In the book I’m reading: hard rain,
spike heels on pavement,
a man waiting in a rented room
to draw a woman down onto his bed.
She’s the wrong woman,
she’s a car wreck in a silk dress
and he can’t wait to touch her.
No plot without desire,
the more desperate the better.
I look up to find that here, too,
it’s raining. And now that I’m back
in my own quiet life
I feel like a character who’s barely
been imagined yet, just a name
wearing a faded T-shirt,
reaching for her glass of cold wine.
If only the river would surge into the streets,
if only a tree would uproot itself
or the roof fly off in a funnel of black wind.
Such is my life: A minute ago I was happy,
immersed in a book. Now I feel misery
only violence could cure. Now
I have to invent a story
to drag me out into the city,
toward music and grainy light
and the wrong men, I have to discover
what it is that I want
And who I’m going to have to hurt to get it.
She’s the one sleeping all day, in a room
at the back of your brain. She wakes up
at the sound of a cork twisted free
of a bottle, a stabbed olive
plopped into gin. She’s prettier than you
and right now you bore the shit out of her,
sitting there sipping when she wants
to stand on the rim of the glass, naked,
dive straight to the bottom and lie there
looking up, amazed at how the world
wavers and then comes clear. You’re not
going to let her. You’ve locked her in
with her perfume and cheap novels,
her deep need for trouble. She’s the one
calling to you through the keyhole,
then sneaking away to squirm out
a window and tear her silk dress.
You can’t guess where she’s going,
or who you’ll wake up with
when you finally wake up,
your head throbbing like a heart.
She’s the one you’re scared of,
the one who dares you to go ahead
and completely disappear. It’s not
you the boys are noticing, not you
turning toward them and throwing off light.
You’re crouched in a corner, coming undone.
She’s in love with you now. She’s the one.
Even when you know what people are capable of,
even when you pride yourself on knowing,
on not evading history, or the news,
or any of the quotidian, minor, but still endlessly apparent
and relevant examples of human cruelty–even now
there are times it strikes you anew, as though
you’d spent your whole life believing that humanity
was fundamentally good, as though you’d never thought,
like Schopenhauer, that it was all blind, impersonal will,
never chanted perversely, almost gleefully,
the clear-sighted adjectives learned from Hobbes–
solitary, poor, nasty, brutal, and short—
even now you’re sometimes stunned to hear
of some terrible act that sends you reeling off, too overwhelmed
even to weep, and then you realize that your innocence,
which you had thought no longer existed,
did, in fact, exist–that somewhere underneath your cynicism
you still held out hope. But that hope has been shattered now,
irreparably, or so it seems, and you have to go on, afraid
that there is more to know, that one day you will know it.
but you know how to raise it in me
like a dead girl winched up from a river. How to
wash off the sludge, the stench of our past.
How to start clean. This love even sits up
and blinks; amazed, she takes a few shaky steps.
Any day now she’ll try to eat solid food. She’ll want
to get into a fast car, one low to the ground, and drive
to some cinderblock shithole in the desert
where she can drink and get sick and then
dance in nothing but her underwear. You know
where she’s headed, you know she’ll wake up
with an ache she can’t locate and no money
and a terrible thirst. So to hell
with your warm hands sliding inside my shirt
and your tongue down my throat
like an oxygen tube. Cover me
in black plastic. Let the mourners through.
A cigarette kiss in the desert. The wind-proof arc
of flame sparks inside the speeding Buick. Menthol:
a break from the monotony of highway nicotine—
most intimate of drugs. Make this mean sorrow
or thermodynamics, whatever small gesture
there is time for. Light another one, the vainglorious
interstate dusk and ash—the long, silver tooth.
This shirtless abandon, this ninety-mile-an-hour
electric laugh. The edges of windshield, haphazard
chatter. The clatter of the hubcap and the thunderclap:
the white-hot retinal memory of your life as a Joshua tree.
Permanence in the passenger seat. This long haul,
this first drag—nothing like cinnamon, nothing
like the iron taste on the back of your mortal tongue.
You bound strong sandals on my feet,
You gave me bread and wine,
And sent me under sun and stars,
For all the world was mine.
Oh, take the sandals off my feet,
You know not what you do;
For all my world is in your arms,
My sun and stars are you.
I thought of you when I was wakened
By a wind that made me glad and afraid
Of the rushing, pouring sound of the sea
That the great trees made.
One thought in my mind went over and over
While the darkness shook and the leaves were thinned —
I thought it was you who had come to find me,
You were the wind.
I cannot possibly think of you
other than you are: the assassin
of my orchards. You lurk there
in the shadows, meting out
conversation like Eve’s first
confusion between penises and
snakes. Oh be droll, be jolly
and be temperate! Do not
frighten me more than you
have to! I must live forever.