw me out.
No longer functional
No longer beautiful
No longer pride of place
Just an ugly, broken waste of space.
I saw a Picasso painting and it fucked me up
because it wasn’t oil on canvas, it was a mirror.
Her pain was contagious, her skin all sickly and diseased, all yellow and green, her hair in blue and purple streaks, matted, heavy, left unwashed for weeks.
She was stifling her screams and catching her tears in a tissue made of broken glass, muffling her sobs with icy crystal shards, alone, in pain, insane, confined within the edges of a 60 by 49 frame.
Those eyes held stories of the lives of every person she’d ever known yet betrayed no life of their own. Black holes filled to the brim with untold horrors, her eyelashes holding back the weight of a thousand lies, a pathetic barrier between the tsunami of torture within her and the face that she wears for the world;
but it will not hold, it will not hold, the wave breaks the boundary, spewing poison, rioting down her cheeks and into a handful of glass, the tears fall and fall;
and her lover only watches on, making her a spectacle, a beautiful and tragic sight to behold, not one to be reassured, not one to be consoled. He studied her pain because he wouldn’t face his own, just as you study mine because you will not face yours.
She and I, we are the same:
a sight to be seen,
a suffering machine,
a perfect exhibition
of devastation and depression.
I immediately recognised myself as the subject of the portrait
although I know that you’d say, “No, that’s not you, not at all,”
but I’m so certain that it is me, I am so certain.
How did Pablo know me so well so many years before I was born? It seems that the only people who ever truly knew me are two dead men who found beauty in the forlorn.
And so I’m left behind
with these tidal waves of grief
and a disintegrating heart,
wandering around empty galleries,
and wiping away my tears
with shards of broken glass.
And in the fifty-four weeks
that I’ve somehow lived without you
I have discovered that,
while “I’ll be there for you” can mean something,
“I’ll be there with you” means everything.
(The former is a favour;
the latter is a life-saver).
Being “someone” felt like taking
care of a baby that wasn’t mine,
sad little helpless stinking bundle
of other people’s exhaustion,
expectations, and distress, alone
in a home not my own at night
fumbling around in a dark room
with anemic hallway light coming
in thin, searching for bottles and
rattles and whatever the fuck else
those bundles require for pacification
while the bundle itself kept
unraveling from its swaddles,
squirming and wailing, loyal only
to its own suffering.
Had an idea. I’d play on what “better” means. Mix it up with the categorical imperative of the should, a played-out life theme of troubling externality, but tied to illness—of mind, of heart, the usual. Weary of weariness, that sort of illness, I thought, anxious my abstractions would never get me out of the gate, recalling Pound and characteristically reading too much into things like when someone says too little or too much.
Is anyone worried I’ll succumb again? I am, sometimes, but I have confident things to say this time. Responses, I’d call them. And recovery, but unclinically. The benefits of solitude, together with you. It’s not thoughts that are dangerous, but thought patterns. The dream is more than process. I’ll still love you when you’re fat on Monday. Taken out of context, these things make sense.
“The unforeseen, improvised and fatal, fascinates me.” That was the Muse, again, making so much sense that there’s little left for us to… carve. What about another category of word, one that doesn’t seem to follow “making” so intuitively, so simplistically—that’d be poetry. This was supposed to be poetry. A centered column of left-right justified text of maybe eight words per line. If I knew more about language and the written word I’d know whether there was a proper name for that or not.
Time to get _____. Takes _____ to get better. Take all the _____ you need. Get _____. Do what _____ need. Take _____.
Time doesn’t come back around again like my poems do but seasons seem to make me think it does, and that’s more than just more language. This winter is unforeseen; it won’t be like the last, no matter how many words I throw—or don’t throw—at it. Thoughts, merely, and I look to the Muse, even though she was there then too, and ventriloquize alternative patterns so I’m not the only one speaking.
Not everything means something, says something. Not every moment is to be learned from, only learned, presumably with better grammar. I do the dishes with a whole new gnomic outlook. Whose word count am I exceeding and whose stylistic and formal sensibilities am I offending. Ezra, I hope, and all his acolytes. The more the merrier. Mencken said that in a letter to Dreiser in the past but he didn’t mean it the way I do now. I put the silverware to dry handle up. I mean I realized that the dream is process, held together by trust, the way one time in September—in a September—she said be better and go, trusting I’ll take what I need.