good thing I’ve found a new boy to feel obsessed with, because I’ve lost a couple with the closing of summer and I’ve got a chapbook to finish. and despite all my grandiose articulations, my claims of ceaseless aesthetic commitment, everybody knows that nothing gets me more prolific than the thought of my cheek against a chest tattoo, my tongue pushing against crooked teeth. These are some recurring themes, along with bad habits and good songs and the kind of hearts that push and pulse and stay up until dawn reading poetry. 

I guess all I’m ever doing is drawing out a map of the ever-sinking ever-rising bubble of blood in my chest—I lust, I weep, I sing, I sleep, I want I want I want I try—and its fear, its fascination with its own collapse, all its sticky little tendrils seeking out a world to hold. 

But imagine: if every time I wrote something, it meant someone I want to put my hands all over sitting across from me at the bar, reading, spilling his beer with excitement while I turn into a giant grin and two bitten, smiling lips. 

something hard and plastic was banging loud against the bathroom stall and her lips were girl soft, you know that soft soft and with just those slightest girl hairs above her lips and she tasted like someone else’s younger girlfriend and later there was anger and awkwardness and there was standing in the lake up to our knees and there was her body against mine on the southbound el and there was the strange morning when I walked away and realized the game was done and I never gave back her t-shirt but let me tell you there is a special magic in two girls whispering secrets in a bathroom stall.

My mouth balloons with silence, as I catch myself again pouring all the raw material for words instead into the act of hunting, or of longing for the hunt. I size up men and women like gently dappled deer, glimpsed in the roadside forests of my childhood. My heart’s teeth are glistening and pointed.

I suddenly remember with massive force the afternoon light on the Natchez Trace, and every curve my life has taken from it. Lately I feel I am scrambling in a foolish effort to find the right pieces; if I could only find the right town, the right girl, the right man, the right way to pay the bills, the right old American car, the right haircut, the right arrangement of the furniture, the right artistic practice, then, then, all the beauty that I see in fits and patches would unleash itself to me at all times without this constant ache. 

I know, I know.

I dreamt last night I was falling slowly from the lighting rig of a stage—the sinister man behind the security cameras had it out for us, setting grids to tilt and lights to blind—but somehow descended gracefully to the floor, frightened and for some reason embarrassed, but utterly unharmed. 

And here I keep drawing the Queen of Wands—upright, then reversed, then reversed again, and over and over she makes her appearance, turning this way and that—and the better women that I could be flicker before my eyes each morning. 

I want, I want, I want the mystery and its uncovering and for the mystery to somehow still remain. This is all we want. A constant cliffhanger with kind eyes, staring at you from across the bridge. 

Finally the wave of mourning for some little lost hope flicker overtakes me. I want to take to my bed. I want to run away from home. I want to sell all my things and get a little RV. Flee south, only ever work on one thing at a time. 

What a trick of light, to hold in your hands that which you most desire, feel it firm under your touch but not to know how long it will hold, how long until it yields to time or better judgement or foolish fear.

Everything, all things, will be lost to me; the only difference is time.

I hold you in my arms for sixty years until death sweeps us quietly off, one and then the other. I hold you in my arms for six hours until something in your thinking changes, the calculation of your action shifts. 

Each moment that has come to pass hangs in the air at once, our lungs are thick with dewy time as we try to craft a story of our lives that moves in order: this, and for this long, and then this

I longed for a feeling I did not possess, and for a brief pause in all this longing I held it to my chest, and then again I longed for that which is not mine to have. This is the way of it.

I am a woman in love with my own aching wants, we know. 

You are a man of armor and tricks, we know. 

It’s too late to unravel all the years of my young heart’s sabotage, it would seem. This is fine. This is fine. Another tingling down my crooked spine is no breaking news, although this blood drips redder in the clay than most. Your taste in my mouth will never fully fade, and this is not a thing that should worry you. No regrets, not for this. Never. 

I guess I’m just goddamn sick of nights like a lone star. 

And once again, again again, I do not know how to tell my love of a southern state from my love of a southern man. But here at least he does not want me, does not invite me with honeysuckle and whiskey and wife-wording, to muddle my thoughts with entangled desires. How strange, to think of that other life, in which the Cumberland River runs in my veins, valentines stitched across my chest.

Because the day that I head south—and I do know, the long winters have etched the story in my bones, rubbed clear with the charcoal of warm nights, that day will come—it has to be for me, for me, and not for one of these pairs of eyes that slays me. 

Again again again my heart is a peach splitting through its sides, but at least now I have the memories to justify the fire. It’s gonna be alright, it’s gonna be alright, the day you get married I’ll drink ‘til I’m blind and I’ll tear off all my skin and dance bleeding on the lawn, punch someone’s second cousin, scream myself hoarse with half-remembered songs, but it’s gonna be alright it’s gonna be alright, because when we both die I will have known you, and maybe nothing matters but that matters to me. 

I spend my nights breaking rules I never quite claimed as applicable to me, and I sweat out my lone bike ride thoughts in fear that all these small infractions will one day in sum cost me the thing that matters most to my foolish heart.

If I knew anything, I would—

If I could read the tables of your heart I—

I want you I want—

Nothing that I could ever say would speak the volumes of this silence. And yet the urge to speak overwhelms me, and so I turn it toward any other route that will allow it. I pour out my molten words on any hand held out, because to let this sea rush across you would be to carry you away from me forever. A risk I cannot take. 

