Prostitute, I

Only an hour
and twenty minutes.

At least today
we’ve moved
from slave narratives
to black poetry.

I’ll still hold my breath
and look attentive
even though
my lungs
are screaming
for air.

I’ll listen
as you castrate
these poems;
cut them into bite-sized
pieces,
and rob them
of their
thunder.

I’ll sneak
a few breaths
from them
as everyone
congratulates
themselves
for having
understood
the unknowable.

“This poem is
about
a prostitute
and how she’s
dead
inside,”
she says
as they all
nod
sagely.

Prostitute
I,
say I.

“Bitterness doesn’t work
in real life; you
don’t want to be
around people
who are bitter.”

Embittered
I,
I say.

It swirls
as everything does,
and, if kindness is
a wren,
then this room
is the S.S. Phillis.

I sneak
another breath
as a yawn
infects
the sea.

Guiltily I walk
to a bench and dive
back
into those poems
and greedily–
shamefully–
suck in
breath.

There is
a French romance
emanating
under
the velvet
seatop.

I like it
because
nobody
will tell me
what it means.

Désespoir
est la chose
qui fleurit.

I will remember

I’m going to do my best
not to lose it
and sleep for three days
this time.

I’m going to persist.

The depression will bubble
inside my
gut,
but
I’ll use it–
at least I’ll lose
that gut
when I stop eating.

Everything tastes like
the color
grey,
anyway.

I’ll laugh,
but no one
will
believe me.

I’ll notice things
which
were not there
before.

I’ll remember
trying to
forget.

I’ll defend “Romeo and Juliet”
and wish
I could show it
to every heartbroken
youth
and teach them
how to mend
without derision.

The last thing
I said to her
was that
forgiveness was the final
and greatest
proof of love,
and that I had loved her so;

I said:

“I will remember”

(I’m
not
the type
to leave
a sentence
unpunctuated,
but I am not as ready
to end it
as she is.)

And when I think of
her
hereafter,
I’ll use her name–
no more pronouns–
you’ll know
who I mean;
after all,
she
is not
the only woman
left
on earth,
right?

Intermezzo in c minor

We are each
many
death days
in a way.

God damnit
don’t tell me to
rhyme
and squeeze my
thoughts
into a mold–
this is how it happens
in the only bit
of
mystery
left
to me.

I wish it was less
ju
.m
____?’
bled,
but
I don’t
now I
think of it.

If love
weren’t
ridiculous
I’d want
nothing
to do with it.

Am I sick?

Nobody
understands me
that knows me;
I have to
censor my
thoughts
even
because my face
betrays them.

My best friends
are
dead
authors.

“Hello?”

“Can you
hear me?”

We are innocents in ascents in a sense.

The softness
has run away
from her lips
which now have
sharp lines
from taut strings
tied to
mouth corners,
and her real smile—
the slightly
c
_r
_o
__o
__k
___e
____d
_____one
which I loved so well—
has all but
evaporated,
to be replaced
by the straight one
for pictures.

Her flower breath
warms
other
glass panes
and her hair
is wrapped around
her knuckles
as she rests
her chin
upon it
like
a gravestone.

A full cup of
tea
rests on the windowsill,
gone cold hours ago,
and the leaves have
sunk
to the bottom
like
she has.

I don’t want to catalogue
our story away
and look below
for love
less than ours
or above
for love
greater than,
but don’t
they
make us?

We
are
innocents
in ascents
in a sense.

You continue on
as you are
and I will
keep you
wrapped up
inside me
away from
the–
shhhhh—
I place fingers
to lips
and shush them
and rub those
fingers
through
my hair
in random
circles
so it won’t feel
like
my own,
but
it
still
does.

Her eyebrows are dark
and her hair
light—
blonde
like
fear is—
what a terrible
thing
when
perpetual silence
translates
the face you love
into
something
fearful.

Hear me:

I tell you
death dates
are a misnomer.