To ask a novelist to talk about his novels is like asking somebody to cook about their dancing.
to Gwendolyn M. Bibby
You called me Superhero,
though that night started without much of a reason to do so
—convinced my only ability was blending into patterns of wallpaper
As I watched you light an entire room by existing.
Light auburn strands cascading over green eyes,
full bodied and flowing like honey bourbon.
Little did I know you had the ability of seeing through things
—seeing through my fake smile, noticing my low head and shrugged shoulders
just seconds before perking up and grinning when my name was called.
Telling me later I wore my actual smile
just as well as an Oxford shirt, how you knew about my depression
before I even said a word, but you still came.
As we lost our shirts and collided our hips to the stylings of Willenium
our polar personalities pulled us closer,
so close we found ourselves in one another’s lives.
Little did we know what could happen with such momentum
—How a Sunday afternoon can feel like a Van Gogh painting
when you have someone eating your least favorite colored jellybean,
How a crowded bar could be as comfortable as sleeping in a real bed
if you have the right person by your side,
how far either of us could stretch
Just to stay together.
When that night eventually began to slow
and we agreed to let each other go,
Searching for our shirts while wearing our actual smiles,
I found the green shirt you couldn’t find, same color as the eyes
that pulled me away from that wall of self doubt,
Pulling me close one last time
as you whispered Superhero
before kissing me on the cheek.
When my body had forgotten its purpose,
when it just hung off my brainstem like a whipped mule.
When my hands only wrote. When my teeth only ate.
When my ass sat, my eyes read, when my reflexes
were answers to questions we all already knew.
Remember how it was then that you slid your hand
into me, a fork in the electric toaster of my body. Jesus,
where did all these sparks come from? Where was all
this heat? Remember what this mouth did last night?
And still, this morning I answer the phone like normal,
still I drink an hour’s worth of strong coffee. And now
I file. And now I send an email. And remember how
my lungs filled with all that everything? Remember
how my heart was an animal you released from its cage?
Remember how we unhinged? Remember all the names
our bodies called each other? Remember how afterwards,
the steam rose from us like a pair of smiling ghosts?
Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries, July 4, 1910
All these whites booing & boosting
for Jeffries. They slept under café
tables & on blanket-covered billiard
tables for this? They knew their farmer
was whipped & their rent money
was lost & that knowledge brought
out the worst in that unruly crowd.
Between the name-calling, the swirls
of dust, & descriptions of my demise
after the fight ended, I could hear
the one voice that mattered: Etta
screaming over & over, Keep it up, Jack!
People are always talking about if
& suppose like those words are worth
more than money, more than the crease
a silk stocking makes on a woman’s
thigh. More than the grumble of a Thomas
Flyer engine. So I take the side of my
pleasures. Two small words, if & suppose,
& nobody can explain them. We get
in this world what we’re going to get.
After all, one man can roll out of bed
& be killed, while another man falls
from a scaffold & lives. A man can get
a bullet in the brain & keep his life,
while some other poor sap dies
from a shot in the leg. It’s all luck
& perspective: pleasure is both to me.
In the beginning, I think everybody writes for the high of finishing. There is a sprint towards the completed thing; you urgently want a reward, immediate gratification. But what I enjoy most nowadays is the actual process. When I get an idea, I just want to keep it going for as long as possible.
Though I may seem at times somewhat distant from you, through the gray mist of my own moods, I am never far; my thoughts always circle around you.
More beautiful women have loved you,
more talented. Poems about you have
already been written by better hands.
I can’t help but cover up my bare skin.
I flee. I’m not still enough for your love.
My lips are attached to a nervous face.
My No is always quicker than my Yes.
I want to touch you so badly I don’t
know how to even reach out. I’ll never
know how to say it: how sunk I am
in this live for you, how salty,