there is a torch
right now
between us

and the only thing
which will prevent us 
from lighting it
is whether or not 
you can allow 
its ashes
in your otherwise 

it would be easier
to dismiss this view
as simply pretty 
and walk away
because it is getting cold
and we forgot to bring 
heavier jackets

to cut off this conversation
because its levity 
is speckled
with what-ifs 
and we-coulds

so why make me say it?      
when you can see it

in my eyes     and all these lashes!     spelling out:
yesiwantthis waitforme   
dontleavemehere  hurryback

something tells me 
to be careful here
and        oh        how i do hate being careful

i have not been delicate
but i have been precise,
gritty and colossal,
and you know what:
that took courage

i see you've found those crevices
in my character
the curve of my spine
that arch, that apse
such a spectacle        so sure
i like to make my messes there

it's okay        
we are both learning
how worlds start 
to explode 
and then they don't       

there are birds with bad wings
there is winter honeysuckle 
growing wild everywhere
there are places we can go

all of this means       i...      

all of my thoughts
are going down 
a chimney somewhere
and burning      
but it's okay, 
we are learning

and i only regret          
that it is taking me
a lifetime
to learn      how to live       

if i could
i would do things 
differently, i would
i would
i would have 
kissed you 
in that dim parking lot      everything 
melting away
in the dark

we looked at each other 
so long it felt
like bursting into flames      

your eyes said want 
and they parted my chestplate like an arrow

i could eat salads 
for a month      i swear
i am cold                 
but i am learning
that before nourishment     
there must be docility
as in,   
you can live 
by the ocean 
and still die of thirst

hand over your kingdom

it is still 
your choice
so do you 
want this?   torch

if only this metaphor 
were more complex
if only
i could allusion away 
my own existence     i swear
i have done it 
before,           have you?

for a lifetime
i have been defined 
by my distance
and my exclusions
by the love that i dismiss 
when i try to fly away

bird with bad wings

it's okay,
fly away if you need to 
but know
that i 
am waiting for you
i am standing
perfectly still
and staying low 
to the ground
i am burning up 
with patience

so i know 
all the math
in your head 
says you shouldn't

but my torch
is yours 
if you want it
and if you don't

i have nothing left 
to hold onto
and this sweet
compulsory fire 
is starting 
to burn 
right through me




I have an idea.

It's a bad idea. Of course.
I most love my bad ideas.
It involves you, of course.
And something
I can't take back.

What makes this idea
a bad one. Is it
the irreversibility.
Is it the momentum.
Does that scare me. 
How actuality

Even if
you like my idea,
it could still play out
explosively. Bang. Up
in flames or
slow burn. Either way.
This thought terrifies
and excites me.

I try so hard to be good.
Sometimes I can do it.
When I concentrate very hard.
Until I get restless, or sleepy.
Either way. I start to stir.
Gears start turning.
They can't go
in reverse. I found out.

It is impossible
to sleep easy here.
This polite little town.
Plain as potatoes.
All that snow
awakens something
carnal in me.
Seriously this place 
is paltry as hell. And really just 
a lake of blank faces. A roster 
of common names:

Jennifers. Sarahs. Carolines.

Makes me want
to do something else.
I start getting all kinds
of ideas.

You seem equally
brash. Are you
in the mood
to burn something down. 
I know how.
Want to see.

Laurens. Emilys. Katies.

Makes me want to open
all the windows. Every
door. Let's do something.
Take me somewhere.
When it's dark out.
Black vinyl. LED moon.
I Bet You Look Good
on the Dancefloor.

Can I make you laugh
tonight. Forget
about before.

Rachels. Jessicas. Amandas.

Once they're open,
they don't just close.
The doors, I mean.
You know how they say
Might result
in a bang b-b-bang-go.

I should not
have looked. But I'm looking.
Should we.
Should we.

Annas. Sophies. Marys.

Their dishwater hair. Knockoff coats.
Banal bird tattoos.
Even the snow is muddy.
I'm bored. I've been thinking
about you. It gives me
ideas. It gives me
nightmares. Either way. Should we.
Should we. What do you think
about. When you are
tired. When you are
in your house. Should we.
Should we.
Will we.
Do you want to.
Tell me.
Will we.


