for Frank ‘O Hara

I don’t know why I held my hand up like a cloth

when I should of peeled out its odd purple veins
and left them outside in a bouquet
for the sun to spill onto

Sorry
I am ridiculous

Come back

I know you are dead
but I will drive you home
and pull out my hair to make you laugh

I will not talk about my own body
or cloak myself in the smell
of a feeble cucumber flower or a boat

I am so good at being alone
with this terrible wheezing sincerity

All I want for Christmas is for you to be a different person.
Or this: I want you to be one of those clumsy staccato-type pigeons
circling the fountain in the park, acting blind, shitting
into the same puddles it drinks out of. Making nearby babysitters
grow nervous. Stay Away! they say.

Also, I would like to take back the advice I gave you re: the GRE.
Since, you said, you were nervous not to have any positive recommendations
from college faculty, you can use this if you want.

Outside, it is not warm or cold enough to be difficult
or demand difficult words. On chat the other day you said this:
you have made it unlikely for me to find other girls interesting ever again.
I said geez. I feel like my stomach is in my ears.

I remember how you treated me like a sloth once
for wanting to watch Parks and Recreation
instead of painting your wall blue and red. Well, I like white walls.
And not because I am crazy. Amy Pohler is very funny to me.
I appreciate sparse environments.
I may like the movie Baby Mama better than Infinite Jest,
but not as much as I like small brown shoes or Goethe’s Faust.

I was willing to be sad for you then
the way some people are willing to be peed on
so their partners can feel pleasure.

In a dream the other night, I touched your face
and dropped my phone. After it shattered on the floor
I picked up the glass and started to eat it.
The battery bent impossibly when I put it in my mouth.

It is lovely, you might say, but they have not even carried over the dull pies. There is no plate or vase, no supine, ceramic souvenir from her night class.

When they move into the foreclosed house, you bite into a pear. You think: “they cannot be helped.”

Nixon has just been pardoned and will not put on the slack, day-glow suit or toil beside a Pennsylvania highway. What do they think of this?

*

Every day, the man makes his afternoon relay to retrieve the mail. It is a bouquet, you are sure, of utility bills and varied solicitations. This is the warm banal music of their presence. They are blind beachcombers.

*

The woman is having an affair. She leaves home late in a taxi. When you see her, she gives herself away, opening her mouth without making any noise. She asks what you are doing.

“I am making mulled wine.” You say. It isn’t done, you explain, though it is not exactly a thing that goes finished or unfinished. You suspect it is better the longer you heat it. There is time to mull things over.

Whenever she comes over, you pour the stuff into a crockpot and stir the beads of spice facing away from her to occupy her hands. So this is said a lot. You like time to mull things over. It is not the kind of joke that anticipates laughter or reception; it is just something to say to continue the filling of space.

*

Feed the cat. Press the mute button on the TV controller. The woman is moving out of the house next door. She is heading South, to live in an apartment in Tarzana with a film producer. She hugs you and lets go. When her body pulls away, it goes limp, as though she has finally released the sad pity of your small life. You think only of the price of oil when he picks her up in a cramped porche that can hold none of her belongings. He is a scorched toad of a man. Soon it will be 1980.

*

You watching their house from the window, smoking cigarettes that taste like chalk and putting them out halfway through in a flower pot. Your cat is dead. You are lonely and you will always be lonely.
The mother of the girl you have tutored calls to tell you that she has taken psychedelic mushrooms and refused to take the standardized test. She asks how this problem is to be solved. “What problem?” You say, and hang up.

Just now, you hear news that the husband has contracted a terminal disease. It is not an interesting or grotesque infection though, and you have forgotten his name, reminded too much of Jimmy Carter by his ill fortune and lone, cowering sadness.

You resent the impoverished metaphor of his body and its trail of routine appointments. You are forced to glimpse them, from the tower of your life, these small stray hairs at the edge of its horizon. You may no longer be a good person.

*

He is surviving. One morning, you think about sending something. Sending something seems bad. Instead, you write a short story. On the last page, the character, a teenage girl, runs over a garden snake and finds a piece of its intestine fastened to foot of the passenger door like a tacky barrette. She feels ashamed. You are rejected by two literary journals. The one that is less academic includes an encouraging note, deeming your prose style “promising”, though often threatened by a “didactic tone.” Too, there is a copy of a recent issue, which contains several poems and many photographs of writers partially nude trying to use ovens. Ronald Reagan wins the general election. Your disappointment is promising as a plot device.

*

He stands at the salad bar holding tubs of potato salad and congealed fruit up to the light. Is he trying to see through them? You think, maybe you should kill him.

It could present interesting difficulties. The idea of jail is demanding and vast, and you have lived enough of a life.

Every single day, the president speaks of the rest of the world and its threats. It could end soon.

Maybe just get it over with already.

And, of course you do not own a gun or know how to use a knife.

