We are good at opening dialogue. It's our specialty. That and the goodbye scene we could recite in our sleep. It's the middle that defies us, the substance, the ordinary progressions that weave events into patterns, textures, the three-dimensional. No. You cannot read my letters. You cannot take your eyes off your reflection in the mirror, your extravagant rhetoric and unshakable conviction that you will always look thirty-four, that your charm will be indelible and bankable, like an occupation. You sense I know your secret name. You fear I will say it out loud and I will. Whore. You who live from interchangeable beds, feeling passion a pressure you can't deliver, tangled in ambivalence, trying to make love while adjusting your silk tie, shining your Italian shoes spare sports jacket in the back of your broken car. Your secret name is whore. You are in love with your mother. No woman is perfect enough, as pretty as you or her. Know this, whore. I am your greatest mistake. I will hate you as the seasons turn in August heat and sudden storms as you drive from one woman to another, one slice of city view after another. You will sense this following, this uniquely fashioned arrow, this intangible wound that will not heal. I am the shadow on the corner and a certain way the neon will scratch one window after another, relentless and haunting. You will come to know it, taste it, dream it. Me, lit from the inside, whispering your whore name mixing my burned mouth with the Santana winds, becoming part of you and the landscape. In the smog, in the mist in the moonlight and jasmine digging in under your skin in a way you will never forget.
It was as though you were a man in a wheelchair,
your legs cut off at the knee.
But I wanted you to walk.
I wanted us to walk like lovers,
arm in arm in the summer evening,
and believed so powerfully in that projection
that I had to speak, I had to press you to stand.
Why did you let me speak?
I took your silence as I took the anguish in your face,
as part of the efforts to move —
It seemed I stood forever, holding out my hand.
And all that time, you could no more heal yourself
than I could accept what I saw.
Don’t you dare climb that tree
or even try, they said, or you will be
sent away to the hospital of the
very foolish, if not the other one.
And I suppose, considering my age,
it was fair advice.
But the tree is a sister to me, she
lives alone in a green cottage
high in the air and I know what
would happen, she’d clap her green hands,
she’d shake her green hair, she’d
welcome me. Truly
I try to be good but sometimes
a person just has to break out and
act like the wild and springy thing
one used to be. It’s impossible not
to remember wild and want it back. So
if someday you can’t find me you might
look into that tree or — of course
it’s possible — under it.