Sit Still Until I Finish Your Portrait


will i always digress?  i think so
impossible not to
as i am
a wistful type

and forgetful

i only wanted
to watch you.


first love always begins
with this sincerity, 
perhaps because
its earnestness 
curtails my other desire 
to possess.

what is the point
of so much silence?

let's talk about something else:
let's reimagine a story
where we both
say the right thing
at the right time

i've seen you do it before

i swear,
it is a sure thing

stop turning around

try to believe me


can i have some more?  it's so good.
for once i don't feel so empty

"less" is a word
that keeps coming back
and over

it is the perfect example
of something regretful:
i know what i did

to get us where we are now.
look, i don't feel good about it

i was bored stiff. that's why
i was so distant and agitated;
why i looked so small. it's why
i noticed someone else across the room,
just the kind of guy 
i like. 

be jealous.
i liked you that way, too

you know it anyway,
that you're really cute?
are you blushing? you are too.
so then who
is in charge here? not
you.  you
seem out of it tonight,
you look like
you had a bad day

those wet lashes

i didn't think

that you would ever
get so hooked,
that you would make
so much of things

but tell me you wouldn't
have done exactly the same
if you were me

tell me


"you're not sad out of the blue.
there have to be reasons."

 there's a reason.

"come on."

 i'm coming.

"stop torturing yourself."

 it's over. all settled.
 i'm sorry. i swear i am.


i'll finish my drink first,
then i'll come. i'll watch
first, then i'll come.

so i followed you
out of the bar. i followed you
into a bar. i followed
a crocodilian instinct
i had about you.

why are you here
all alone? being good.
your type is so rare,
that's why i followed you.

i followed you
because you have a pretty name,
in latin it means

i could be so serious back then

only cared about art and language
i didn't know much,
but i liked it.  all of it
especially egon schiele,
picasso and schiele. i'm lousy
at english, so i linger on the art
and only watch movies with subtitles.
in fact, i love english actually.
oh i can't remember.
anderson, scorsese, aronovsky,
i could go on
but i'll try not to.

am i even allowed to be here?
i wont talk
more than five minutes.
i'll just get that dead look
in my face.

doesn't it make you happy?
i so rarely
do anyone else's portrait.
"the mysterious weakness
of men's faces"
and that sort of thing. instead
i have obsessed myself
with richter. it does me good.
the rigorousness
of his brush strokes,
those wide commitments.


how does that look?
it's strange because it's you
and it isn't you.
i have to go.

you don't have to like it.

someone wolf-whistled
on my walk home.


i always prefer to be clear.
but don't tell me
to relax.
you just jumped
down my throat
do you realize? when
you mentioned

a pathological scruple
and what is that? does that
mean gravity? like how
everything in nature
is perverted, and vice versa.
the opposite
of right-mindedness.

"are you following any of this?"

i can follow this, i am
living this.
i'm alive and
i will do anything

really its scary

"so you're voracious?"

you can't even imagine.

"i can see."

can you see me
clearly, i don't want to know.
it's nice
being here.
a little too nice.
that smile.

i admit
i was shaking
i was tired
but i didn't give up

i told my bones to go
i went 

big words. to love.


i am still studying the anguish
in schiele's oeuvre.
those delicate nudes,
emaciated and grotesque,
in such unlikely positions.

twisted, obscure,
something very dark.

i've tried to keep that out
of your portrait
but it never works. 

better not
to tell it
slant, actually

better to embrace
one's own disfigurements
with an emotional directness
that makes others want
to look away

pleasure being so obvious,
and so obviously tangential
to torture

is it ever possible
for pleasure to be shared?
unlike pain,
it is not a competition

even my portraits
are really

it is part
of my wistfulness


"The past isn't dead. It isn't even in the past." 
-- William Faulkner

The past should go away, but it doesn't.
Even if you try to throw it out
with all my perfect cursive notes 
and the white IKEA furniture. There is still 
the insomnia, a few mottled bruises 
rotting on the inside of your sternum. 
You once told me there was no such thing
as a heartache, so now I feel no obligation
to resolve anything. 

The past should go away, but how can it? 
Once I went hunting for your loneliness,
and I found it,
my round breath sewing loops
right through you.

Everything that happened
is still happening and happening.

The past should go away, but instead 
it waits for you, motionless,
like a flood at the bottom 
of your basement steps.

You. You breathed out like a map.
You said worship; you meant it.

The past is merciless, fills 
every recess of a heart;
fills all the holes in the sky
where there should be stars. 

The past should go away, but it follows you home
like a starving junkyard dog
with something dead in its mouth.
Haunts you. Looks like you:
covered in filth and eating 
from the garbage. You've always
been a mangled stray, desperate
for affection or a warm bed to sleep in.

In that case, the past is a chain
for you, dear.
You wear it snug around your throat, dear.

See how the past covers you like daybreak. 

The past should go away, but it keeps unfolding slowly
like a dense fog falling off the stage,
breaks open like a night of locusts.

I once brought you there, 
to my garden of drowning violas.
Led you, lured you. Halfway.
Left you there alone. Then
just when you began to see a crack of light,
I stepped in your path, 
closed my eyes
and swung the blunt object.

