the way the scientists describe it—photons streaming through bodies, caroming off the air, the impenetrable brick
of buildings an illusion—sometimes you can feel how porous you are, how permeable, and the man lurching in circles
on the sidewalk, cutting the space around him with a tin can and saying Uhh! Uhhhh! Uhh! over and over
is part of it, and the one in gold chains leaning against the glass of the luggage store is, and the one who steps toward you
from his doorway, meaning to ask something apparently simple, like What’s the time, something you know
you can no longer answer; he’s part of it, the body of the world which is also yours and which keeps insisting
you recognize it. And the trouble is, you do, but it’s happening here, among the crowds and exhaust smells,
and you taste every greasy scrap of paper, the globbed spit you step over, your tongue is as thick with dirt
as though you’ve fallen on your hands and knees to lick the oil-scummed street, as sour as if you’ve been drinking
the piss of those men passing their bottle in the little park with its cement benches and broken fountain. And it’s no better
when you descend the steps to the Metro and some girl’s wailing off-key about her heart—your heart—
over the awful buzzing of the strings, and you hurry through the turnstile, fumbling out the money that’s passed
from how many hands into yours, getting rid of all your change except one quarter you’re sure she sees
lying blind in your pocket as you get into a car and the doors seal themselves behind you. But still it isn’t over.
Because later, when you’re home, looking out your window at the ocean, at the calm of the horizon line,
and the apple in your hand glows in that golden light that happens in the afternoon, suffusing you with something
you’re sure is close to peace, you think of the boy bagging groceries at Safeway, of how his face was flattened
in a way that was familiar—bootheel of a botched chromosome—and you remember his canceled blue eyes,
and his hands, flaking, rash-reddened, that lifted each thing and caressed it before placing it carefully
in your sack, and the monotonous song he muttered, paper or plastic, paper or plastic, his mouth slack,
a teardrop of drool at the corner; and you know he’s a part of it too, raising the fruit to your lips you look out
at the immense and meaningless blue and know you’re inside it, you realize you’re eating him now.”
Lord she’s gone done left me done packed / up and split
and I with no way to make her
come back and everywhere the world is bare
bright bone white crystal sand glistens
dope death dead dying and jiving drove
her away made her take her laughter and her smiles
and her softness and her midnight sighs—
Fuck Coltrane and music and clouds drifting in the sky
fuck the sea and trees and the sky and birds
and alligators and all the animals that roam the earth
fuck marx and mao fuck fidel and nkrumah and
democracy and communism fuck smack and pot
and red ripe tomatoes fuck joseph fuck mary fuck
god jesus and all the disciples fuck fanon nixon
and malcolm fuck the revolution fuck freedom fuck
the whole muthafucking thing
all i want now is my woman back
so my soul can sing
My love and I are inventing a country, which we
can already see taking shape, as if wheels were
passing through yellow mud. But there is a prob-
lem: if we put a river in the country, it will thaw
and begin flooding. If we put the river on the bor-
der, there will be trouble. If we forget about the
river, there will be no way out. There is already a
sky over that country, waiting for clouds or smoke.
Birds have flown into it, too. Each evening more
trees fill with their eyes, and what they see we can
One day it was snowing heavily, and again we were
lying in bed, watching our country: we could
make out the wide river for the first time, blue and
moving. We seemed to be getting closer; we saw
our wheel tracks leading into it and curving out
of sight behind us. It looked like the land we had
left, some smoke in the distance, but I wasn’t sure.
There were birds calling. The creaking of our
wheels. And as we entered that country, it felt as if
someone was touching our bare shoulders, lightly,
for the last time.
I keep singing into my hands
for just a second
before I have to get up and turn on all the lights in the house, one after the
other, like opening an Advent calendar
My brain opening
the chemical miracles in my brain
I can hear
You think you’ll be missed
it won’t last long
I’m not dead but I am
standing very still
in the back yard
staring up at the maple
thirty years ago
a tiny kid waiting on the ground
alone in heaven
in the world
in white sneakers
I’m having a good time humming along to everything I can still remember
How we’re born
Made to look up at everything we didn’t make
make grass, mosquitoes
or breast cancer
We didn’t make yellow jackets
I didn’t make my brain
but I’m helping
to finish it
Carefully stacking up everything I made next to everything I ruined in broad
daylight in bright
This morning I killed a fly
and didn’t lie down
next to the body
like we’re supposed to
We’re supposed to
Soon I’m going to wake up
There is only this world and this world
What a relief
over and over”
You will be out with friends
when the news of her existence
will be accidentally spilled all over
your bar stool. Respond calmly
as if it was only a change in weather,
a punch line you saw coming.
After your fourth shot of cheap liquor,
leave the image of him kissing another woman
in the toilet.
In the morning, her name will be
in every headline: car crash, robbery, flood.
When he calls you, ignore the hundreds of ropes
untangling themselves in your stomach.
You are the best friend again. He invites
you over for dinner and you say yes
too easily. Remind yourself this isn’t special,
it’s only dinner, everyone has to eat.
When he greets you at the door, do not think
for one second you are the reason
he wore cologne tonight.
In his kitchen, he will hand-feed you
a piece of red pepper. His laugh
will be low and warm and it will make you
feel like candlelight. Do not think this is special.
Do not count on your fingers the number
of freckles you could kiss too easily.
Try to think of pilot lights and olive oil,
not everything you have ever loved about him,
or it will suddenly feel boiling and possible
and so close. You will find her bobby pins
laying innocently on his bathroom sink.
Her bobby pins. They look like the wiry legs
of spiders, splinters of her undressing
in his bed. Do not say anything.
Think of stealing them, wearing them
home in your hair. When he hugs you goodbye,
let him kiss you on the forehead.
Settle for target practice.
At home, you will picture her across town
pressing her fingers into his back
like wet cement. You will wonder
if she looks like you, if you are two bedrooms
in the same house. Did he fall for her features
like rearranged furniture? When he kisses her,
does she taste like wet paint?
You will want to call him.
You will go as far as holding the phone
in your hand, imagine telling him
unimaginable things like you are always
ticking inside of me and I dream of you
more often than I don’t.
My body is a dead language
and you pronounce
each word perfectly.
Do not call him.
Fall asleep to the hum of the VCR.
She must make him happy.
She must be
She must be his favorite place in Minneapolis.
You are a souvenir shop, where he goes
to remember how much people miss him
when he is gone.