I hold nothing. I let all the aching limbs of tender lovers float away, their tastes fading from my lips, my memory a city swathed in fog, darkening brows half-glimpsed at sprinting distance. 

No body’s weight upon me holds me to earth, but in the depths of me there hang these crystal visions, the blue, blue eyes of untouchable desires. 

I can hold nothing in my arms, all that can be pressed against me can step also slowly back, or so quickly forward as to make all embrace impossible, but the foolish saintings of my heart are so far from the truth of men that for me to lose them the very continents and constellations of our lives would have to shift.

I daydream of the cracking of these seals, a sudden breaking of silence or an appearance at my door, but I know, I suppose, the truth:

I will love these men forever because I owe them nothing, because they want nothing from me, and so I tumble over all my burning body to give and give and give of myself, to pour the libation of my life upon them, and I know these are a good deal too many pretty words to say I want to fuck the ones who will not have me, let me say too:

what a thing it is, to be in love without love getting in the way. 

I torment myself, but these romantics from warmer places, their voices ring the clearest in my head, all my words formed for those who would keep my lips from their necks, and perhaps every poem of lust makes me more myself than its satiation could. 

but still (you), to reach across a table, to sit quietly with my head in your lap.

or (you), to climb aboard a bus and then another and then another just to tend your wounds and hear your voice running like an engine in your throat.

a jagged ear, a crooked smile. 

someone, something real, is always temporary. inevitable ending sneaking into a familiar voice, slowly, or the plate glass fall of a quick unraveling, or the messy pulled out stitch. 

an idea I can love forever.

it would, perhaps, ruin it all, to pull one of these strings of all my fancy down into the dirt of living and to try and reconcile these vast seas of feeling with two glasses of water in a small kitchen.

but I want, I want, I want, I want, I want.

I begrudge no one their happiness;

and yet I do at times recoil with the sense that all my dark thoughts will slick out across them like oil on the waters of my childhood

at times I feel like a machine that turns time into unnecessary sorrow

a machine that turns affection into sickness because all the volume knobs are missing and the cables cut in and out 

at most times, I think, I do not feel like a human being.

I am trying not to faint, or to weep, or sink my arms around the many bodies I have no claim to

but I think I could handle loneliness if only this vertigo would leave me.

Tie me to this bed so I cease my drifting. Stake me to the ground with your polished tools, for I am a floating cloud of blood.

all the hours spent in sleep at the wrong points: the mid-afternoons, the work-to-dos, the missed appointments and neglected friends. all the hours I should have spent sleeping that I spent instead in lamentation of nothing.

at some dark appointed hour the iron gate of my chest swings wide — the sensation is physical. from the center of my chest up through my teeth and pulled taut up into my brow across the eyes. the thing that in my head I keep calling “the keening” but it lacks that clarity of cause.

this little girl should put herself to bed, but has always been the type to prefer staying up all night, picking at her thoughts.

forcing her nodding head back up again and again to know just exactly how lonesome she can find the night. 

hold me, hold me. without fingers at the back of my neck my thoughts will roll away. 

more fragments from sorting through my studio papers:

god give good rest to all our misdirected saintings, give us sleep that does what it’s supposed to—not this restless acting out of dumb desires, of these titanic litanies of fear.

and what devil should I turn to when gods prove unkind? all this foolish talk a shorthand for the real desire

(brother, you know it, and all the boys I schoolyard chase with password guesses must know too):

to be the sharer of an esoteric knowledge, a reader-out of codes

to hold in your head the symbols others miss, and know their meaning, whispered in late-night treehouse voices. to know yourself a seeker and infiltrator, a caresser of truth hidden in the glut of life in all its details, falling on your body without pause. 

-

Oh, help, for I am a ceaseless reader of signs. Put all this serial attention to use before it kills me. All these messages grinding away on their silver wires, dangling before my twitching eyes. 

Let me slowly build a language, a tongue for this country I inhabit:

one the lips can shape while swollen, one that a drunk and lonely man can hold within his arms. Let this flood of words finally find its route. 

-

Perhaps I fold the lot of you into the vast poetic mannish shape of all those tragic lady poets, stuff my mouth with yearning words. Or I fit you each with wings to float above the Castle Duino. Or I plunge this hot and foolish lust to the bottom of the lake, and count my heart the bubbles rising up. 

-

Watch me quietly abandon my folly. Take a knife to tongue to spare the night air all this too-much speaking. What good language misdirected, lost? all my nurturing instinct led away from my collapsing house and brought instead to lay at the broken feet of pretty men that I would fuck to solace in my stead. Caregiver to all but those who hold its greatest claim. 

-

Give me, then, this pleated suffering—let me tangle all your aching limbs in my dark hair, grown back longer than the darkened hall. Abstracted desire stifling itself into the form of some arbitrary object: this is how I love a stranger, and so keep your secrets just like giving a gift. But still, I want to know what Furies follow you. Give you some spare night of safer harbor, to look the Kindly Ones in their dust-filled eyes and say yes, I know, for you follow me too, but please, just these few hours rest? Our cage-beaten hearts in brief proximity, the solace of a decoding ear and a soft tongue in your mouth. So much pain and mystery to speak of, but every word I write speaks “loneliness,” a keen into the adolescent dark.