My Mouth for Hers

Sep 15

1.
The other night you reminded me of Joan of Arc; visions, burning crosses, and me following the sound of your voice. Press record. Speak into the camera, watch for the little red light.

Let’s talk about our bleeding hearts.

2.
Tell me again the story of the time you brought water from the well, how your heart was there in the bucket, still beating. Here you are with your rotting bucket, your shirtsleeves torn in two. I remember watching you; I was eating dark chocolate, the kind with sea salt, the kind that makes your mouth sweat. I did not feel beautiful.

What does it mean to call these things by their names? Here we are, telling stories about women and wolves.

An elegy: who would I show it to?

3.
The confessional nature of epistolary words - I tell you all my secrets and you set me free. What am I to do with all this freedom? Remember that time, down by the river, with our pockets full of stones and our mouths closed safe over all the words we wished we had said?

4.
You forget though, how it really ended, how you drove the car into that same river, windows rolled up tight, breath held, eyes closed, and waited for the water to rush in. Or maybe it was the bridge, the shattered barrier. Our bodies suddenly carrion, tossed to the wind, corporeal lightness, our bones picked clean.

Did you know that if a body falls freely, it does not feel it’s own weight?

5.
Come in from the backyard, your hands covered in mud. Dinner is waiting and I am laying on the carpet hoping you will come and put your body across mine. I am wishing on eyelashes for you.

Prayers prayers prayers,
ten thousand little words whispered into cupped hands, and me not knowing how to name the things that are most disquieting - small sacrifices, offerings.

6.
This is a one horse town and you are the horse. You’re the town too, and you know it. You have your dinner, your apples, your chocolate flecked with salt.

All this in return for the names you cannot say.


May 19

I have an unwarranted tenderness for you,
for your heart and happiness -
and you, telling stories about wolves,
all I can imagine is being eaten alive.

These girls are all jackals -
you know it too, the way they talk
and bare their teeth.

All I can do is lay here listening
to the rain pounding on the fire escape
and wish that you were here to listen with me.

I have loved little bits of you - tiny pieces
You said, “I want to do with you
what spring does with the cherry trees.”
and I nodded and told you “I like my body when it’s with your body.”

You make it seem as if my body has never been afraid of anything.


Apr 22
“And it was just then that I realized I couldn’t sleep, not with all these bits of you still inside of me, like splinters of broken glass, hard to find but tender to the touch. But I, wanting for tweezers or a bucket of warm salt water kept licking these old wounds, kept thinking of that box of leaves, the square hole inside my chest big enough to put your fist through. I remember your teeth, white straight lines, whiskey washed, and wished you’d never left.”

Mar 24

You’re in this dream I keep having -
me, rushing along in a train or very fast automobile,
your face cutting in and out through the window glass,
bits and pieces of you, fractals against summer green,

as if you’re passing on a bicycle, careening
through the Tiergarten, a mad sprint from
the Brandenberg Gate down Staße des 17. Juni,
all the way to Ernst-Reuter Platz,
palatial Charlottenberg in the distance,
and you, your blonde hair flying, a wild grin.

You have never been to Berlin,
though I have told you many stories, of the
stateliness of buildings that have stood
for hundreds of years, that have endured
the very face of death itself, two-fold in
stone-faced nobleness and grace.

I have been dreaming of you and dreaming of Berlin
and perhaps I’ve been subconsciously pining for both;
two places that feel like home.
I think about that first night, face to face, neither of us
quite drunk enough for first moves,
just gazing at each other in your tiny bed.

Little details come flooding back some nights,
how your mouth tasted at four AM the first time I kissed you
or how deliciously young and foolish it felt,
summer-y and without consequence, in a life
that had started to feel fraught with far too much.

What scares me most is that I do not know
how to tell you that sometimes I miss you,
even though maybe you are not somebody that I should miss.

So I will keep on dreaming these dreams of you
and Berlin, and summer and kisses and bicycle rides.
The German’s understand, you see -
Sehnsucht by definition; a nostalgia
for that which I have not yet experienced.


