In the laundromat you read books and listen to Chopin. On both tv’s the same show is playing at slightly different times, which is why you try not to forget your headphones. The machines are half dead and the dryers only run on high or low. It’s nighttime, so the air is sticky, and the kids are home sleeping instead of playing around the gum ball machine. When your clothes are done and it’s time to leave, a friendly cucaracha offers to carry your laundry home, crossing the street alongside you after you’ve declined. And one day soon you’ll have a dream about that cucaracha, wondering if it was once a child, once a man, and under what circumstances could you ever end up like that?
“It was not Death, for I stood up
and all the Dead, lie down—”
Every Thursday afternoon
I watch you play the playground.
You climb the bars and
twist the swings
singing pop songs with
mostly your own words.
Last Thursday, I brought
a box of sidewalk chalk
and we bent our necks making
a blue and orange mandala.
You had never known
that these were called mandalas
nor that you made them with
colors not meant to last.
Then we left, and I left them
the mandala, the chalk
remembering them later as
I tucked you into bed.
I knew you wouldn’t miss them so
I tried not to miss them either.
Today is Thursday.
It is the afternoon.
You and I are
playing the playground.
We lift each other
like monkeys in trees
below us, a menagerie
of chalk drawings.
I like to watch your eye twitch
watch your nose bleed, watch
your cat drink,
and when I watch you I think of
molasses, sweet and bitter,
how once you told me about
molasses cookies on Sundays
your eye twitching again
as you look into my eyes and ask
is there silence underwater?
iced passion tango
you and me, querido
little here, little there
your claws around my jugular
black and white stiletto
wrapped around your ego
we dance the dance not saying much
we’re doing what we know
and me, a tea cup, spitting into
your mouth, which only swallows
“I live my life in widening circles that stretch out over the world.
I may not complete this last one, but I give myself to it.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
I don’t want to blow out
the candles of your past lives.
I want to know, what about the fire
did a younger you find welcoming and tender?
What about these candles comes
into your body and mind
troubling you with shadows
and taking your focus elsewhere?
I do not wish to know the name
nor the case nor frame of time.
I wish only to know why one might
dwell upon a candlelight
which does not illuminate, only darkens.
Who singed your leaves, little flower?
Who told you roots only grow underground?
Who told you to look for miracles
where only ghosts are found?
O, gentle iris, you are not wrong to be afraid
I do not fault you for folding your petals away
You are not the only one.
I, too, fear the fire. I, too, fear pain.
But I am not a flower
nor lion, nor snail
I do not know when to turn away
nor do I want to.
I don’t want to blow out
the candles of your past lives.
I wish to melt them together with mine
‘round a wick of our braided legs.
She rides a borrowed bike between
Berlin streets and graffiti piles–
the sky is gray, but not sad, and
all day it will not rain, though it could have
whenever it wanted to. She arches her back
for better posture, but the clouds are rather heavy.
Left down Schönhouser Allee left the map at
home left Torstraße circus hostel right look
right left right? Bitte, wo ist diese Straße?–ah,
stimmt, yes, that makes sense–she pumps her
legs with energy, becomes a powerhouse, glides.
Found it! Unter den Linden, Erbertstraße.
She sees the gate, closes her eyes. Why? Too many
voices! Why? Because they killed Jesus? Every few days
a new bed. Why? Does each day feel like another life?
By now the sun is out–you don’t have to worry now–
she rides her bike through a garden cement garden
guarded by statues pretending to be people pretending
to be plants–what’s wrong with you?!
I wonder what his father would say. Nevertheless,
notebooks flung on the grass and there’s something
gross stuck in the grooves of the front tire;
a cheese sandwich never looked so good.
Are you coming home? What’s the big idea?
How do you know it’s bloom? The statues are
mostly male except a few who are centaurs and griffins.
Man-like horses and horse-like men. Too gray, I meant
too green. There are too many men and not enough
ladies and who wants to be a statue anyway? Living all
alone neither awake nor dead. I think love is the worst
reason to marry, and to marry the worst reason to love.
Why do you drink? Well, I drink to please.
To breathe or not to breathe? Well kiddo,
I don’t think that’s the way it goes. Schönhouser Allee.
Home. Snack, a nap, some wine.
Some people drink to forget their troubles.
I drink to forget flying sex snakes.
Then one day,
the Princess walked
to the train,
where he kissed her and bid her
his armor unhinged and
fell to the ground,
trailing behind in
a little stream.
The Princess waited.
She waited a long time.
Six months went by and
by then the stream
into an ocean.
The salty water rose
out of the station,
up the stairs,
into the street where
the Princess stood.
The water brought the armor
to the Princess’ feet.
She gathered the lost pieces
held them to her breast
and walked back to the palace.
In a private chamber
in the cellar of her heart,
she built a statue of the knight
and filled it with
placing the notes he had given her
at his feet.
She brought him roses daily,
and sweet meats, and tea
until one day
she found him crumpled
on the floor. A note
she had never seen before, tucked
in his armored hand.
“I’ll be back” it read.
But the knight never came back.
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.”