Charcoal on canvas #2
is the name you gave me as a substitute
for the times you deny me the luxury
of eating berries off your belly button.
You are afraid the mint liquor will seep under your skin
and make your nipples ripe with grief
and the heavy intonations of my nighttime monologues.
My sisters used to put me in dresses,
mascara and red heels;
a green leather bag and red beads.
I was their Christmas pine.
They would make merry,
take Polaroid pictures
as I swirled between old furniture,
and shove me around their bedroom.
I was eight then.
Yesterday, on my twenty-third birthday
they walked into my room
to see me in a red dress
striking poses, smoking Embassy.
None of them laughed.
None wants to stare at the whiteness
of the pearls in my eyes.
Didn’t like jazz, he once claimed
In an interview,
The good doctor’s reaction to it
A bit like a hand retracting
From a slim volume
Of 20th century verse. In
Other words: good intentions,
But what does this yak, yak, yak
Have to do with me? This,
You understand, from a person
Who had listened
To an industrial river, forced
A painter’s brush to give up
Its low, animal noise,
Broke trees into
I like to think of your silence as the love letters you will not write me,
as two sax solos from two ages across a stage, learning the languages
of kissing with your eyes closed. I like to think of you as a god
to whom I no longer pray, as a god I aspire to. I like the opening of your joined palms,
which is like an urn where my ashes find a home. The music of your lashes;
the silent way your body wears out mine.
Mostly, I like to think of you at night when a black screen of shining dust shines
from your mines to the edge of my skin, where you are a lamp of flutters.
I remember the spectral lashes–marigold, tamarind, secret thing between your thighs,
of closed kissing eyes. At night, the possibility of you is a heavy
sculpture of heavy bronze at the side of my bed,
a god. And I pray you into life. Into flesh.
I caught this morning, mourning, sight
of you who flew into sky
you thought your own
and caught the sun down
to the marrow bones, tender embers
scorched there, sputter-guttered there—
let your blackened, blown feathers
fan our rage, outrage us, and now, here,
engage, oh, engage
our careworn careless care—
flame on, flame on you seared ones,
dear ones, you,
take us by the heart, make us see