Your head aching like 
a broken heart.

The past should go away, but it won't 
stop breathing; such an intolerable 
black assault of wheezes.

The past looks right at you with its eyeless face,
as it drags itself across the floor,
pulls the knife from its belly
and threatens you with it.
Laughs darkly. Rotting wood
where there should be teeth.

You asked why I was crying,
and I said it was because 
I was so happy 
with such earnestness 
that even I believed it.

The past keeps spinning
on its demon carousel. 

You feel guilty because
you are guilty.

The past should go just away,
but it hangs from the beams
and sleeps upside-down inside of you.
Wakes up and immediately
starts beating all its wings.

Scrapes against the rust on your heart,
and makes a bony sound. 

The past should go away, but it never does.
It isn't even over yet, it's barely
even started, dear. 

A Long Time Ago

We did the very things
we never imagined we would do. 
		                           And it's too late now,
I've had a long look at you.

it felt as if I'd never had any other life at all:
I woke up wearing a black crêpe dress, sangria lipstick,
        and a tooth-crunching headache, dark and sharp.
But I remained a masterpiece
                                                      of composure
didn't I?

Nothing ever ruffles you, you noticed and also how
I was not beautiful, but calmness
		                                 can have the same magnetic pull
as beauty, can be so powerful 
that molecules and people 
realign themselves in a room
to get a better view. 
There were times I couldn't even hear
my own voice, it was hollow and infinitely far away.
I didn't eat for two days.
          The doorbell rang and rang.

I was busy reliving the moment where you and I
ran up the library steps. 
Your navy shoes, the rain flecking our faces.
I fell in love exactly how you'd arranged it.
                With my connivance, sure.  But still.

                It was refreshing to find someone
			         interested in me
	apart from my achievements or misfortunes,
not always prying for more 
or trying to pick my life apart like a fish split in two and splayed open—
					                         those messy pin bones everywhere.
You sat me down and told me
				                    the truth.
Even if you don't like Poe, he invented the detective story.

That was a long time ago. 

There was the evening you stopped me in the doorway
to pick a thread off my sweater.
	Days later, I sat up suddenly in bed at the sound
			               of your voice
speaking clearly in my head.
Come a little closer. 

When I knocked, the door had opened
quicker than I'd expected;
			I was staring out at the street
		thinking of something else.
You stopped me in the doorway
to pick a thread off my sweater.
And how spectacular to be reflected in your eyes.
I couldn't understand what you were saying,
I was too busy
              turning your words over in my mouth,
those delicious syllables.
I heard you say: come in
Then the amber-colored everything,
	       like the afterglow of a dream.
Your Cézannes and owls and playing cards,
the closeness of your face in the dark.

There was a certain disorientation
of being the wrong girl,
with the wrong man, in the wrong apartment. 
But what can you do when someone tells you: come in
and reaches for your hip.
And their eyes can see inside of you.
And they know you've got the blues.

What song is this?  I asked
to have something to say.
			My loyalties were all over the place.
		My hands, everywhere.

And even then,
despite everything,
			                       it still came as a shock to me.

The next day, you used the words think and love 
                                  as I moved my breakfast around the plate.

Do you even know what love is?
What it looks like? What it tastes like?
How it shimmers for a second 
			                               before it turns to ash
and moves right through you like a ghost in the room.
How it tastes like two takeout boxes,
the clinking of glass,
another red mouth full of teeth.

Weeks can go by like that,
                and it gets harder and harder not to be hungry. 

You said I hate to keep harping on this,
                                   but you really must eat something.
Yes, I know.
My parents said Intelligence isn't everything, Julia.
Yes, I know.
Yes, I know.

I like fried eggs! I like jam and toast! 
I can eat four slices!  I can eat the whole loaf!

I was speaking in a very loud voice, everyone
		                        pretending not to hear.

Really, my wolfish ego eats everything in sight,
           devouring affection and paperbacks, demanding
           loyalty and silence and caffeine.

But the body is weak, turns off like a light switch; 
                                                 that's what I did.  
Meaning: the sculpture will emerge, 
              but only when we stand still
              and are patient.

You could feel my loneliness. 
              Black tea, that's the ticket, you knew.
Three sugar cubes, an ample slug of cream.  

You told me things would get better,
and they did. 

Anyway, that was a long time ago.

Last Sunday morning, I woke up late
and climbed from a heavy,
complicated dream.  Nothing left
but a ringing in my ears.
                  Someone who looked like you
put ground glass in my food
because I had no discipline.
	I am telling you this dream for a reason.

Look at me, I'm talking to you.
I can still see inside you, too:
                                                  all that art and regret
                      adding up, mixed together, 
slowly frothing over.

