And this is how we danced: with our mothers’ white dresses spilling from our feet, late August turning our hands dark red. And this is how we loved: a fifth of vodka and an afternoon in the attic, your fingers sweeping though my hair—my hair a wildfire. We covered our ears and your father’s tantrum turned into heartbeats. When our lips touched the day closed into a coffin. In the museum of the heart there are two headless people building a burning house. There was always the shotgun above the fireplace. Always another hour to kill—only to beg some god to give it back. If not the attic, the car. If not the car, the dream. If not the boy, his clothes. If not alive, put down the phone. Because the year is a distance we’ve traveled in circles. Which is to say: this is how we danced: alone in sleeping bodies. Which is to say: This is how we loved: a knife on the tongue turning into a tongue.
For Women Who Are ‘Difficult’ to Love
“for women who are ‘difficult’ to love.” Warsan Shire
you are a horse running alone and he tries to tame you compares you to an impossible highway to a burning house says you are blinding him that he could never leave you forget you want anything but you you dizzy him, you are unbearable every woman before or after you is doused in your name you fill his mouth his teeth ache with memory of taste his body just a long shadow seeking yours but you are always too intense frightening in the way you want him unashamed and sacrificial he tells you that no man can live up to the one who lives in your head and you tried to change didn’t you? closed your mouth more tried to be softer prettier less volatile, less awake but even when sleeping you could feel him travelling away from you in his dreams so what did you want to do love split his head open? you can’t make homes out of human beings someone should have already told you that and if he wants to leave then let him leave you are terrifying and strange and beautiful something not everyone knows how to love.
Father, you would not be surprised that I lose at cards. I get very drunk, and I lose at cards. You are not dead and you would not be surprised. I also make many modern mistakes. I know that I am in love with the idea of love and not with someone. I make mountains into molehills and then regret the loss of mountains. I deny the sexual potency of ambition. I remember calling you while we were both boiling eggs at night in our kitchens to tell you about this. You said, Son, we have both been clouds in the rooms of undressing women. I found a photograph in your dresser of an unfamiliar woman wearing a grey t-shirt standing beside a newly asphalted road bordering unmown Midwestern grasses, and I ached for dull, hometowny spring. You are not dead or clearly dying, but I am going through your stuff. I want your leather-bound Superman comics, your Kingston Trio, your bamboo Buddha. I have been in love with two women who look like the one in your photograph. I think I have only seen you three hundred times. I am twenty-four and you are sixty-five. I need a box spring and a bed frame if I’m to be at all comfortable in the coming years. Suddenly, it is embarrassing not to own a table. Today I replaced the burnt-out light bulb in the bathroom with the light bulb from the hallway, which used to be the light bulb from the bedroom, which used to be the porch light. To what extent, father, does this sound familiar?
When the Apocalypse Comes
“When the apocalypse comes
and all the windows are shattered
and the car tires have melted into the pavement,
once all the schools and hospitals
and skyscrapers have folded in on themselves
and the last street lamp has wilted like a starving flower,
I will still want to fuck you.
We both know I can’t handle stress well.
I’m anxious, claustrophobic, and things between us
haven’t always been easy — you nitpick, I’m stubborn,
and we’ve been fighting
over pointless things
how I remind you of your mother
I saw the way you smiled at that poet
and her pomegranate metaphors SUCKED.
when a meteor crashes through
our kitchen ceiling, I will not panic.
When the locusts envelop the neighborhood
and our shower water thickens to blood,
I promise not to bite my nails.
I won’t even get angry when you don’t answer your phone —
even as the pavement begins to crack and spew like a rotten egg,
you will not get 47 missed phone calls in 4 minutes
(*even though we both know it’s possible).
When the news anchor finally tells us the truth —
that there is no hope — I won’t even think about
joining the angry mob outside
our burning apartment building.
I will put on my least flammable negligee
and I will find you.
I will crawl to you across this curdling parking lot of a city,
lick your body new again like my tongue
is God’s hand trying to erase and recreate the earth.
For 6 days straight, we will be
what makes the sidewalk blister.
Day 1: in the beginning,
I will find you, pull you into me.
Day 2: we will make the earth
and the sky jealous.
Day 3: I want you to fuck me
bent over a crumpled taxi.
4: in the graveyard of a strip mall.
5: on the steps of the capital,
in every store, on every mattress that isn’t on fire.
This world is a melting candle
we’re only using for foreplay.
Day 6: You may think I’m in denial,
that I am avoiding the bigger issue here
but you didn’t even look at me
the last time you said I love you
and, shit, if that didn’t feel like the end of the world.
I know this can’t be healthy
(pretending everything is on fire) just to get you to stay,
we could be the most beautiful wreckage
in all this smoke.
When the apocalypse does come,
I will rebuild our city with my tongue.
