Ilsa Seeks Rick

Words from the Woman in the Red Dress

8 Ways to Weep in Public or What to Expect When You’re Expiring

1.
On the telephone.
On so many phone calls.
In particular, the first one.
When her voice registers like a dial tone.
Call your home phone number to hear her voice again.
Sob for the answering machine.

2.
Do not cry over food,
over drink.
Cry into the mirror
Watch your silhouette shrink.
The part you have lost,
let it cease to remain metaphor.
Starve it into existence.
Remember,
Your public display of unrequited affection.
Your moth eyes glowing toward a dying flame.
Your prayer of self starvation.
None of it will change a thing.

3.
So go ahead,
Take your mind off things.
Go grocery shopping.
Focus on the cans of chickpeas in aisle 3.
I mean, really focus.
Breathe in deep.
Give up immediately
You never liked oxygen much, anyway.
Collapse, slowly.
Let your shoulders fall first.
Smack your palms against the price tags
Clasp your fingers to the shelf.
Feel your knees give out.
Focus.
Count.
How many cans of black beans are still left?
Desperate, Dig your nails into the red sticker of a discount
Claw at the adhesive
As you descend, as it tears.
Stare up at the rows of cans,
Decide you sort of like it here.
4.
In the car,
Preferably when on a long drive to somewhere Nowhere
Anywhere that requires empty highways and moonlight.
Oh, the glory of it
Oh, the wind, the sky
Drive away from the sunset.
Don’t look back.
Drive ink a thunderstorm, the rattle of the raindrops
Heavy on the rooftop,
Relentless
Terrifying yet seemingly appropriate.
Drive under an overpass and
Just for a moment.
It stops.

Realize, that’s what her embrace is. Was.

5.
In New York City,
stand in awe of its beauty.
Of all its spilled coffee.
Of the missed connection
on the subway.
Cry into the boxes and bags you took on your journey
Gasp at the gorgeous of it, even the worst of it.

Outside your grandfather’s apartment, in the rain.
It has soaked through your coat.
Your shirt.
Call your sister Emily and tell her.
I am standing in my first real new york city thunderstorm.
I can see her.
I can see mom.

6..
Leaning over your kitchen sink.
Something about the washing away of things
Brings it out in people-the sobbing
The pruned fingers of reality.
It brings it out in you, too.
Not that you have energy to wash a damn thing.
Namely, your hair.
So, when the neighbors offer to help.
Decline,
<em>that is so very sweet of them to offer. </em>
Wash away the bowls of food she wont eat anymore.

7.
On the first of the hard days.
The nurse from hospice arrives. She is an angel.
Her laughter the sound of bells.

She will give you little pamphlets
Systematically designed to explain
The stages,
The symptoms.
The best ways to manage pain.
The exponential rate of decay
<em>What to expect when you’re expiring.</em>

The well of sorrow within your bones spills
The angel helps you clean it off the tile.
She shows you the proper way to slice a mango.
It will be the last thing your mother eats.
The pamphlets did not warn you.

8.
Grief is not a cycle.
It is a rolling ball,
Followed by a running child.

You have made it toThe final days. Her skin is blotchy, her breathing is raspy.
On and off, flickering.
Your handbook tells you this is the end of things.
The ringing of telephones.
Loved ones crowd Into her bedroom, whispering.
Any moment now she’ll be gone.
Minutes stretch like days when counted out in drops of morphine.
They wash a setting sun across the evening.

You fall asleep, miraculously.
She waits until the morning.
Your brother wakes you.
You find your friend Maddy collapsed in the hallway,
Her face in her hands.
Her palms spit steam.

You know she’s gone.

In a spare moment when she is alone
Whisper, Check if any of her is still hiding in thereCut off a lock of her hair.
Hold her and tell her to just let go.

Now it’s your turn to.

After The Accident. (For Bobby)

(After the car accident, having been hit head-on by a drunk driver when I was 18)

….

