If he and she do not know each other, and feel confident
they will not meet again; if he avoids affectionate words;
if she has grown insensible skin under skin; if they desire
only the tribute of another’s cry; if they employ each other
as revenge on old lovers or families of entitlement and steel—
then there will be no betrayals, no letters returned unread,
no frenzy, no hurled words of permanent humiliation,
no trembling days, no vomit at midnight, no repeated
apparition of a body floating face-down at the pond’s edge
Fear of Waiting
I love too many women is not the best lead-in
for a conversation that will end
with me telling you I love you
for the first time. And this might not be
the best first date topic. I know this,
but I know it the same way
twelve-year-old me knew the firecracker
in my hand would be a dull burst
lost in the grass if I let it go too soon—
I’m asking if you are like me.
Do you let go too soon? Are you afraid
more of having hands covered in ash
than you are of getting the timing wrong?
This is stupid, but I couldn’t wait
to tell you everything
about the stranger, who after pushing
a peppermint over my teeth with her tongue,
told me she never wanted to leave
the listening range of my rambling.
This meant a lot coming from a wanderer
who would never have to hear it again;
I was booked on a plane that had already boarded
when a voice calling my name over the PA
reminded me I could not afford to wait for a later flight,
and ever since, I’ve been wondering
what runway my hesitation will invoke next,
wondering if it was bad timing
to finally ask for the dance I promised
after you had already become a twirling body
and nervous hand spilling rum across
someone else’s shoes? I get it, you got sick
of your life standing like a loaded gun—
everyday with me another hangfire. This wait
isn’t foreign to any of us. This wait is a friend
splitting blinds, looking for his cliché of a father.
It is a foot pressed against the door
of a locked closet. A girl stands on line in the rain
holding two concert tickets and this
is what rattles us, the space after
a question mark. Blood work and CAT scans.
What man faces a firing squad
without eventually longing for an exit wound.
This is stupid, but I was afraid to tell you
I kept fiddling with my phone through dinner
because I was fascinated
that every time I tried to type love,
I miss the o and hit i instead.
I live you is a mistake I make so often,
I wonder if it’s not
what I’ve been really meaning to say.
I want to say there is patience at the center
of every firework I hear bloom
from my balcony, signaling the end
of a Tigers game, but I can’t see them.
The second floor isn’t high enough. Clouds
above the taller buildings flicker, reflecting
their light, so tonight I’m going to watch that instead.
Make an evening of it. A dinner date
with myself and a bowl of handmade guacamole
from Honey Bee Market, and this time
I’m going to wait
to find out if one, just one,
can get high enough for me to see it explode.
Of his collection, an old man said, “So much time
standing still unless upended.”
Who has never wanted to turn around its passage?
The hour of love, the shudder at the edge
of the first kiss, the misstep and fall, the slip
that told too much of the momentary truth.
When Jace was four, he lay on his back
rotating minute by minute the three-minute
timer from a child’s game, and asked
“Do you know what this is, Daddy?” Then he told me
without looking away: “Time sugar.”
The end of such a sweetness is also an ache.
Regarding the metaphor for her figure,
I swear it was the vehicle that stopped time
and again too short; you could spend a year
loving the full swells out of and into which the spill
seemed minutely to cipher her voluptuousness,
though it was the middle made it all of a piece.
Old gnomon of the sundial, a shepherd’s tally stick, the water
clock’s drip-drop prefiguring the pendulum’s tock,
a day cloven into twelves sixty by sixty ticks around.
Or the stuff of glass subsiding in a glass
of such a shape, all I want to do, as time keeps passing,
is to watch it go by.
For the Unknown Enemy
This monument is for the unknown
good in our enemies. Like a picture
their life began to appear: they
gathered at home in the evening
and sang. Above their fields they saw
a new sky. A holiday came
and they carried the baby to the park
for a party. Sunlight surrounded them.
Here we glimpse what our minds long turned
away from. The great mutual
blindness darkened that sunlight in the park,
and the sky that was new, and the holidays.
This monument says that one afternoon
we stood here letting a part of our minds
escape. They came back, but different.
Enemy: one day we glimpsed your life.
This monument is for you.
year after immortal year. How even in the thick
heat of summer, when bees swarm in the broad leaves
and figs swell like aroused women, even then
sorrow coats you like salt,
a white residue on the rich black furrows.
And life will never be the same. Even
when you get her back. Hell leaves its mark.
Your heart, like mine, is shattered, an ancient urn.
I have pieced the shards together,
but much is dust. Even in summer
wind blows through the cracks.
They begged you to allow the corn to grow again.
They write that you were kind
but I think kindness had little to do with it.
You’d done what you could.
People may as well eat.