You watch his frail body pick at the packaged vegetables. Every day, the same cold threatened wait is holding in the world. Every day, the moths are pulled into the bulb, die, and fall to the carpet like ballerinas. You are dying too, but he is dying more than you are. So why doesn’t it seem that way? You wonder.

She mentioned that her shoe had come off
in the stairwell. A dress pin had dropped earlier.
Though it seemed to land somewhere on the carpet,
instead it had become a deep absence

looming, casting its distended shadow
across the room. “Have you heard of this?” I asked,
pointing. There was a photo of a large orchid
projected onto the sheet covering the window.
It was closed like a fist.

I was embarrassed to be caught spending time
so alone comfortably on a Friday.
“I must be very strange” I thought, but didn’t say.

Once in its life, I explained, the petals open to invite a beetle
and then lock it in for several days.
It has nothing to do except pollinate. Even if
a beetle is capable of joy, I don’t know
if this experience could be deemed an enjoyable one.

She looked happier than I’d seen her in years.
Soon after, when she was gone, Nick returned
and asked me what my favorite sculpture is.

Without thinking too much, I replied. ‘Giacometti I guess,
those ones.’ Tall, dissented, lost looking. But I hate
when men remind me of them lying undressed.

Suppose I have been to terrible places and forgotten them.
I can’t stop dreaming of strange toilets. Across the road,
the windmills look hysterical and glum.

I am afraid to find out that, beneath their clothes,
some of the people I know are horrible insects.

For a summer I worked for an online magazine
compiling tables of little known holidays
and appropriating them as themes. School Nurses Day
and then the same month for Glaucoma and Family Fitness.

When I can’t sleep, I sometimes watch a reality program
about the sex lives of esoteric people in this country.
There is one woman who wants to weigh 1000 lbs.
Her husband is aroused by making four dozen eggs
and feeding them to her. With joy and tension, he describes
lifting her stomach before intercourse. He is excited
by “the prospect of immobility.” I wonder when she will die.

Sometimes it makes me feel better or worse
to watch this, or makes my problems feel small
and regular. My sleeping pills are not very effective.
So what if I am still falling out of love

and even walk softly home repeating phrases
like I am a human or It will be morning
tomorrow
. I’m not speaking in metaphorical terms

when I say there was something bad growing inside me
and if they didn’t find it and cut it out with a wire
I could have died. That was Columbus Day.

Now I sit reading. I pause often
to think of madness and scripture: a world
where men wander the desert lost for years.
And who knows? It could turn out alright.
Like that, suffering and celebration.
A grocery store or a church.

One website says: your essay should be quick and easy:
like a convenience store robbery. Imagine that
and being better for it. It must be that the insurance firm
is so generous. Everyone will be a bit too devoted
making reparations.

– Struggling to remove the splinter
in my foot. I can feel it
without knowing how
it is making its way in

or if it remains in the same
callused dwelling
it has made for itself
to inhabit.

*

I remember once having agreed
to a dinner with my old boyfriend.

We had already broken up.
Even the waitresses at the restaurant
were wiping down tables
& pulling at blinds when we arrived.

After we paid, we sat on a large rock
at the edge of the park & watched a taxi
turning its service light out.

A woman in a blue dress
stepped off the curb, violently waving
a folded bill, but the driver shook his head
and continued on.

*

I have only toenail clippers
so it is a dirty, difficult work.

What is sought
seems too discrete.

I don’t how to describe
what pain is too much to bear.

I can even scare myself
by leaving too many documents open

and, given the chance,
I will be careless for almost nothing.

This morning I was caught
singing Carol King in the shower.
My voice is not too good.
It sounds better on the way down

when I lean over to wash conditioner
off the nape of my neck. In one way,
it was wonderful to have the ocean
between us. I remember walking
through Stephen’s Green to deliver
small water color pictures I had drawn
in the post. So far away. I always thought

the words were you’re just time away
but I think they are actually something
different and more straightforward.

So it is like the Homeric battlefield
where there are always impediments
and obstructed paths to the loved

or maybe it is these which make up
the felt vastness of desire. In my notes
reading Frank O’Hara it says
“poetry is always part epistolary?
—in a fight with itself.”

My friend wants to visit a woman
who lives in Mexico City
but maintains the normal fears
and awareness of danger.
She is the only one I can speak to
about my spirit
he says, If only she were
anywhere else in the world.

Some days it is enough
just for the self to glimpse that Scylla
and Charybdis lie on the horizon.

And then there are those things
that cannot be seen coming.
Even though Frank O’Hara
said he hoped to die for love,

it was a dune buggy that hit him
on fire island, a place so remote
traffic is thought not to exist.
Oh, those visible and invisible worlds.
So much desire and to be taken away
all at once. They are similar enough
so that it is perfectly understandable
to use word, world, and wound
interchangeably. Not knowing how to begin

the elegy goes on, repeating its tired verse.
Like Odysseus, we turn back from the river
and return home. No one is seduced.
No one becomes the sea.