How to Write a Love Story
I had an idea the other night
while we were laying in bed
to write a poem about the way
our fingers looked, laced together;
the way our skin looked side
by side—like the same skin,
like I couldn’t tell whose skin
was whose. A beautiful line
or two slid into my mind
as I looked at the way that we
felt each other. But I couldn’t
get up to write them down.
I can’t remember them now.
They won’t be missed.
I work in a hospital for wounded animals,
sick as a dog myself—cold, shivering fever
I feel goes undetected against bleeding fur.
I lay my hands on those weak beings,
their beating breathing bringing me
back to life. I walk with a limp unnoticed,
believed to be born out of tired dedication.
I read the illiterate mules bedtime stories
they cannot understand; they seem to smile
anyway as I read aloud of war and shame
in a docile voice. They fall asleep easily,
and I stay up all hours listening to the wheezing
of the horses in the barn; they all caught cold
in the middle of summer. I can hear them
coughing, keeping me awake whispering
prayers. “Help me, help me, help me.”--
the only words I know, the only cures I have
in my feux lab coat made of dinner napkins
I found in an old unmarked box.
“Help me, help me, help me,” I scream,
but all the sick dogs have gone deaf.
One Moment I Am
I'm wading in wanting tonight,
neck-deep, not quite drowning, in a river
of waiting. I'm wishing for nothing tonight;
sitting on the quivering fault line
between me and not me--my skin
containing a quake but lying still
as an empty bed.
I finger the sheets, brush unclear memories
as if viewed through a prism, fusing
and splintering you and me and you and me
until we are only a beige blur behind
a crystal sheet--and I cannot tell
who is here. I cannot even tell anymore
if I am here.
My face as soft and watery as a dog's belly,
fine. Not fighting.
For there is nothing here to fight.
Do This in Remembrance of Me
I tried to bury you in business,
break you down to brokenness,
make light of you, my bruises,
as if you never fell from my fingers,
breaking the blankness. I don't
want to forget what is gone from me.
I want to forget that it was ever with
But it would seem that all my spells
have been cast, have been flung far
out to sea, unfindable. They never
brought back fish in their nets;
I stood on the shoreline for years, starving,
singing so they could find me.
They must've swum somewhere else.
Must've heard some other siren.
In so doing they saved my life.
But I secretly miss them--see them strutting
on someone else's back; they must've
washed up on her shore. She must've
marveled at these big bright balloons
filled with black ink. Her fingers are
dirty, covered with the contents of my
silliest wish. I set them sailing;
they never came back. They must not
have been mine.
And I secretly wonder if I was spared.
But I found something of hers washed
up on my shore one morning; years
of waiting, invisible to even my own eyes,
forgetting that it was ever even with me.
She sent me a message. “Remember to go
where you are going. I love what you left
for me. When I am done with it, I will leave
it for someone else. And, time being what
it is—not straight like on clocks but
bendable like backs—here is something
that you left for me but I'm giving back to you.”
That's when I noticed the note had been tied
to my finger for years. It was never washed up.
I just wanted to forget that it was ever even with me.