If you wake up late for your job at the mill
screaming until you wake the house, tell
my sister that you need your time card
need your hard hat, need the number of
that electrician and then next week you
are in Korea, having downed your plane
and are screaming about bananas, seeing
them again for the first time as they grow,
upside down and then you are in a prison,
your leg caught on the bars of your bed,
calling my mother a bastard, calling my father
a bastard, asking where the other bastards are
so you can call them too, saying you were never
any good or I’ve never seen you before or you bitch
you bitch you’re trying to kill me, then one day you are
at the table eating a grilled cheese and when we ask what it is
if you say a desk, then I am sorry but we laugh.
After you left, I crawled deep under my bed down the hidden cavern to where I keep my devious contraptions. Unscrewing a stalactite, I unearthed the secret photographs I’d taken with my eye machine of you, sleeping or sweating and always very naked. I donned the special coat I only wear for scheming and slunk down an alley, knocking on a certain door that trembled like a mouth in the rain. I knew a guy. He’d deposed royalty with a single lock of hair, but as he stooped over your photos, shuffling, a new smile squirmed onto his face. They were too good, is what he said, and we chartered a boat to the coast of Crete where he knew a guy, he said, who’d be better at dealing this particular hand. Oh, how it grew away from me, the whole broiling plot. We rose from bending back alleys to galleries by the sea. How they swooned over you, ancient art collectors with their hands still warm from fingering Epimetheus. One by one, my photographs were auctioned away. Some made to hang in ornate frames in salt buffeted bedrooms. Some locked away in cabinets full of crystal. They heaped gold upon me, decorating me like the sole medium to a god. Their ardor grew to a fever pitch. Enlarging some photos, the townspeople built giant floats for parades or carried you to sea like a saint set adrift in a halo of bindweeds. Rudely copied versions of you appeared on t-shirts, candles, even scapulars which tourists snatched up with wild abandon. I’d meant to disgrace you, you see, to your friends and neighbors but here I am, so far away from you and everyone, and it’s gotten away from me too. Even now, I can hear them outside my tiny apartment raising a call for you. I can’t move under my many jeweled hats, but I can hear them, can hear their passion pulsing through the cold clay of my bedroom walls. They are in love with you, every one of them, and it is my fault. I should have never let anyone see you through my eyes.
To be sorted, set among your souvenirs,
your stock photographs, your classics.
To be licked clean like a cat. To be laid out
some nights on your fire escape, bleached
by the moon to match your sheets. To be safe
in the style of rolled coins, safe like heirloom
pearls under glass, safe like sleep. To be announced,
to be spoken like a dead language, named like
a painting, arranged the way music is arranged.
To be reminded of the passing of hours. To be
reminded of promises. To be held together
like a broken figurine while the glue dries
on my wings. Some nights, to fall asleep under
your breath and dream my skin freckled with
mercury. Some nights, to fall asleep under
your hand and dream my body a nested doll,
only cages and cages, even into the heart.
I built the bear from what I knew of horses. I didn’t know running except towards joy so I molded his legs as sinewed spindles. When he was done, his mouth seemed too long, the slope of his spine distinctly equine but when I called him Bear he answered. I fed him warm milk in the morning and biscuits before bed. He slept beside me with his muzzle nuzzled into the hollow of my chest. We lived alone, Bear and I, in a wooden house away from town. Bear seemed to like this, would tread the perimeter till the grass dried in a halo. When the rain came we found ourselves with a moat. Bear seemed pleased with this, would huddle closer to me in bed, would wake before me and watch me shudder in sleep. The truth is, I didn’t know horses. I had no books but mirrors and a few yellowed photographs of what I’d left. Bear grew and I noticed things. A familiar glint in his eye I must have carved, a restless twitch about his mouth. One morning I awoke to find Bear’s clawed paw on my naked thigh, three lines of dried blood he’d drawn in sleep. I had to chase him out then, through the door and across the moat where he didn’t pause. I had fixed his eyes forward like mine so he could never look back.
He says the fact that I don’t like it
means I’m getting old. He says
we’ve lived long enough that we’ve
done roses and diamonds to the death.
It’s the future, he says, it’s technology,
get used to it.
But if you’d visit, you’d understand.
If you could see it, orphaned black
box in the front lawn, the flamingos
craning their necks to get a better look,
wondering where the rest of the plane
went down, I know you’d agree.
Didn’t we always have enough light?
When you were a girl, can you
remember? Didn’t we do well enough
without this black mirror? If you’d visit
you’d forget this was your home. The glare
reflected onto the aluminum siding
paints the whole house stark white.