poem for over-the-counter emergency birth control
I am more than ninety-seven percent water at this point
my insides sloshing in the disquiet. common sense
ebbs back as the day fades from me, as my legs lose their clench
held around his waist, as my eyes become dull and less loved. how
there was no warning, no tug at my sense while i pulled him around me, how
there was only the need and the way i
cannot be touched any other way, I—
in the leaving, they love us, someone intones
someone full-up the lemon balm of cynicism, someone the
rosemary tang of bad advice. i know all this. can i take my plan b and be alone.
can i dream of salt air in my throat and being
the kind of person who bears it,
bears—his child? no. bears the pang
of waiting six weeks to be
sure. while he’s
away. (i am
but this morning, the shakes and the flowing, still
the picked-up-and-swung-around he’s leaving he’s
left. still, the douceur, the choice of words, the close close close. still the delicate
opening of the clasp at my temple, the lifting-away of skull plate, this absence
of cortex. this
tide of days, lemon-blue washed infinities of days, piling, dealing up
in stacks like rolled pennies, in folds and swathes like purple saris.
the words like marbles palmed across the table,
to scatter where they will,
this poem now appears in bareback lit!
in summer i am feral, ugly, fast
body brutal and brilliant, muscles sprouting like
wings beneath my skin. my skin
cracks and splits, stings with
concrete scrapes, tree bark, mosquitos.
in summer I lift my leg to my wing and begin to play
i will keep you up all night,
eyes burning moon
lips open & empty.
I message the former lover my essay’s about. “they accepted it. I’m terrified.”
I do not name the subject of my terror, erase and rewrite potential responses. I toy with my prepositions, with the placement of my limbs. There is no real difference between them. I brew a pot of tea and feel gooseflesh rippling the backs of my arms, shivers on my spine, my fingers pulling anxious words from the keyboard. A friend sends aloe vera through the medium of gchat. “it’s fine.” I sip my tea.
earlier today I rode the commuter train like a golum, like a girl made of mud stuffed into the pencil skirt, a scroll itching the inside of my chest. the sun coming through the windows flushed my cheeks, left me drowsy and cold on exit. later i rode the bus like a fifteen-year-old, my feet up on the seat.
he continues to clamor for a copy.
will these decisions tear this quiet house down?
would that be what I wanted all along?
“and love for most of them, was this weak ugly way of being. it left you too soft. too wide. too honest about the flowers in your bones. too much water. too easy for fever. so i learned to apologize for love. i sat on my hands when they wanted to touch. i tucked up my feet when they wanted to take me to someone, something. falling in love became civil war. and the shame that would come, because i could not swallow the warmth from my eyes, every time, like i was taught to, was an everyday altering of my light. a lot of my life has been me convincing myself out of love. to know that the world finds the radical vulnerability of love such a dangerous flaw is a constant breaking of my breath. and to know that i must choose love anyway, is a constant mending of my purpose.”
Dancing Ganesha, 10th century. Culture: India (Madhya Pradesh); Kalacuri. Mottled red sandstone.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving, 2007.
when my brain buzzes too much i go visit the Southasian Art wing at the Met, wend my way through the Buddhas and demigods until I pop out in Brooke Aster’s absurd, beautiful, peaceful Tea Garden. I know of no more soothing place.
Imogen Cunningham and Twinka Thiebaud , Yosemite, CA
Photograph by Judy Dater
normally it is such a bad sign when i spend lots of time indoors watching tv, but this seems almost nourishing—I watch and get inspired, I pause it periodically to bang out blues standards, patsy cline, or hank williams. I cook with abandon, trying to use up my 20-lb basket of organic produce; I steam beet greens in ginger-sumac broth and mince carrots with caramelized onions, fresh mint and celery. Food and music like constant companions, and even if this city doesn’t take as well to Walkin After Midnight or St James Infirm’ry, I rattle through em smiling.
He has a strange face, a gaze both present and absent, a smile that flashes at inappropriate times. Often enough I check, as I might my watch if I wore one, if I am attracted to him, but the answer is always no. I wonder sometimes if this is enough to keep me, one of these drunken nights, from kissing him. If I spend too much time thinking about it, I will find out why.
He played this song tonight, and his thin voice trailed in the cold damp this city has been slipping on and off lately. I felt a twinge in my jaw at certain lines without fully knowing why.
When our hands got too cold to play, a bar sprang like magic from the wet grey cobblestones. Neither of us had ever been there before. In the window was a guitar and a copy of Kid A, and while all of them were overstuffed, none of the chairs matched. We talked about hitching Andalusia or maybe Portugal, or maybe France, about brains, about the city that I miss with my whole body, about reasons to stay in this place. We drank not quite enough wine and parted ways abruptly, as always.
I can’t sleep, and the song is telling me the story that I’d almost forgotten, the one where I was sixteen and took my fathers’ socket wrench and dismantled my childhood swing set, piece by slow and heavy piece. I put the rusted bolts in my pockets and carried each beam to the curb, put the socket wrench back in the green iron tool box when I was done. My parents paid me $80 and I bought a round-trip ticket to that dreaming city. It was analysis. It was reducing. It was turning a structured memory into a neatly stacked pile of barely weatherproofed timbers. Like all good demolishers, I enjoyed the work.