I will never know you and It will always be painful.
Two truths to keep as doves under my silk hat. They coo their baleful song.
Neck in neck as lovers who’ve forgotten the correct appendage for handholding.
I wanted to be your Vivien, had a faulty childhood understanding of that story.
Merlin never slept. Lined his own cave with lamé teacups, a menagerie
of taxidermied fowl, all stuffed up with burning sage.
He embraced me as the wrong lover. That inarticulate fucking
of indiscriminate bodies. My deer, he’d murmur to my skin. Call me adorable.
Say I’ve forgotten how sweet you are.
Merlin makes tea and I redress my bones. Scrawny in an acrobat’s velvet suit,
I try to contort into his life. The corners of which pinch me and bedtimes are spent
at no tears.
Purple splatters on alabaster skin. Friends urge blood work. They part my arms
to cradle fruit. Potassium-laden countertops glow with bananas.
My warlock brings teacups of anise and whiskey, slipping a finger into the keyhole
between sweater and skirt. Vertebrae present themselves like sighing bowls.
Did you ever sing?
We never said I love you until we left each other. Or, you left me.
My agency lost somewhere in the origami of soiled sheets.
I wanted to be in on it, a child who can’t fathom being tricked.
Like a Glück poem where the lover transfixes as a willow tree
and it washes its tangled hair in longing.
I’m not so pristine. Lips smeared in snot and brioche à la cannelle
I purged in your clawfoot tub. I wonder how it feels to be attracted
by a sick body. Scrub that off now.
When I meet you again, it’s on a green chesterfield.
When I meet with you, twin valleys are sheered into your scalp,
erroneously. When we meet, air bisous hit mark. Your fiddler hands
find my wrists to bracelet.
Meet with me. You eye buttons you once slipped from their nooses.
Ribs there. How breath and bone scaffold soft cotton.
A London fog sputters meeting my palms. You feed me devilled egg,
probe my tongue for new lovers. You’ve split the bed
with my counterpart. I’ve met her eyes about town. Fresh girl roped up
in the lace of vintage dummies. I can see why you’d like that.
Merlin staggers between wanting love / a plaything he can animate.
Viviens stitch amethysts into their robes like tsarinas ready to dance
in a room of bullets.
If young love lashes out, you call me
between you and me she’s drinking again.
I’m brained by this brutal swipe
of dishrag. No traces left to filthy the trigger.
I imagine taking her out
for bourbon sours, spiced with tamarind
and telling her
to purge is a washing and rewashing of the hands.
We were two little girls wretched for the same lover.
No one appreciates this retelling. Or, how he had a teacup collection
he couldn’t fit in his china cabinet and rotated their flowered bodies
like that fairground ride.
I guess it was my week on show. Rose breast held to the glass.
But he kept young women behind so many windows. Ready to please
in our discount bin garters, we took smoke breaks
from the calamity of elevator jobs, the flip-flipping emitted
by a hundred ivory pages. We twinned on our knees
in that fucking bedside mirror. Took selfies as each other.
Downy baby academics. Dime-a-dozen addicts
with our run-of-the-mill vices and pretty pretty hair.
Blame is so reductionist. Let me be all forgiveness
in a self-aggrandizing swagger. I can still brandish some nights
with their Ondaatjean wounds
pleasurable for the scars. When my ex-lover quit choking me
during sex, I thought he was falling in love.
Look, I can’t blunt myself
numb enough. Even though I’ve been gussying up the ugly thing.
Is there a better way to personify SCREAMING
than holding caps lock down? A lady-poet I admire said of my poems
I need them to fuck, I need them to fight, I need seagulls to shit on their heads.
There is no term more insipid than lady-poet. I’ve emptied myself
to make polite company.
I showed my new boyfriend this poem
as an older draft and I think he was expecting dragons.
My verbal synopsis had placed emphasis on wizardry,
fucking, and trauma. I like threes. Most of my eating patterns
revolve around trios.
Three French fries are okay.
Meals need three ingredients, like brown rice, spinach, eggs.
Funny how we fall to irrational repetition.
My new boyfriend says Merlin becomes afterthought
in the poem’s belly, that I need to flesh out the relationship.
I’m not sure if the expression is to flesh it out
or to flush it out. Whether I want a full body here
or a cluster of shown bones. But I can’t speak to loving him.
Or, how we met on the terrace at Grumpy’s when I was 23
and the next two years are a smudge
of sickness and lecture rooms and his bedroom
with the IKEA canopy and skulls mounted like gargoyles.
This is the cave. Painted with women all called deer.
There’s a latticework of vomit in the toilet. There’s me
cuddled up to a hard triangulation of desire, sheets that held
him and me and her and her and her.
Stop. Wind it back here. In Arthurian lit crit,
there’s some scholarly slapfighting over the girl lover
and whether she grew her warlock into a wind-worn oak
or drugged him in a cave gated by long, slim teeth.
I’d like to think she took his heart
fist-after-fist full and just kept pulling until it came out
in one endless crimson scarf.
Left him sprawled flaccid, her body a text of red.