I will suck this world’s ashes from your fingers.
I will refuse to let the fires of this hell
be the only thing that makes us sweat.
When the apocalypse comes,
so will we.
Let It Go
Let’s let go from the get go.
Let go let God.
Let it go.
Leave it alone.
Let it pass.
Let it be.
C’est la vie.
What’s done is done.
Hang up on it.
Land the plane.
Don’t get on that train.
The bus has already left.
This too shall pass.
Shake it off.
Cut your losses.
It’s water under the bridge.
What goes around comes around.
Get over it.
Get it together.
Get a grip.
Give it a rest.
Spilled water cannot be poured back.
Don’t look back.
Enough if enough.
You will be given back the years that the locusts have taken.
Giants Saint Everything
There were days I wanted out.
But then You would go and do things
like dive into the Vancouver ocean,
big brilliant cliché poem that You are,
water rolling off Your back
as You swam toward a sunset
that hung like a sacred recipe painted
all the way around Your holy head.
And then there were the ways You watched me
moving back into my cave where the wheels turn,
same wheels that drove You off.
I should have told You
before talking in terms of Forever
that any given day wears me out and works me sour,
that there are nights when the sky is so clear
I stand obnoxious underneath it
begging for the stars to shoot at me
just so I can feel at Home.
What’s left of You now is a shrine
built from the pieces I kept of Your presence,
Your incredible stretch of presence.
It sits in Our room like a sandpiper
cross-legged and crying,
remembering the night we met
and the day You left, and the Light
shifting in between.
By the side of it stands a picture of the poem where I promised,
“You will never have another lonely holiday.”
The words “I Promise” and “Forever”
begged me not to use them
but sometimes I don’t listen to God,
so You can imagine how much it hurt
to let Your last birthday pass
with no word. August 3rd.
You weren’t the only one comin’ up lonesome.
Listen, if I had to make a list
of everything everywhere
- and I mean everything… everywhere -
the very last to-do on that infinite list of
every – single – thing – would be – to hurt You,
so I need You to know
that in an attempt to keep my promise
I did write a letter to You on Your birthday.
It was covered in stickers of flock-printed stars,
choir claps, and a bonfire of buttercups stuck in the air,
but when I finally drew enough courage
to send You all the Love in the World
my hand snapped off in the mailbox
It was returned to me with a gospelstitch, a hope stamp
and a note etched into the palm I had to pry open
with the pressure of pitching doves
we agreed to let each other go.
There is a point when tears don’t work
to wash things away anymore.
Grabbing for breath has now broken my fingers.
I miss You so much some days
that I beg for the airplane to crash
with just enough time in the freefall
for scribbling “I Love You” across my chest.
That way – when they find my burning breast plate –
they will tell You how the very last thing I did with my life
was call out Your name.
Arnold Remond Liesting
I know You’re momma didn’t raise a sissy,
so it’s best if I believe
that You’ve bounced back and been born again,
in the bottom left corner of dreams
in the dark spot
where it gets windy and hollow
I can still see you flailing,
eating knuckle cake,
full torque and tender,
heart pounding from being pulled under,
feet bleeding from bracing for endings,
tongue dying to curse Forever
because promises murder us backwards
when people like me don’t keep them.
And sure, we all deserve absolution,
but especially You. You and Faith,
You’ve got the same hungerpunch,
still rising off the watertrain running through the laws
of a moon dead set on daylight
digging marbles from the trees
of a Love not scared to make no sense
and monkey enough to see
the same devastating reason for living this life
I promise You
these words have buckled my lips
so far back to the beginning
that I am now only allowed Today,
so from my snap-chested heart spraying
sending out the birds:
Today I stop believing in words.
Today all my visions reverted blurs
like the night We saw the Light
and I could not shut up
but I swear I was feelin’ silence.
We Were Emergencies
We can stick anything into the fog and make it look like a ghost.
But tonight let us not become tragedies.
We are not funeral homes
with propane tanks in our windows
lookin’ like cemeteries.
Cemeteries are just the Earth’s way of not letting go.
Tonight, poets, let’s turn our wrists so far backwards
the razor blades in our pencil tips
can’t get a good angle on all that beauty inside.
Step into this.
With your airplane parts.
And repeat after me with your heart:
I no longer need you to fuck me as hard as I hated myself.
Make love to me
like you know I am better than the worst thing I ever did.
I’m new to this,
but I have seen nearly every city from a rooftop
I have realized that the moon
did not have to be full for us to love it.
That we are not tragedies
stranded here beneath it.
That if our hearts
every time we fell from love
I’d be able to offer you confetti by now.
But hearts don’t break, y’all,
they bruise and get better.
We were never tragedies.
We were emergencies.
You call 9 – 1 – 1.
Tell them I’m havin’ a fantastic time.