I was always pulling my pants and pushing my glasses up,
hitting snooze then waiting
for a train that had just left. Always dropping things
but they were never hot. Blisters kept changing,
but always blisters. Kept finding myself at the badly-lit nowhere places
in the city at the center of the universe, laces untied, stuffing plastic bags
deeper into the plastic bag where we kept the plastic bags,
coming home with more. Queen of nowhere,
duchess of a Thai restaurant and a dive bar.
Always making a kingdom out of little pillars of salt on the table,
waiting to be punished for my sins. Looking back,
waiting for the hours I worked to turn into plastic bags,
waiting to consume their contents. Kept
finding myself sidling into a bodega, shoving something
into my bag, wandering out. Something was always striking
a nerve or a chord or a bell or a pose or the water.
Always chewing on something small that only sanded down the edges
of hunger. Crumbs in the bottom of my bag I lived curled among.
Always the rooftops of the city stretching out
in a panorama that almost hurt to look at, always letters on the rooftops
but they never told me anything I wanted to know.
Always doing really well, and maybe I really was.
Each season I’ve broken—
there was a sweetness there, always. I want to consume that whole year.
To take every skyline I saw, stuff them into plastic bags,
walk around with them forever and always.
Tube-fed. Small-veined. Thin-skinned.
Cast-iron stomach, iron lung, weak heart.
Swollen ankles, shrunken heart, lace bones.
Weighs too little to give her cold blood.
Bird-brained. Breath wandering, eye
caught. Glassy-eyed. Sky-tongued.
Chap-lipped. Suitcase heart.
Steam-engine fists. Theremin wit.
A heart like a wheelchair on a staircase.
Headphones tangled with the tubes
wrapped around my neck. A heart
like a glacier. A year like a fever. A day
like an empty silo. A heat like a plane landing.
Lungs like Dixie cups of gasoline
for the wrong girl to fill.
A spark thrown.
I am on my last dime. I don’t know how much time
either of us have left. The wind is picking up.
I am picking up something
to make the night better
but I don’t know that it will help.
I want to drop you like a baby or a call.
I want to hide you like a bottle in a toilet
or a disease in a cell. I’m trying very hard to hold still.
Talking about myself is like holding the hand of a disease,
like painting the inside of a vase that exists to break.
Burning alive is like holding the hand of a child.
A lover holding my hand is balancing an egg on my head.
Holding the edge of the bed is going someplace far away.
Going to bed hungry is like coming back to myself.
I want nothing to be broken, even if I’m broke;
nothing to be lost except how we hum to ourselves by the river—
like we could unshuck our skins, slip clean and blue
as ice through a glass, unhurt, just joining what is already there.
I know the censor is inside, holding the hand of the ghost;
the ghost holds its hand over the mouth of the child.
I know a lot, and you ever try to test me I’ll fail
but if you ever try to fight me I’ll win.
Let’s stop fighting. I’m trying very hard to hold still.
I want to lose you like keys or weight or hope.
I want to win you like sweepstakes or pop-up windows or a race.
I want to empty you like a can of beer or a stomach.
You know that if I was holding I would give you some
but I warm up the plates and garnish them
and eat it all down to the bone. I hold you around myself like a sweater
or belief in something bigger.