To move was to gasp
To shake from the lungs
a series of sobs
A body designed to absorb impact.
Only when it can’t foresee it
 I could not.
I could not
move.
To move was to admit.

The floor of the bathtub
All was white light and the flaws of tear ducts.
He was. Trying.
To bathe me. To wash away.
The boy, without any inherent
Skills one could call mothering
Never taught, but trying.

He held the shower head too low,
Rinsed soap into my eyes.
The tub slowly filled with water turned grey,
The cooled iron of a drunk’s flame.

Though, despite the sting of any sudden motion
the stab of ache and oxygen-
the attempt, the inhale.
The water on my back felt wonderful.

Scabbed, swollen beyond the strength of my being.
More naked than I’d ever been
and
He,
He was just there, trying.
There was no thought of casually leaning back
Allowing my stomach to lay flat,
my thighs pushed together
My legs crossed In order to shrink my silhouette.
There was none of that,
Just pain
And water
And him.
I curled into a ball with my skin
Stomach folding over itself,
my entire body filled, swelling. Shameless.
The seat belt left
A strip of bruises across my chest
Knees steady turned shades of purple, green, and black.
But the water felt wonderful on my back.

His hand knocked bottle of the shelf
It flew past my face and smacked against the water,
My river of a grey after
I only saw the car
I only withdrew from my body,
Herd the conversation of my muscles veer wildly toward argument,
Toward a violent dispute with my instinct.
as I pulled away.
Then I was in the white light
Of the bathtub, again.
Shaking and sobbing,
The water still running.
His clothing soaked from climbing in.

Found this little gem hiding away.

I feel too tired to love you today,
To meet your mother,
To tell you to tell her that I say, hi
or some other such politeness, Oh is
that your mother on the phone,
Please tell her I say, hi
And also please don’t hate me.

I’ve been here, technically.

I have just been temporarily broken-hearted, working at a back-breaking pace, and trying to fix the broken machine of my body. Replacement parts hard to come by these days. The repairman scoffed,

They haven’t made this piece since 1958. Where did you even find this thing?

I have been gone, I’ve been away in Belgium and love.
He went back to Amsterdam two weeks ago, and my body tried to go with him. It’s been a rare occasion fit for weeping and insomnia. Too much coffee and a new round of prescription medication.
Loving him was the easy decision. I really had no say in the matter.
Eventual sleep and some healing.
Second star to the right and straight on ‘til mourning.

We made it through those weeks 
With promises of summer and its brief freedoms
Its burns.
The forecast takes a sudden turn.

August was strangely cold in New York this year
Based on the headlines, it would appear
That Demeter already knows
That she has begun to let the plants go.

He is obviously not gone forever, or even for long. November or December will come. The year will pass and then he will be home. Wherever home may be, but decidedly it will be with me.

Trying to convince my being of these things has been impossible. My affection is a stubborn one, it seems. She has a flair for melodramatic wailing. Denial is best mixed with mild panic and caffeine. The connotation and denotation of heartbeat. Mine is fumbling in circles around Manhattan side streets.

Sleep has been difficult.
My sister will tell me I need to take my lorazepam.
My boss will ask if I am eating.
The poets will not ask where I’ve been but I will wish they had.

Lauren Bacall is gone now
and nothing seems the same.

I haven’t been writing much all summer, but the words have been cold brewing.
If there is one thing I am good at, it is spilling coffee.

(I am also well-suited to assist in a medical emergency.
Should that fail, I write a decent eulogy)

I have stained all my shirts with sentence fragments.
False starts of love letters.
They leave rings on all the  wooden furniture.
Like autopsied trees.
I have loved you for so long, they read.

I stood so long today that my left knee, left. 
It declared a labor strike and began picketing outside the doors of my legs. 
The doors were red at some point, they have been worn down in time.
 The warm orange glow of an exit sign.
The walk home this evening was decidedly difficult,
embarrassing, and painful.
The whole time I was wobbling like a fool I was thinking
If only,
I could only being wobbling foolishly home, to you.
Lend me your bones for an evening.

