If Not Savior
In the old dream, I am trying to
who killed Johnny down by the corner store,
though we know it was all of us,
all our hands. I circle after the man you know
but the legs—wanting—
and the boy’s face—make desire a thin rag.
You are steps beyond when the men
intercept me just out the toilet.
A royal blue dress with a slit in the front,
the back and weaving around the places
you’d want or apparently they want.
He wants the black heels too. They ask
what brought me. The older asks
if I know the younger whose had his eye
at me and I guess I’ve mine on him.
There’s a way of looking reserved
for women—the one look to say yes,
bed and yes, gun or fist or rope
or back-of-hand, and those yes’s
are not one and the same
and you have to keep up the looking
though others’ll say it’s your fault—
the dress, the skin, askin’ for it the way
only skin asks for it.
Because the boy’s face and the want
and the man all in the same sunlit room
with the rough plaid couch is a cut
lip, the man and I have not yet touched,
and the fear of the boy makes me say
Come, come, because just saying it once
is a command, twice a touch on the arm.
I run though all the rooms looking
for the start—the lips—I will have no choice.
Because we’ve learned the ways to ask for it,
made up a few, knowing how men love
to come to a bed in which they are the savior.
If not savior then supplicant. We’ve learned
that best-kept secret that comes with war—
that men do want to get on their knees
in a kitchen where you are the water
and the faucet. In a tub when no water
runs in the pipes. The violence comes after.
It wears many hands. It’s the click
and clacking of the high-heeled shoes
and the love that loves. It’s slipstreams
and backstreets in the wind and the rain.
What do you say to that? To me, at last,
twisting in this body? To letting what comes in
come in? Behind the ritual […] the spiritual.
In this city, the man’s hands do not hold
a rubber or the acid or the plastic baggy.
They hold a cigarette out toward me.
They are empty until they find my breast.
They hold the child lost from me and never
truly started. I want to scrub the devices
from this, but see, there, there they are
and they shared the same air as our child
and the lips and the blood stain on the couch,
and you and I both know we will keep running
though our hands, our heads are cut
we will keep running through the night
searching for another way of violence
to drink down and build from.
Notes for ‘If Not Savior’:
click and clacking of the high-heeled shoes and the love that loves from Van Morrison’s 1968 song ‘Madame George’
Behind the ritual […] the spiritual from Van Morrison’s 2008 song ‘Behind the Ritual’
Stay or Go
You with the blood
over your eye, the
burnt hair. Take this
cup of water, drink it
all at once, breathing
in the off-gulps.
Leave him out of it.
He hasn’t enough time.
The car is wrecked,
the seats shimmering as
you are dazed and
dazzling, glass in your
hair. When you walk
home tonight, walk on
the left. Let the
passerby—all two or
three of them, let
their headlights light your
head. Let them see
the cut glowing, your
eyes dead-on. They
will not know you.
They will see their
own, heading home
the last time. Let
them have that.