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.
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).
“All lovers live on partial knowledge,” Cole says. I say symbiosis, our nameless and personal act, so-called for the world in you and the world in me, corresponding. Everything from simple two-arc birds, white against the starry sky above, to weird fishes down in the cold dark depths beneath, crescent moons for eyes like dreaming. I often think I am, because I don’t know what else to call it.
Is it imprudence we show with names, or do we simply spoil wonderment with everyday answers, and what would be the difference? I’ve longed to believe in one, waxing at times quotidian, and now my simple ardor is enamored with no longer longing to love because there’s you in my solutions, you more than anything, and that’s now, I call it, the always-been.
And now you’re here with me, sleeping beside. Astonished, gazing lunar, I feel as _____ must have when _____. Forgive my universalizing. I know how history pulls us apart, to speak of partiality. Such is the hook on the lure of its richness: the past becomes a domicile and then dwelling is easy.
Do you know how many times? I looked at that picture of you, smiling back at me from years ago, trying to feel precisely this without knowing, without reference, without time, without content, shy of what it added up to. How nice would that have been, I’d think, venturing to calculate my refuge in memories pulled present.
There’s such talent in your beauty, such easy virtuosity in your being. I lean and whisper two things I hadn’t read aloud the night before. “All measurements change for the person who becomes solitary;” “Life is always right.” Far from us, he is, that poet from Prague, but close, given the angle, which I suppose was his point. Symbiosis means never leaving, never having left, but always coming home and knowing. That’s mine, as are you, solitary, partial, perfect, and loved to entirety, my land, my sky, and my sea.
Maxine Groffsky talks too much and I hear too little from any of you, but the kettle’s on. In my head one time we made a career of it like Jean-Paul & Simone everyone had weathervane opinions on the winds of influence but I still only knew either of us like I know her: through words, choice. She edited her own interview, for chrissake. The limits of imagination are four words that could title a book it’d take an eye blink to read, but most poetry would say a lifetime, and take it. Lifetime, you decide.
Take words out of your stories, you’d say, and stop trying to write yourself away. Stop trying to hide something and pretend it’s essence, stop trying to say what it’s all about. I’d know what you meant, having recently finished a little something by di Benedetto I felt I was supposed to appreciate but didn’t, partly because it was just too austere. Laferrière said “there’s nothing more false than real life” and it’s convenient for me to agree right now. Imagine how much freer we’d be in speech if we weren’t so compelled to riddle. I wonder if the pictures taken by strangers contain some message to me. What might they be trying to say?
I fill in the blanks, because I have a way of thinking I tend to say too little and a corresponding way of making up for it. On my own, ironically. When I was younger I called this “research” and spent time at prestigious institutions full of people I could keep away from, filling my head with others’ ideas of how to appropriately tangle with this great mad web of overfunctioning desires, dreaming of wholeness like it was a bill a real person might fit but everywhere seeing only pieces to emulate, and excelling at making lists, but having a hard time knowing what to redact.
Some things never change. Dreams, speech, others, and what of reality. Imagine the simple joy of dreaming without hope, in spite of what you know, finding meaning in letting meaning be, longing, but no longer longing to escape the in-betweens, no longer conflating satisfaction with complacency the way we often mix authenticity with originality. Borges called originality a modern superstition. Of course he would, and when I read that it felt like Satie’s No. 1, if you can imagine, easy and free, comfortable with distances. And I had nothing more to add, no answers, no replies, no noise. What would you say to that, anyone?
Let’s perform this procedure and run these tests and hopefully then be done with this. Oh yes, and your heart can go on beating. That’s what the cardiologist said in a dream I had in August, not in real life, but it was nevertheless a relief, albeit late.
Camus, in real life, said “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” I should’ve asked the doctor about the possible side effects of semantics on one’s physiognomy. But one rarely reasons in dreams.
It’s a good thing I’ve gone from documenting my brain patterns and emotions like so much abstract-realist reportage to actually simply merely finally really trying to tell stories, without so much cognitive noise going on. A good thing indeed.
Who else can I appeal to? Well, Ali Smith said novels are about sequence and short stories are about all that’s unsaid. “There is structure, but you know that there’s life somewhere in it, around it, free from it.” Saying without saying, living without looking. Albert, Ali, and expressionism, with an abstract look on its face.
If I had a writing teacher instead of a cardiologist he(?) might applaud that sentence. But one night in September, awake, I realized that no longer does my apparent fate seem to hang in each sentence’s balance, and no longer do I desperately hurl “my” words against the confines of presence and circumstance. They’re just structure for the story of life somewhere in it, around it, free from it, happy and living.
I close my eyes and sit on the edge of the bed and see thoughts as a tangled pile of string needing to be unraveled and pulled taught and I enjoy that double entendre without thinking myself clever. I can’t find any ends, which might just be how thoughts do, and my heart goes on beating.