“The coming home was always to you”
My grandfather wrote that.
I love like he did, I make the same grand mistakes. Sometimes, it makes me mean. 

I have loved the wrong ones. 
Or loved the right ones,
did not make them home.
Or the one. So to say.
I, like my grandfather, take no joy in admitting the wrong.
Prayer is sometimes an apology one tells oneself.
But I was thinking, whilst wobbling,
that I would gladly take all the wrong
If I could please this time be right.

I have been thinking about knees quite a bit lately.
My knees were baptized with the rest of my body, but they cannot bend in prayer.
About what a privilege it is to walk. About my Aunt.
That is a story of heartbreak for another time.

I am writing this to say I am still alive.
I am just saying hello to the world. Myself included.

 

The person you are trying to reach is emotionally unavailable. Please leave a message after the tone,

If you are satisfied with your message
You may hang up, or
Press 1
for more options.
………..
To listen to your message.
Press 1
……

To re-record your message,

Press 2
…..
To listen to your progressively angrier series of messages
Press 1
……..

To delete your message and pretend this never happened.
Press 4
…..
Or was it 5?
To question the impact of your mistake:
Press 5

To hear a lecture
on your numerous shortcomings
as written by you ex-girlfriends
and recited by your father
Press 5
……..
For a sleeping pill
Press 9
…….
For another,
Press 7
…..
She’s moved on. It’s late.
This may not even be her number.
You fool.
For a drop of morphine.
Press 8
….
To stare at the ceiling
Until the sun rises.
Press
6
…….

This message will repeat.</p

This is my best impression of Molly Bloom. Which is to say I am a complete Mess.

I wrote this letter with the intention
that it be read aloud.
Forgive the limits of my voice.
Of my lungs,
Of this gluttonous muscle that
Struggles as ever
To wrap its way around a phrase. Please.
If you cannot understand my words
then take the sound
(The syntax, the perspective)
and know
That when asked any question deemed important
My bones will always answer with your name.

I have taken you sublingually.
You dissolved your way to my bloodstream.
Then remained.

I spend evenings staring at my bedroom ceiling,
Arguing with my inner narrator
That if he insists on keeping me
From sleep again
I’d rather the conversation be about you.
You know, switch it up from my usual
statistically-induced-panic-attack.

This is my best impression of Molly Bloom
Which is to say I am a complete mess.

(Also, that I knew that line would make you laugh. Yes.)

The first time we were together
you seemed so nervous
I was afraid you might shatter
Might shake your veins
Hiss steam from your joints like a crazed radiator
Dissolve into dust,
Into some
powder-form moonlight.

Might lean in to kiss me
Then spontaneously combust.
Not in a double-entendre sense,
In a literal sense.
Which would have been a terrible thing to have to explain to the firemen standing in my apartment.
Let alone my roommates.

The are lot of things I should be doing besides writing this for you.
A lot of things more important than loving you and
There are hundreds of things
I am inifinitely better at than writing in general
like,
Spilling my coffee
or
Bumping into table corners
or
somehow eating an entire hamburger without smudging my lipstick.

But,

Loving you
is something that I am
Like, sort-of-okay at.

I mean, not great,
but definitely still better
than I am at writing poems or subtlety.

Though not nearly as good
as I am at not drinking coffee,
and
may I just say
that if anyone is going to mess up my lipstick these days
I would really like it to be you.

Wherever it is that you and I end up before we wind up dead
I hope that we find time again to have a 20 minute transfer in
the Antwerp Railway Station.
And,
did you know?
That your watchband is always too loose.
I have noticed
That if I ask the time of you
You would rather jerk your elbow violently until the face jumps around your wrist to be read
than ever let go of my hand.

It seems important.

At this moment,
To record these things.
Our story.
I am not entirely sure why
and I certainly have not come close
to doing it justice.
The best I can come up with is,

Do you remember the day?
In New York City.
In the rain.
We were standing underneath the overpass of the subway.
The drops kept settling on your glasses.
You just kept looking past them
You know, at me.

