Dear Boy, Who Never Met My Grandfather.

The writing today has been not. Along with the finishing of chores and suppression of anxieties, along with the necessary hours of sleep and their prerequisite ignorance of moonlight-all of them have been decidedly not. The of-courses and always were still as such, nothing changes. The lunatic ways of this poet, of the impending doom of Mondays and plane tickets and Oh dear lord my boyfriend is coming and Oh dear lord it has been so long since I’ve been naked with anyone. Fairly certain my bathroom scale is broken. The barista at the coffee shop keeps insisting they are not closed until 7, while turning off every possible light around me.

I bought new old shoes today and a new old coat from the thrift store that is sort of across the street from my job. I needed the coat, yet I decided to just continue to wear his sweatshirt. Which just fits me. Not in an adorable this is clearly my boyfriend’s way, more of an I am fairly certain my bathroom scale is broken kind of way.

The barista continued his polite insistence that I am fine to stay, and not write. To not drink the sip of coffee in an almost empty cup. He sprays each table with sanitizer and wipes it clean. He runs the rag right across my face, my being, all the while whistling. I wash away the taste of ammonia and dish rag with my last ten percent of coffee, cold.

I left the coffee shop and went to a bar, avoiding the perils of my apartment and the walls he painted white for me. I have felt as little today as I have consumed, hunger being the soil from which affection blooms. The rhizomatic sighs of young, fertile Americans. Fingers intertwined.
Fairly certain my emotional scale is broken.

I have starved my loss into existence, turned numb toward all things save for the wind. The advanced ache of my young bones and their relentless complaining. I love my knees in all their wobbled glory, they get me home and they keep me standing at work and they make poetry seem worthwhile and they help me to wobble away from my anxieties, they avoid the walls of the apartment.

You see, the walls were so ugly and I whined and whined on phone calls to a boyfriend who was not here. Who was perfect in his absence, ever haloed and flawless. He painted them white during his last visit, and we abandoned the project when they were all merely primed white. Bohemian. Post-apocalyptic chic. Or something. Regardless, romantic.

They are waiting. The walls. Not just waiting for me, waiting for me to admit it. The pain of without him. For my emotions, at last unbridled, to declare something other than the thickness of the air around my skin. The winter of New York and never seeing Manhattan, of New York every day the same, of the cityscape sunrise outline orange glow off the empire state building and the smiles I no longer bring to meet the morning.

I want to not write it, or even to think it, to acknowledge the cold shoulder of my inner dialogue. I am the husband to my psyche, I will never wash the dishes or put the trash away. I stopped loving me a long time ago.

I can only hope that all this lack is a coping mechanism, not a falling out of, not a boredom. I never want to be wrong about him. I dare not admit it yet, for fear of his wandering eyes and my inability to lie. These things are so fragile, and he is so very much one of those fragile things. He is my fragile thing and I’ve grown tired of the chore of his mending. I haven’t at all, actually, but I have learned in the past that the day will come. For now, there is only the numb and the not writing.

I should clarify, I don’t love anything these days. Nothing tastes the same, save for the whiskey, the ice cubes. The cold weather and ammonia and the stutter of my inhale.

I keep my eyes down. I radiate taken, or at least not up for anything fun. My cleavage has been bound into submission, starved from the relentless consumption of my lungs. I do not want to love anyone but him. I am just overwhelmed with the anxiety that I don’t. I alternate, I have brief moments during each day where I feel something, and in those moments I miss him. Or his arms, the warmth of skin on mine. It hurts. The scent of autumn and alone, of decay and anxiety. The withering of things, the reduction of beauty to its sugars.
Nothing tastes the same, save for the whiskey.

Please, just let me be right to love this one, let me love him, let us have something easy and warm and eternal and lacking in struggle.

Dear New York, I will always love you and have you. Did I abandon you? I am sorry. You deserve more and I can’t say why I have been so reluctant to put up a fight. You are my girl over the body of water, my green light rich with envy and metaphor.

This is a long love letter to no one. Rather, this is a courtroom record of a heart not breaking. Though just faulty enough to hurt someone. To demand a recall, to question the meaning of this all and the cost of a settlement, of a marriage and a divorce and an inevitable guilt trip by my dead grandfather. I am supposed to be making a list of his things that I want. I want him back.

I am supposed to have found a place for his ashes but nothing feels right, so instead I talk to them. I apologize, I try to live up to their standards and I wonder if they are really the remains of the man who could not die. I curl round the box in my best attempt at the traditional fetal position, which was not mine. He has so much unfinished business and I had so many thing to, well, never say. Thing to say that I never would have, We could have lived for centuries and I’d still shame myself into silence at just the thought of his blue eyes, the anger. The strength and despair and he really had no idea how much I loved him. I know still he would be furious at the things I say about him, sometimes. When I speak of his cold ways, of his shame. I wish I had kept the secret of his illness, how it stole his mind away. I wish I had kept him as mine. I wish I had not been so afraid to love him.

I always called him “Pa.” My mother did not tell me until I was older that he wished to be called “Grandpa.” He was, by far the most interesting human I will ever encounter. His mind moved in ways I will never understand. I loved him in ways he never understood.

To think of breaking my grandfather down to a list of what I want has been a task that has consumed my thoughts, and questioned all my limited 25 year old understanding of what is right.

Were I to send an honest list I would ask for only one thing, I would like my grandfather back. Other than that, I would like my brother to call me. I would like my grandfather’s clock to have continued its infuriating chiming, every 15 minutes. I’d have loved to have spent enough time with him to stop noticing the time. Second star to the right, then straight on ‘til morning.

I would like to give him back his bowl from the prison camp and his filthy sarong of parachute. I would like please to take possession of the broken pieces of his heart and I would like to glue them back. Rather, to hold them together with my own hands, clasped, until the effort allowed his blood to move again. I would like to remain there. I would like to have one more Sunday with him reading poems from the New Yorker and listening to his story of T.S. Eliot in the library. Which is the best of his stories, and above all it is my story. That he told me.
You see, he knew exactly what Eliot was pointing at.

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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
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 in to a thunderstorm, the rattle of 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.