“I. neglect. the house”
— Denise Riley
Beneath where we stood
a patch had erupted:
green, teal, yellow.
Here they remained, and only with
reluctance we had them examined;
like Anglicans in April, we observed.
Then (so quickly we missed
how it happened) water
engorged their stems until they became
strict and unbending. The petals released
what had once been a tough and pungent solid.
And now they droop
to kiss the earth.
Their pistils, odors, or beige corollae
were not especially striking – and in
many cases, already fixed – but that did
not mute our interest in treasuring them.
If you bore beneath my coppice of teeth
To frack the marrow from my jaw, as how
Through mulberry paper the brush famishes
Its last drop of ink; as how the last snow
misses raincoats, cornices and corbels
for the flesh that it wants: I may come through.
The walls bruise into a crude violet,
Thicket and bloodrush, adjourn.
My tongue hews your cheek across my eyes,
It falls beside the head it falls beside,
It washes in the night. Pretend lovers.
Oblivious to the years to tend.
My hand grazes your chest
like a spar of ice misses
umbrellas and coats
for the thing it wants:
a thwarted bouquet of flesh.
Vacating the last pit
of septembers we
could not avoid
sad, moving collisions
our fingers struck
to mute. Casualties of light
seethed by window
blinds in lockjaw,
russet flecks on walls.
We made out
not even the ends
of sentences, having seen
them fail to find
where to put
once lost, made perceptible
again by its pleated imprints
on our wrists
by one another:
The sky has cut
my eyes into
equal parts it
like a box) Why
me I pled
it set my
And if I did, what then?
I mill around and expect to be saved
and saved from what? my desire
to be as near you as you being here
and what you know of it, the task
of taking up some new self into the body
carrying to term with great labor like we knew
a part of us had been maimed but not which
so we bottled up what we found of it
and auctioned over years of indiscretion
fragments of it on the internet but
the carafe shattered; I don’t know you
and I’m scared that I might just find out
and it’s as cold here as California, just raining, where
the windshear “reinforces the storm of consequence”
we imagine the one and only one pre-boarding hour
to blot out the shadows and get lost completely
your left hand grazing towards immolation
what would justify that? ideology? well
instead of starting a coterie I’ll buy
a big coat with wide standing lapels
you might notice, I never asked to hold you
responsible for being loved yet
reality is no opportunity
the life you saved
I’ll ruin in your absence
I'll do it
I’ll fucking do it
I'd give it all up in a
heartbeat for I'd give in
in a heartbeat I'd give
My mother locks herself in the bath as my sister and I listen: there she is embarrassed
by us, for without us she may remain herself and make herself beautiful, and so we may act
justified to hate her, and switch her bathroom lights on & off. “Given 2 persons /
Alone together / In a room / Chances are / One of them would / Have / Invented /
Torture. // There’s room.” All poets write themselves room to fit in. I wrote
to give my father cancer. In the poem I described my father’s sleep as not his rest
but snoring that destroyed my own. Imagined that the polyps would sprout shadows
inside his lung, mocking with nursery wonderment their destruction; him dying,
never quite alive, as pleural worms flayed his veins and drank his blood. Named it
“The Kraken.” And of course my family tacked it proudly on the fridge. My family,
who offered me the right to precocity but not the gifts, live like ghosts. My siblings
would complain about a bright speck throbbing between their eyes, and mid-speech
collapse, snort and tremble without volition, as if what possessed them was trying
to peel them from our coherence and all of us could do nothing but watch, pity,
and learn. In a waking trance I repeat the steely vowels of my name – Alfred, Alfred,
Alfred Tennyson, – until my tongue drowns all the meanings of the word and savors
its waking substance. My father who drank, and, seeing our cook burn himself alive,
drank more to best his suffering. Eldest sons slighted by our fathers, we were taught
an attitude to decay: admonish it, but make do. When the black blood he spread
finished him, I grieved for a new lease of life. Then for my best friend, who darkly
understood me: I saw him out to sea, I heard no more. That silver, intestate sea.
For him I survived, I woke from the spell of my private life like a smile
through clenched teeth. For years I had been rehearsing my death for myself
and, dying, I recited my twenties in perfect meter. O feet, that are might,
if you trample me, show me the seams! As how, in the microcosm of I, one molecule
of transfer-RNA in its living cell shaped to negotiate the dialects of codons
and peptides, while naïve to both, nevertheless seams the acidic chain of life –
Look at me, I am the event. I stand by all the words I meant.
Can't you see? Thank you for surviving me.