Heartbreak is my great secret, too. Don't you know—
almost everybody's got one.

Don't you know,
that I never stopped loving you
so much it ached inside me and almost felt like
                        but a certain heaviness can take over—
it prompts 
a gentle goodbye at the gate, a parting glimpse,
fingers tangled then no longer touching,

It is
          the death haiku,
accompanied by a gorgeous piano elegy.

It doesn't really have a name.

that was a long time ago.

All I am trying to say is
                                          Hello, old love.
I am still waiting for you.
You've always been a planet
	                                        without an atmosphere.

What I mean is that you're smart.
				People like you.
	They tie themselves
in knots for you.
I did.

A long time ago. Although it was unlike me,
          I itched to reach for your hand
and when we were alone, I took it. Remember?
How  sensational to be holding your hand,
to wake up next to you in the morning. 

You took me to the mountains. 
Taught me the difference between ebonized wood and true ebony. 
Swept the hair off my face, gently. 
			By September, everyone noticed my appetite had improved.

	You'd be surprised
what small, everyday things
			can lift us out of despair.


Photo Credit: Lee Price Studio © 2009
After The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

Tell Me No

I keep trying to push my words into you   /   even now
I am writing you this poem 
as if it might fill you up with something
I can really sink my teeth into. 

I am writing you this poem,
even if you never asked for it.
Even though I know you
won't understand it.  
It feels so good anyway     /     and besides,
I don't know what else to do. 

And besides, I like to see you   /   take the bait. 
I like to see you hoping.

I hope one day you will understand the feeling 
of being lost inside yourself    /   though I know you will not.   
You are not one to turn your head away 
from something you want. 
And why should you?   Although it can be
equally delicious    /      Here, I'll show you.

We stare at each other from across the street,
waiting for the light to change,

your breath unfurling in slow motion. 

I wonder how you hope this will unfold.  Are you thinking
what I'm thinking?
Tell me no    /   despite your spreading pupils  
and the skip of your pulse    /    but I know you.
The truth is:    we are as haunting
as we are haunted.

And it won't stop.
I will wait until it is late and you are most tired. 
I will whisper something heady into your neck.  I will
linger on you    /    until something interesting happens.

You are thinking:    this is a bad plan.
But everything is a bad plan when you are impatient.
You cannot block someone's path 
towards what they want most.  Well, 
you can try    /     but it doesn't do any good.     
You should know.

Really, this is my last attempt.  
I looked over my shoulder to make sure you were watching.
I wrote you this love poem.   I stood between two mirrors, 
reflected infinitely    /    I fogged up the glass
and traced your name in cursive.
I painted a self-portrait     /    and for once
I was so angelic.
Beautiful, even.

If You Come Over

It's still dark outside,
too cold
   to have coffee on the porch or take a walk
          around the lake, but if you come over,
I'll keep my hands to myself.
	        I just want to show you
the new watercolors and my latest oils:
	          a scented jacaranda
           dripping over the cedar fence in the yard,
leaking onto the sidewalk.
                  The white brick wall
                                            splattered with poinsettias,
                  like the aftermath of a shotgun.
The rippled lake washed in gold.

I have tried to tell a story, to make a record of things.

	    Many things have happened since you left here,
      most of them disconcerting.  A man in my office
put his hand on my thigh, 
                              so he could try to know me better.
I left early that day for a doctor's appointment.        
My test results came in,  though I already knew
	I have anemia and amenorrhea
and a small heart murmur. 
I had a lot to think about
on my way home; I hardly noticed
                                           the man on the sidewalk
	until he whistled at me 
long and low,
so I would know he was hungry.
                            Never mind.

                              But hey, come over.
Winter has already polished off October
and I need another
			pair of hands
on my rib cage.  I can hardly tell anymore
if I am sketching your face
	  or just imagining you
     on the front of the cereal box.
This morning we could do something
We could act out a scene where we fry the eggs
and bake the sourdough ourselves. 
	Where we open a book and flip through the pages.
Where your hand rests on my shaky kneecap. 
	                                         We could rewrite the scene
                       where we let the toast turn black.
And I let you see the cities
	glowing in the center of me.

It's impossible, you know,
to feel calm in a city.
            Without the sound of birdsong. 

Every love song begins like that, 
with a sweet piano,
so two nervous people can pause
to kiss
                                       in a door frame.
All that wonder and trembling. 
      That's never what I wanted
                                             with you.
I wanted to be the doorway,
	the trapdoor that you would fall through.
   The pair of hands
	                to open you
       like a moonflower.
To whisper inside of you
	                like an echo
                   begging you
   ruin me, ruin me, ruin me.

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