Mar 23

I am bringing you these rough boughs; laurel, hyacinth -
in from the garden, the one that you built with your own two hands.
We wait at home, drowsy under covers, hot tea
or cold coffee, sheets clinging to skin and
I can’t get the taste of you out of my mouth.

You are barefoot in the kitchen,
bare-assed, making pancakes;
summer blueberry, fingers dyed violet, my mouth
stained from your palms.

You’d put on an Edie Piaf record,
dance me ‘round the room, la môme - la foule
spinning faster, feet quick beneath us, cheek to cheek
entraînée par la foule qui s’élance et
qui danse une folle farandole, and no,
non, je ne regrette rien - I regret nothing.
Us, dancing, and the wet banner of your mouth.

On Sundays you are mine, all filtered sunlight
dust motes and smooth shoulders
quietly counting your vertebrae, one through thirty-three
all stacked perfectly, to make you whole.

You’re whispering now about coffee and pastries
taking the dog for a walk. Let him rest a while.
Let us rest too, remembering these first positions.
I want to kiss your fingertips, palms, eyelids -
the way you touch someone you’ve loved for a long time.

You’ve got the radio on now, quietly droning
soothing in its steadiness - here we are
eye to eye across the pillows, one hand on my hip
one in my hair - and you, shorn to simple tenderness.
I’m breathing heavy daylight, halcyon -
holding you, deeper, exhale, and finding the gold in your eyes.

I’ve been biting through my lip for weeks at the very thought of you.
Every morning, another chapter, spelling out ways towards desire,
our bodies possessed by light, a prayer for which no words yet exist.


Feb 24

Weeks ago, I walked behind a stranger on 77th street.
She was wearing the perfume of a girl I used to love,
one that I don’t know by name, only by scent.
I smelled her on a stranger
and all I could remember was the feeling of her skin.

I think about all these things, and I think about how
I could have loved you - how I almost did.
The impossible what ifs of my hands tangled in your hair,
the hush of winter, how I didn’t stop until you were shaking.
And yet, the pounding hymn of empty empty empty
thrumming against your hollow ribs.

Look around you in all this stillness and solitude.
Time is collecting like dirt under fingernails, wound clock springs,
like this American ideal of worn leather
and the smell of engine oil at dawn.
Crickets on a humid summer night, the mouth-feel
of words like pulchritude, alternating terms for your loveliness.
Foul-mouthed and wanting, foul-mouthed and ready.

No one is born with words in their mouths.
Today I have what feels like far too many.
I smile and grit my country club teeth.
I have done more wishing than praying.
You are a thread I can’t seem to cut.


Weeks ago, I walked behind a stranger on 77th street.
She was wearing the perfume of a girl I used to love,
one that I don’t know by name, only by scent.
I smelled her on a stranger
and all I could remember was the feeling of her skin.

I think about all these things, and I think about how
I could have loved you - how I almost did.
The impossible what ifs of my hands tangled in your hair,
the hush of winter, how I didn’t stop until you were shaking.
And yet, the pounding hymn of empty empty empty
thrumming against your hollow ribs.

Look around you in all this stillness and solitude.
Time is collecting like dirt under fingernails, wound clock springs,
like this American ideal of worn leather
and the smell of engine oil at dawn.
Crickets on a humid summer night, the mouth-feel
of words like pulchritude, alternating terms for your loveliness.
Foul-mouthed and wanting, foul-mouthed and ready.

No one is born with words in their mouths.
Today I have what feels like far too many.
I smile and grit my country club teeth.
I have done more wishing than praying.
You are a thread I can’t seem to cut.


Feb 6

I am far too old to still be falling in love
with pretty girls on the morning train.
Today - red mouth, blue knit cap and a camel coat with a brilliant fur collar.

Every day I fall in love with a stranger
and in a matter of minutes, the train pulls out of the station
or I step onto the platform and the moment evaporates into the ether.
Minutes later, I’d be hard pressed to tell you what that stranger even looked like.

