picture5-1
He would not hear my heart
if he allowed the button on my shirt pocket,
pressing, to leave its shadow
on his antihelix. He would hear the drum
that my heart is,
though he would thinks he heard the history
of a single platelet
that has been more places in me more times even
than his thumbprint.

He would not hear a half-measure of cold X’s on a staff.
He would see the grave markers
of every ounce of hemoglobin I ever lost to a paper cut
or left behind on a curb
as a warning  to Michigan tricyclists. He would imagine
the tragedy of carnelians leaked
onto a kitchen knife, and the croquettes I lost them for
and the two mouths that ate
and ate until the sting ebbed and the mouths were
otherwise engaged.

He would not hear the sound of a slowing machine.
He would mourn
every cell I ever dislodged, every helix of mine unwinding
on a door jamb,
every crystal of plasma he’d like to someday find
and gather in his hands
and hold.

He would not hear the drip of a stalactite
in the solid darkness.
He would not press his hand to the pulse and wait,
as I do, for the orchestra to stir.
(ps so, uh, go easy, I haven’t written a poem since I was seventeen)

(pps art by Max Wanger)

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Evolution.

f.20.09

l

I know you said you were busy on saturday night, and that seven unanswered calls probably means that you will be busy on most Saturdays for the rest of time. But give it a hundred thousand years or so. Fuck, if Lemarck was right, a generation or four will do it.

Give me time to cull my species. I will fuck that girl you experimented with in college, yes, but only to make sure that whatever great-great-grand progeny of yours finds mine will see the tensed bow of her upper lip and want to kiss it. And this will happen: I will make sure those motherfuckers are equipped to handle any hypothetical zombie-apocalypse or plague, that they will make it to the twilight of the 70th century with a pen in their back pockets ready to get your number.

I mean, for the love of God, I read this morning that DNA is 90% utter bullshit, that only, like, two of our chromosomes say what we are and the rest are just play-dough waiting to be molded into some crazy-awesome superdinosaur. I am not taking any chances here, babe. I will base jump and walk on coals until my skin thickens into a rind; I’ve already developed a regiment of drowning myself in the utility sink, and my kid will be born with the gills to prove it. I will grow tusks for you. I will be the stuffed koala on your bedside table and the puppy-eyed unicorn in your first grade scrapbook and any other Catherine the Great shit you’re into. The dialtone has lasted an eon already; I am ready for more.

Art by Gabriel Orozco.

Testament.

f.12.09

guyb

Let’s not talk about the time I fell off of that cliff and died, the wheels on my Schwinn spinning too long through the dirt after my blood had stopped spinning in my brain. Let’s talk about the dirt: about canyon mud and crawlers, about clay.

It doesn’t even matter that it was the last thing I saw. When the tunnel of my vision finally collapsed into a point, I never thought once that I had spent my last moment gazing into the mouth of an anthill, that the earth was laced with this humming, shifting life and I’d murdered their whole civilization when I landed. I was thinking about hospital Jello in shallow plastic cups, my mother’s hand peeling a pale bandage off of my eyes. Okay: I was thinking about my HMO.

And I need to make reparations. I need to talk about drenched asters and yucca stalks thorn-deep in thumbprints of rain. I know now that you cannot classify that precise coolness, the color wheel-defying crimson of the earth an iota away. You have to speak and speak until the arroyo articulates itself around you: in crumbled topaz and bone, ancient cigarette ash and settled smoke. Yes, I saw my life flash before my eyes, but since then, this soil has hollowed out my skull and made it flower, rooted my sight exactly here.

Art by Guy Bourdain.

tlazoteotl.

f.8.09

cherriwoodsnappingsusiewatercoloura1

There are only about 80,000 gods to worship in this world, but Wanda had to pick the Aztec goddess of love and excrement. She tells me over a fried zucchini appetizer at Chili’s, somber-voiced and holding my hand like she’s confessing that she has a secret family in Utah. “Baby, I ditched the girls when we docked in El Cuyo,” she says. “I did not need a cruise. I needed a vision quest.”

