||Itís not the biscuits and gravy nor the plastic
menu of this diner that brings you to mind.
Though I remember you in the booth next
to me, coy looks that hidónot too welló
what you never wanted to admit to yourself.
Itís not you in that booth but her face is yours.
I want to ask her if her life is still possible.
Iím not looking for
I donít care how youíd look at me now,
or if you even still think of me. Iím certain
of the answer and it brings no feeling. I call
her your name. She looks at me as at an accident.
I insist sheís you. She assures me, no. I tell her
I would have left her anyway, better that she
moved out the weekend I was out of town
visiting my friend in the state hospital.
She grows hostile, asks for the check and tells
me to fuck off. That I donít understand a thing
about how she feels, or about what sheís gone
through. Moreover, that Iíve got the details
all wrong. She didnít move out. I did. The U-haul
pulling away as she returned from her weekend
at the lake. I start to think Iím imagining this.
She reminds me that it was I who contrived
our cohabitation. It was I who assumed
that through my gratuitous gestures of love
she would see that I was meant for her. She
says things donít work this way, and that I
may as well forget about it because if I donít
want anything, then why am I even asking.
I tell her I thought she was someone else.
||Something blue lights
the bare room. Rabbit tracks
dot the snow. So whatís that
you say, you say? Time
honored gifts, a pencil sharpener,
paper shredder. Hooks on which to hang
clothes. All rather indecent,
donít you think?
I suppose youíre going to layer
the enmity on,
thicker than a parka, and less practical
in this climate. Come to think
of it, a parka really isnít
very practical in this climate at all.
Down here, I mean. Where we are. You know?
Someone got up from the sofa, leaving
a ring of crumbs around
the discernible absence of his derriere.
I say ďhisĒ because itís only been men
around here lately, and not to put too fine
a point on it is usually a good
idea in such casesówhat with the lead
market plummeting. So itís all
crapped out again. The spell sheís woven
has left you complete and dry,
unmistakably vast in your dreary anterooms.
Letters arrive by cable. Cables arrive
by ship. Ships arrive by one of any number
of propulsion systems and the ocean closes
all wounds. You could satisfy
your curiosity by looking, but itís no longer
very clear what youíre looking for.
The calendars have peeled away like plastic wrap.
Somehow you figure
the situation. It resembles a hanged
man or the Jack of Hearts. Clever is how
you undress it and make for the corner
store before the last light slips from
the sky so quickly as to be almost
unnoticed like pocketing incorrect change,
or parallel parkingóconcentrate
on simple things: find the center thread
in your fake Persian rug. If it all sounds
like advice, the cleverest wayóand you
are clever, arenít you?óto unleash a solution
involves staking your usual habits
to the dart board and appearing, if not radiant,
at least receptive to a certain glow, and
if not a warm, inviting one, at least
one that wonít project the deer-in-headlights
look you seem only too capable of now.
If not, at least you can take comfort
that advice buys you only a round or two.
So you need not get hung up on it.
So to speak.
Somewhere thereís an orchard
where things have gotten completely
out of control. Spare the details,
they may be necessary later. We keep
them talking, giving a few a generous
hiatus from all the rigmarole
of holiday shopping, taxi cabs, and pleasure cruises.
The others, holding on to what looks like
possible reprieve, become only more eager to spill
their contents. Juice runs down your shirt.
It reads like one more mess in an otherwise
breathtakingly long list of recent failures.
That is, to read that list aloud in one breath
would take that breath away, and others
would surely follow, like Catholics to confession,
never fully absolved because youíre always
forgetting something, begin to feel pressured,
make up something that requires
further elaboration, and before you know it, youíre
wishing you hadnít poured that juice,
didnít need it anyway, could have made do
some other way, by now, more retractable.
Your razor blades need changing.
Someday, youíll look back on all
this andÖ back
to the grinding stone. Itís no use
to speculate. Iím afraid. The causes
have long since found their resting
place just off the Galapagos Islands.
And the what-may-come-of-it
escorts an alphabet of variables
capable of leaving you speechless
like mimes talking shop. If all this
means what youíve feared,
Crusoe, remember the journal ended
pages ago and someone else has been
writing this, put that footprint
there youíve not yet stumbled on
and may never find. For the day is windy,
and the gulls quarter itó
taking their flight towards the bay.
||In the meantime, Iíll write a life story
in which I call up hateful things and force
others to track down the sources, in caves
and cyberspace. Weíre full of camaraderie
here: Everyone is trying to fuck
everyone elseís wife, and the wives
are loving it. Sexual aggression
forms a membrane, thick as the monthly
dissolve of uterine wall, spotting
this scene, Iím in Houston,
execution city, having missed my
connecting flight. Iíve been searched five times.
Iím patriotic. I submit. One clear
night I sat on the concrete and listened
to my non-wife scream like a television.
She phoned me over, then wouldnít let me in.
These things are never clean. Moby Dick
was a white whale. Once I held the mammal
in my hands, stretched its mass thin as rice
paper. Itís not consequences Iím concerned with
but the object of affection one must
honor before beginning: She let me in,
threatening suicide. Half of me felt
like dying, the other half didnít
recognize myself. If I sat down and
cried right nowÖ if I told you exactly
how I feel. She tore at carpet fibers
in the streetlight dark of our living room.
Lies poured out with liquor, vows, clandestine
meetings amid the works of Russian
composers, piano concerto
number 2. Boop-boop-be-do.
Such are the slopes of these Olympics.
I think thereís laughter in the air. I smell
gasoline. That plane reminds us of one
thing, and I know where itís going. Itís cooler
up there and darker the farther away
you get. I moved out. She left the state. Freedom
bought on credit, but you never get far
enough. A voice over the loudspeaker
Enter the real thing: after your girlfriend left,
I lifted your shirt, kissed your nipples,
and asked if my mouth is as soft as hers.
You lay there, poker-faced, and said,
Itís what we do when weíre waiting
that makes up who we are. I rolled you
onto your belly. Your moans turned to laughter
and after I came you comforted me.
Later, stopped in traffic I told my friend
Josh how you acted like nothing
was happening. When my ex- (see above)
likened me to a Serbian war-
criminal I thought of that time you
handed me a complex of cells as
evidence of what each month bears and
would I like that. ďGosh no,Ē I probably
said, having so little idea
I didnít even care to pretend.
Most of the time Iím just some drip walking
with his thumb hitched up his ass. The rest
of the time Iím a quivering boy,
cowering in the corner of a
the world screams. Jet
streams black out the sky like government
documents. Youíre coming and going
always in one place or another
and I know it would never have worked,
sure as I know the car Iím waiting for
will be fixed in another hour and
my father will pick me up from the garage,
where men covered in grease wipe their hands
with red shop rags and approach me
with answers. Iím waiting for the hours
to pass between the life Iíve tried to kill
and the life Iím trying to give birth to.
My fatherís waiting for his mother to die.
His mother is waiting for Moby Dick.
The woman next to me waits for her car,
several cars wait at the stoplight.
There are parts in a play that never
get written. This is one of those parts.