I’ve never been one to look for signs from god or otherwise,
but the power of a stranger on the train - five years ago,
a hot summer afternoon, freezing on the crosstown L
and a tall blond who caught my eye and introduced herself to me.
I am proud to call her my best friend.

But you - you were the one who got away,
played out in my mind over and over.
Call it whatever you’d like; romantic or hypnotic
or maybe a bit insane, as we started each other down
over the last vacant seat. You won, of course,
and sat triumphant, glowering.
Yet we kept staring at each other, with thoughts of
wild west stand offs playing in my head.
In my mind, we silently quarrel, as only star-crossed strangers are wont to.
Ever the weak one, I look at your hands resting on your knees,
the way your knuckles and bones snap together.
Five stops later, you stood up, shouldered past and were gone.

I took your seat, so I guess maybe
when you get down to the brass tacks, I won after all.

In another universe I might have slid my fingers
along the insides of your slim wrists,
and find you staring back, eyes alight.
In another universe I might kiss those wrists and palms and pull you off the train,
down the block back home. But in this one,
I break eye contact, watch the city rushing past.
When I look back, you’re still staring.


Nov 23

Essential Tremors

Imagine you’re driving - late at night, just you and the electric glow of the radio dials. Imagine you’re at a motel on the edge of some one horse town. The parking lot is filled with shards of glass, shards like broken teeth on the pavement, under an inky blue sky - the same fucking blue for thousands of miles, pin pricked with light.

Remember to be responsible with your hands.

Today, every little thing looks like a sign from god and I find your teeth everywhere. You do not need to be good. Your smile is like buckshot to the chest.

Now you can see through me, little holes pin pricked with light. Tonight is like waiting in a long line for a movie you’ve just realized you don’t want to see. Tomorrow we’ll all wake up with broken teeth like shattered glass.

Please remember to be responsible with your hands.

Let me look at you inside out - you’re still at the motel, in a burning bed. This is a new place, a place where I am new. You are a fever I am learning to live with.

I sit down. I write some lines. I had three dreams in a row. I awoke and remembered you with the face of a jackal. I still find your teeth everywhere.

Imagine you’re still in your burning bed and I’m wishing on all my fallen eyelashes for rain, and that maybe you stay burning for a long time. I’m smoking again - it doesn’t feel good but it gives me something to do with my mouth.

Every day now it rains more and more until I awoke one morning to a deluge; I’ve never seen so much rain in my whole goddamn life, as if it’s telling me that we’re all pin pricked with light, that you’re gone from your burning bed, that I’ll still wake up tomorrow with a mouth full of teeth and glass and you’ll still not know what to do with your hands.


Nov 19

Bruises

I have a bruise on my collarbone from a gun.

I wish it was from your mouth instead.

I am in the kitchen with my words,

white wine, dreaming of the last gasping breath of a cigarette.


Here are your bones, all whispering to one another as we touch.

There is no silence in your marrow -

You are all tendons and ligaments and osseous matter in my bed.

We kiss like muscle memory, like we’ve known all along

what our bodies were about.

Finding your mouth, our blood thickens,

then turns to rain.


When you take off your rings, I know

that you mean business. I’ve always been a lover

of hands. My tongue, the tips of your fingers and

all I can see is stars on a black background.


Here we are in the river, here we are

in the murky water under a clear blue sky,

our clothes soaked, clinging to our skin.


You dive right in.

I have dreamed this before,

where I tell you I love you and you disappear.

Maybe call it a recurring nightmare.


Maybe call it freedom. Call it déjà vu. Call it romance with teeth.

Call it whatever you like.


My mother once told me that I didn’t need to be

so tough all the time -

I don’t know how to stop.


Here is the part where I get it all wrong,

where I’m no prophet, just a bag of bones

like everyone else.


Here is the part where you prove me mistaken -

where you come up for air from the muddy river

where your skin is shining under the sun

where you kiss my aching collarbone.


Here is the part where I wake up again.

I have missed you for the longest time. 


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