When I crawled into bed last night, he smiled. “Lavender fields.”
I’d dripped some in his deep bathtub, soaked contentedly with a book I only read in his bed. “To remind you of your golden childhood.”
"As a young French boy, frolicking through the lavender fields."
"It’s not like you’ve changed."
"I’m still a young French boy," he agreed, pulling me close, "frolicking through the lavender fields."
And this morning? Dashed it under my arms, went to work. Crawled a hornet there later, piqued by the scent, the peculiar feeling of insect legs on a tender part to the left of my shoulder blade. I groped, slapped. Who wouldn’t? And then danced up, FUCK YOUR MOTHER, my whole body made a bell by pain. I did my job while holding myself together, while clamping down ice, my jaw, full-on whine.
And the math teacher walked in, all beard and almost-thirty, and I could barely remember how he climbed into my loft bed all those years ago. Still dripping ice down my side, but now telling bad jokes, enjoying the glow of his company in the way that a comet enjoys the sun. Passing, yes, but such warmth! Enjoying the respect in his pronouns, the stories he’d chunked up over all these years. I played him a Tom Waits song outside the metro and tourists dropped toonies in my case, carried that glow through stations & pocket change all my way home, the throb of the hornet sting a distant reminder though. Bad with the good, bad with the good.
But really, when the trains kicked up the wind, all I could smell was grateful with lavender.
I’ve been watching Project Runway. The fantasy was important, and the way it gets behind my eyes, how I get on the metro and appreciate a good rich colour, a well-placed belt. A necklace that says GENS GET MONEY. But sometimes Heidi Klum is saying where is the sex appeal as though the designer forgot a zipper or a hem and I’m thinking, gosh, Heidi, when I leave my house in anything that might have sex appeal I get mistaken for a professional. I live in a zone de tolerance, a Hamsterdam if you will. Last night my partner, opening the door to my apartment, heard suddenly, close to his ear, Want some company? He checks something on his phone before getting out of the car and someone’s tapping on the window, hey baby.
In April, they found a sex worker on the sidewalk, slashed to ribbons. The police suggested women in the area walk together. For a few weeks there were more cars, and more high heels clattering after the blue lights to flag them down, and then the tide went back out and left everything scattered, the condoms melting on the sidewalks.
A friend got married a few weeks ago and I waited outside for my ride, the sun on my calves. First the cars were just going by real slow, the men real gross, raw-meat faces contorting, and then the propositions, then the cars stopping, the men turning around to walk backwards. I don’t pretend to know anything about the experiences of a sex worker, but I do know how differently-charged these interactions were. I had not known before that there was a false bottom to street harassment, that it can always get worse. By the time my friend arrived, I was livid. I hate men more than usual, I explained. Best just to drive in silence.
All this to say, I got a banging outfit on and I’m biking out of the hood as fast as I possibly can.
To the handful of compost I patted in place around each tomato’s feet, hefted up by the 15-kilo sackful in the market, making old men hit all the right notes of amazement. Half-ask, half-exclaim, “You got that?”. I got it. Weighs more than my cat, less than a toddler, smells better than both. These hips made to sling a load over—I got it.
To the espresso grounds I smooth under the mulch to my strawberry roots, smiling all mother at its brand-new buds. “Hey, you!" to a cantaloupe bulge, water through my fingertips to the fresh seeds. Coriander, cos, kale, radish, mustard green—a girl can dream. Thyme popping its sweet green head out. Hey, you.
To the new composter, to the burning sun on the back of my neck, to the bike trailer rattling along, to the potholes, to the projects, to the possible. A new day. How about that.
as in, those nights where you’re singing without realizing it, where your body just decided some noise should be made, walking the hall past the bookshelf of teas and drygoods. as in the upcoming, man, me and you and a fishing pole, can you imagine? what luck!
as in, time with an old friend and leaning out the bus window as he slaloms by on a longboard, peu importe les ni’poule d’hochelag. as in, handing each other backalley raspberries. as in, crossing a good missed face in the grocery store as you shovel yeast in a bag.
as in, an interview tomorrow and probably nothing wrong with your cat.
in 1847 a man exploded his brother and
wanted to die and
instead became a prize. Hundred years later my neighbor
got thinner and thinner
until she could put both legs
between the bars.
Last month a woman flew
past the windows, hurtled by
as their boots came up the stairs
to come put her on the street.
Yesterday was a birthday of white phosphorus and exploding skin
and every article tastes of ink and ash.
I no longer trust mathematics because it is killing us
because it is a tide pulling my feet
from under me. I put my eyes
in a glass of poetry overnight
but when I wake they are still raw and ragged,
jerking tears at the bus stop
because today a child exploded
like every day.
I want to know who counts the bodies when there is
no body left. Who shakes them,
and what remains inside
to rattle. In what language
these spells will finally work.
Dreaming suddenly of a grand-daughter i can tell about my lovers—the handsome engineering student, the Brooklyn comedian, the math teacher with equations on his arms, the sad filmmaker, the madcap anarchist, the veteran who wished for love so hard that women began to fall out of the trees and left him terrified and more alone than ever Dreaming of being able to tell them, you know, a heart doesn’t forget, it is a muscle with cells that have marked every beat. Remembered everything and made poems over it. That even though I feel it swell only at the sight of this one, despite the casual and proprietary way I look at men now, secure in some kind of coupled comfort that I can look, feel, and then go about my day, even with all of this I remember them with a fondness that can ache. Wanting to tell stories as resuscitation, a way of gasping them back, if only for a moment.
My life with a gardener
The screen door firecrackers closed.
I find her at the sundry drawer
prowling for twine. I’m nothing
she sees. There’s a tornado
in her hair, her face is streaked
with dirt like markings applied
before the rituals of drums.
I’ve watched her shadow break free
and tend the next row of corn.
I understand this eagerness
as fully as I can speak for the ocean.
I say water is behind everything,
a blue dictator, say waves
are obsessed with their one word
but have no idea what that word is.
Her hands enter soil like needles
making the promise of a dress
from cloth. In December she begins
smelling lilacs, by February
she sees the holes
peppers burn through snow. I see her,
she’s the last green thing I need.
When finally she’s pushed inside
by the rude hands of dusk,
I set down my life for her skin,
taught all day how to smell
like the sun, and the hundred
directions of her hair, and eyes
that look through me to flowers
that only open their mouths
to speak with the moon.