I fronted her about half a month’s salary for this particular crisis of faith, but I hold my tongue on it for now. I am silent, too, for the three months that she insists on wearing everywhere an amulet of Tlazolteol that she picked up from a one-eyed six year old at the Tenochtitlan ruins. She’d dropped ketchup on it, and it bore more than a passing resemblance to Paula Abdul, but I say nothing; it’s her one religious ritual and I “will not take that” from her. She says that this is more serious than cathecism and Kwanzaa and Sekkot combined. When Tlazoteotl crouches before her on her fire broomstick and demands her one lifetime confession, she wants to be ready to have her sins eaten.

I don’t even laugh at her. At my 10 year reunion, she talks about the 14th day of the jaguar and tells my prom date that she has devoted herself to the patron goddess of shit and venereal disease. When “class secretary Jenny Nelson, now Mrs. Dr. Jenny Price” asks if we’re considering marriage, she says that we’re planning “an intimate ceremony beside the roaring vistas of Chalchiuhtlicue’s holy ocean.” When former three-time double letterman Jim Fernandez takes the bait and asks her que pasa, I can see her blink under her false eyelashes from across the room.

It is only after she leaves me–3 am in a sleet storm, the tires on her Omni pureeing the asphalt–that I even begin to get it. I watch them drag the lake, see the fender ascend from the muck like the nose of a breaching whale. I lie in bed and feel the dam of my own silence break and  pour over me until I can hear it, liquid, in my lungs.  I sleep, and it is only when I wake that I realize my jaw is sore for holding her memory clenched between my molars. She had told me once that love was a digestive process; now, I am too stunned even to swallow.

Art by Cherri Wood.

Merit.

f.6.09

seoul2009-7-500x3341

The only merit badge I earned before I got kicked out of the girl scouts was the “senses” badge. As if we deserved a prize for being cuter than those little scouts without functioning noses or ears or eyes, for being able to tell which part of our tongues tasted the bitter in balsamic vinaigrette or which nickel had been stuck in the freezer or under the hot tap before we touched it. I could not tie my bunny ears or invert a teddy bear’s skin to push in the stuffing, but I was, without a doubt, a card-carrying sentient being.

So I took it seriously. I put my ear to the floorboards to hear the rattle of electrons inside their respective atoms; I squinted, hard, into the off-blue center of the sun, just to feel that instant of fire before I glanced away. And I remembered everything, years after I turned in my cookie sale sheets empty (turns out sub-atomic sensation takes up your time). When I die, I know that I will taste the blood in my mouth and thrill at the widening light over my retinas; when we kiss, I will hear your wisdom teeth descending into the velvet dark of your mouth; and I will smell it, that after-rain tinge that stains every molecule of air after you’ve gone, or after I’ve forgotten you.


I don’t know who did the art, it’s just a totally sweet picture of octopi.

74

Look, I know about the woman who married the Berlin wall. I’ve watched the documentaries; I know there are absolute legions of people in love with Chevrolets and ice makers, little girls, even, who press their cheeks against the wet stone undersides of bridges and breathe.

I am here to say that you’ve got it all wrong. If the search warrant had come through, they would not have found any scale models of the Eiffel tower on the mantle, and they certainly would have unearthed nothing among the bedsheets. I mean, I refuse to spend over $15 on furniture; I have issues even peeing in public, much less what you’ve all been saying.

These are things you need to understand.

Because I wanted to be remembered by all of you as your 1997 and 98 prom queen, 3 time letterwoman and Academic Bowl champion. I did not want my address to go this way, though, of course, that reporter has since made this impossible.

You need to understand; no one has given me a room-long glance in years. You know the way all your voices raised a major third when you realized you were talking to me, real-life-disney-princess me? That does not happen anymore. The carnival was abandoned; it was night; no one could have been hurt. I just wanted to see if I could make something that tall and steel and solid shiver: I stood naked and I waited for the car to climb, for the thousand lights to explode awake, for gravity to send me something, anything.

Art by Mattias Adolfsson