Exsanguinated in the Antwerpen-Centraal Railway Station.

Like everyone’s been saying we are.

These days
These muscles of metaphor
Beat faster.
They loiter outside the skin’s side door
Look for trouble like they don’t know better.

The mosquito’s song-
A reprimand, shooed away,
You can’t just hang around here adoring me.

Slow burn of the wait
Soaked in sun
and a shop-awning’s-worth of shade
Scowl teeth wrapped in sugar cane
Say,
Go ahead, officer,
Tell me I can’t stay.

Limb kissing the lighting
Late night longing of conversation
Relentless pursuit of the clock’s alarm
Twenty minute layover in the Antwerp train station.
He warned,
       “You will love this”

Transfer between a pipe dream and a love song.

The boy who breathes jazz percussion
but don’t know a thing of swing.

Knees bruised by cobblestones,
And all his bending
Toward the begged question
Big love eyes always waitin’ on.

Mornings when the light sneaks in
I fixate on the long stretch of his windows.
His skin a fan of sandalwood.
The open. The perfume. The flutter.
The days with him when I wonder.

My night owl ways have gone,
My insomnia cure is pretending
To be where you are

(If it’s July twenty-fourteen in New York,
What time is is in Casablanca?)

And the moon-
Don’t get me started on her.

Today, in a message,
you called me a poet warrior.

Today, I screamed at you in a book store.
Knowing you were not there
did not stop me.

You have put me in a difficult position today.
I have no choice but to adore you.
I’m sorry,
These decisions are made above my pay grade.
I am just the messenger.
I am just another
Insufferable sentimental fool.
Built to falter.

The starlight can suck it,
I am keeping you.

Receipt For the Purchase of a Plane Ticket to Amsterdam, As Scrawled by T.S. Eliot using His Non-Dominant Hand.

I would love.

  These days I have little to say
  Which Billie Holiday has yet to sing.
     As though the radio knows I am listening.

  A symptom less pulmonary.
  An extension of skeleton.
  Rib shaking.
  Subtle vibration of bones.
  Antique shop echoes
                           from a Victrola Silvertone.

  Ghost of song.
  Difficult to explain.
  Listen.
      Oh, darling- listen.
  Watch the notes catch the light.
  Dust settled on a conversation long forgot.
  The repeat of a chorus stuck in the mind-
                                             I would love. 

  Could sell this love
  For a steep profit.
  If we just stuck a label on it.
  Called it,
     Vintage.
  Genuine.
     Hand-made.
  Artisanal.
  Repurposed salvage of symbolic muscle.
  Upcycled lost souls.
  Called it,
Retro.

  Good old-fashioned American trouble. 

You Are My Favorite Lie of Omission

It’s like a switch sometimes.
With me.

There are days for no reason I’d risk the scratch of electricity
To cut it off.
Skeleton of emotional fuse box.
(Sometimes my knees click when I walk. On and off.)

If New York lost power you would return to before you existed.

(“Oh, let me remember you.”)

I could smile into the evening for once,
I could justify my panic.

Anxieties so faceted, they sparkle.

My must you be so sexy and neurotic.

Tonight,
I was trying to make a point about women.
I lost
track.
I meant to discuss the social implications of birthday gifts in modern mating ritual.
The symbolic value of exchange.
The habits of the domestic feline.

Women love questions they can answer by saying ,
“This thing means I am adored.
I am loved this many dollars.
This long.
These minutes.
This unique circumstance of timing, neurotransmitters,
and fate
Made particularly for me.
Would never fit you,
though you may envy it, if you’d like.
Thank you for asking.”

Mostly I keep you secret.
Woman questions she can answer by saying love.

You are my favorite lie of omission.
Gone until the phone rings.

Baby, it’s hot as hell outside,
Take off your damn clothes.

I don’t really want anything for my birthday.
Perhaps, a pair of wire cutters.

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