Staking a Claim's image
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It seems a certain fear underlies everything.

If I were to tell you something profound

it would be useless, as every single thing I know

is not timeless. I am particularly risk-averse.


I choose someone else over me every time,

as I'm sure they'll finish the task at hand,

which is to say that whatever is in front of us

will get done if I'm not in charge of it.


There is a limit to the number of times

I can practice every single kind of mortification

(of the flesh?). I can turn toward you and say yes,

it was you in the poem. But when we met,


you were actually wearing a shirt, and the poem

wasn't about you or your indecipherable tattoo.

The poem is always about me, but that one time

I was in love with the memory of my twenties


so I was, for a moment, in love with you

because you remind me of an approaching

subway brushing hair off my face with

its hot breath. Darkness. And then light,


the exact goldness of dawn fingering

that brick wall out my bedroom window

on Smith Street mornings when I'd wake

next to godknowswho but always someone


who wasn't a mistake, because what kind

of mistakes are that twitchy and joyful

even if they're woven with a particular

thread of regret: the guy who used


my toothbrush without asking,

I walked to the end of a pier with him,

would have walked off anywhere with him

until one day we both landed in California


when I was still young, and going West

meant taking a laptop and some clothes

in a hatchback and learning about produce.

I can turn toward you, whoever you are,


and say you are my lover simply because

I say you are, and that is, I realize,

a tautology, but this is my poem. I claim

nothing other than what I write, and even that,


I'd leave by the wayside, since the only thing

to pack would be the candlesticks, and

even those are burned through, thoroughly

replaceable. Who am I kidding? I don't


own anything worth packing into anything.

We are cardboard boxes, you and I, stacked

nowhere near each other and humming

different tunes. It is too late to be writing this.


I am writing this to tell you something less

than neutral, which is to say I'm sorry.

It was never you. It was always you:

your unutterable name, this growl in my throat.


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