Why must you always insist on dirt. On your calligraphy of scars. You fell in love and got all boring. You owe me a poem. You owe me three dozen punctuation marks and a translation of all your sign language. You filled all of my pockets with secrets. You owe me less public display of your mixed signals, my body is not a performance venue. What were you trying to prove. That wasn’t a question. Take me home with you. You should have, I mean. Or you could have. But, you knew that already. But you can’t now, the invitation has been rescinded. Or something. It’s been a long time. You owe me 1 euro of postage, you owe me an explanation. A slice of chocolate cake. A small series of contained explosions. I would like to return these daydreams, these extra 10lbs. I will accept store credit.
There are new words here, and while my ears have finally captured the energy to learn them I’ve been too busy wrapping my shoulders in the sound. I sleep in a room with no windows, and the words grow slowly. A soft bed of moss, I walk over them in my bare feet. All tip toes. My knees are learning to sew their wobble to the cobblestones, to be sure of their wander.
The humans here say, hallo.
We live in an apartment with two roommates, both Italian.
The men have become their footsteps. Coming up the stairs.
Then down. In and out of doorways and so on.
My boss in the states is half Dutch. She warned me that the Dutch do not like doorknobs, stating,
“I hated that when I first came here, I hate doorknobs!”
As if, you know, this is an actual thing to have an opinion on.
But she was right- all the doorknobs here are an illusion, they don’t actually turn.
For ten days I did not own keys to anything, it was the first time since I could remember. Then Kevin made me a key. So I am once again responsible for the locking and unlocking of important things, it seems.
Kevin steps were the first song I learned to identify. They are the only ones that continue past the first stair case and climb up the ladder to our nest on the third floor. His footsteps always pause, then just before his head bobs over the landing he will say,
I used to talk to him, too late. This was last year, before he moved to the attic room where we now slumber. He had a window then, and I lost count of the sunrises I watched crawl into the picture frame. I told him to pay no attention to the sky outside his window. So he would tell me instead that the birds were singing.
Each morning I would ask him what the birds said,
and each morning he would reply,
“I don’t speak Dutch.”
Though he mentioned once that their song matched mine.
Now, I begin the day with it.
I ruffle my feathers quietly and I sometimes drink coffee in the mornings, now. Kevin makes the coffee. He tells me that his favorite bit about the making-machine is that it provides the option of “extra heet koffie” which is pronounced “Extra hate coffee.” We brew our coffee with just a normal amount of hate. I take sugar in mine, the big turbinado granules that hesitate to dissolve entirely, they curl up at the bottom of the mug. Like they are still sleeping. I nudge them awake with my coffee spoon.
I tell them that the birds are singing, each to each.
I know not what they sing to me.
Up late still unslept and unkempt- Feet unswept up off my filth woven carpet, I am balanced here, tiptoed. Ankle twisted. Pretending to breathe. Some reek of stained oxygen through diseased window screen. The permanent burn of an abandoned iron sits dead in the center of the room. It was there when I moved in here. It will be there when I leave. I am all my unpacked boxes of useless things. I used to be better at compartmentalizing. I keep taking you out to look at you, hold you up against the light. I like the shine of you, The tarnish on your silver. I like putting my hands on you. I’m reading articles that prove that I listened when you called me this afternoon. That I paid attention. It was still Thursday then and I still haven’t slept but it is no longer Thursday. So, yesterday afternoon really. But who knows what a day means anymore, anyway? I’m blissfully unemployed. I am permanent Sunday morning I am matinee films and orange juice I am the entryway to my Great Aunt Francine’s apartment Where the hall table always has an arrangement of fresh flowers. I am those too, the embalmed blooms. More than you know. It’s stuck in my mind like the moan of a love letter half written, never sent. Lately you’ve been on my… and so on. Words are best stolen after 2 a.m. Which is to say my words after 2 a.m. are worthless and my judgment long gone, So why not steal some? “Never ask permission only beg forgiveness” As you say so often. You stole my affection and you ask me to forgive you everyday. You had my permission to take it, always. I’d be happy to have my essential organs notarized on your behalf. Or perhaps just engraved, If lost please return to: you know. And so on. And such. Will have to look into the costs, If my insurance will cover it or not. And so on. And such.
I’m all in a fuffle
Eyelashes all stumble, exhausted
Passed out on flushed skin
Words all mumble,
all glad I caught you I’m in love with you what? Never mind
My meaning’s been hiding under the tip of some neighborhood tongue.
Hanging out on the store front
Chewing up langues de chat
Cigarette smoke and unsalted butter
I’m not mad at you
Got no reason But I ought to.
It’s probably on the tip of my tongue, too.
All twisted up from missing you
And nothing tastes the same these days.
Gone all crimson, metallic
Left all my modifiers misplaced, you did recklessly.
I blame the water
The rust of the pipes
Where the iron prayed for oxygen
Turned the faucet drip to wine
It ages in the barrel of a man’s body.
The hymns that the radiator sings all night keep me awake
Breaks against plaster when it’s complaint heats to argument
The tin echo of domestic dispute in a rented apartment
The war between the wear of winter and the drywall
The story of a lover that crumbled.
It’s been cold here.
Raining all the time.
I’ve got nothing but raindrops to tell you.
And that the skin of my elbows is cracked,
Revealed all of my bricks.
And that I miss you.
Can I just come home now?
Quit meddling with my sheep.
You adorable something or other,
you keep me
She taught me
How to swallow pills
Even the ones that you find it the bottom of your handbag,
Next to mysterious crumbs and
Shell casings of sugarless gum
Even those ones.
Or the ones that hide in that compartment in the Camry,
The one that clicked open suddenly.
It was meant to be an ashtray..
Those ones, too.
I don’t believe in God but I believe in fate,
In scrawling out excuses for our mistakes.
For the wrong turns that the lungs make
And the thing I should not say.
For fear they prove true
I sat down with my coffee and considered loving you.
I drank two and a half cups trying not to.
I spilled the last,
It sprawled across the kitchen table
Muddied the headlines with stains of my regrets
I let it pour off the sides and onto the carpet.
I don’t know.
Who am I to talk?
Or not talk, really.
Or talk incessantly, though never say the thing I mean to.
I am one worth not talking to.
I’ve been thinking about you.
I stayed up too late. I killed so many darlings. They just kept coming. Like zombie darlings.You cut the head off one sentence and it grows three ah-ha moments in its stead.
Then all of a sudden it’s four a.m. in the apocalypse- every word for itself. All the structure has been burnt to the ground and somewhere amongst the rubble and the fragments and scattered punctuation the bartender is still shouting,
Like he doesn’t know he is the next to die.
6: 30, Valentine’s day.
There is neon pink vomit
On the floor of the L train.
You’ve been writing poems on the subway
Passing love-notes to the city.
You lose them in your apartment entryway
When you fumble for your keys.
Last night, did you see?
The Empire State Building
It had a heartbeat.
Lit in great red lights they
The evening had its cheeks flushed.
Did you know?
That When the city gossips
It creates the sound of footsteps.
It melts the snow off the cement.
The buildings lean down to the street lamps
“Have you seen her?
I guess the rumors were true.
Red is a rather good excuse to break rules.”
I can only assume that the moon is out where you are,
That you are fast asleep, ignoring her.
That she is in on the scheme, along with the sidewalks and the subway cars,
The trees dressed in February woes.
Complaints against the cold.
I only hope that she left you chocolates.
I only hope that you are dreaming of such sweet nonsense.