‘Round Midnight by Kim Addonizio

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.

Bad Girl by Kim Addonizio

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.

Knowledge by Kim Addonizio

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.

You Don’t Know What Love Is by Kim Addonizio

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.

My Romance by Kim Addonizio

On the car radio, the song we heard
that night at the hotel. I remember sitting
on the edge of the bed while you smoked
near the window, how you looked out
at the parking lot, then flicked away
the cigarette’s dead end. The way you came
to me then, and stood there while I
pressed my face against you and the song
receded and returned through random static.
Of course I knew nothing would be right
between us for long, despite the elegant room,
the expensive wine, the years I had wanted
exactly this, the two of us again
as we had been. Your hand stroking my hair,
my arms around your waist – I knew
what I was doing, listening hard to the tenderness
in the singer’s voice, tenderness threading
its way toward us so that what was missing
would be there later – in case our parting
didn’t mark me as I needed to be marked,
that memory would come back to hurt me.

Manners by Kim Addonizio

Address older people as Sir or Ma’am

unless they drift slowly into your lane

as you aim for the exit ramp.

Don’t call anyone dickhead, fuckface, or ass-hat;

these terms are reserved for ex-boyfriends

or anyone you once let get past second base

and later wished would be sucked into a sinkhole.

Yelling obscenities at the TV is okay,

as long as sports are clearly visible on the screen,

but it’s rude to mutter at the cleaning products in Safeway.

Also rude: mentioning bodily functions.

Therefore, sentiments such as “I went balls to the wall for her”

or “I have to piss like a chick with a pelvic disorder at a kegger contest”

are best left unexpressed.

Don’t’ say “chick,” which is demeaning

to the billions of sentient creatures

jammed in sheds, miserably pecking for millet.

Don’t talk about yourself. Ask questions

of others in order to show your interest.

How do you like my poem so far?

Do you think I’m pretty?

What would you give up to make me happy?

Don’t open your raincoat to display your nakedness.

Fondling a penis in public

is problematic, though Botero’s black sculpture

of a fat man in the Time-Warner building

in New York, his pee-pee rubbed gold,

seems to be an exception.

Please lie to me about your pedophilia

and the permafrost layer.

Stay in bed on bad hair days.

When the pulley of your childhood

unwinds the laundry line of your dysfunction,

here is a list of items to shove deep in the dryer:

disturbed brother’s T-shirt,

depressed mother’s socks and tennis racket,

tie worn by soused father driving the kids home

from McDonald’s Raw Bar. If you refuse

your host’s offer of alcohol, it is best to say,

“I’m so hung over, the very thought of drinking

makes me feel like projectile vomiting,”

or, “No thank you, it interferes with my medications.”

Hold your liquor whenever it is fearful

and lonely, whenever it needs your love.

Don’t interrupt me when I’m battering.

Divorce your cell phone in a romantic restaurant.

Here is an example

of a proper thank-you card:

Thank you for not sharing with me

the extrusions of your vague creative impulse.

Thank you for not believing those lies

everyone spreads about me, and for opening

the door to the next terrifying moment,

and thank you especially for not opening your mouth

while I’m trying to digest my roast chicken.

The Matter by Kim Addonizio

Some men break your heart in two…
—Dorothy Parker, “Experience”
Some men carry you to bed with your boots on.

Some men say your name like a verbal tic.

Some men slap on an emotional surcharge for every erotic encounter.

Some men are slightly mentally ill, and thinking of joining a gym.

Some men have moved on and can’t be seduced, even in the dream bars you meet them in.

Some men who were younger are now the age you were then.

Some men aren’t content with mere breakage, they’ve got to burn you to the ground.

Some men you’ve reduced to ashes are finally dusting themselves off.

Some men are made of fiberglass.

Some men have deep holes drilled in by war, you can’t fill them.

Some men are delicate and torn.

Some men will steal your bracelet if you let them spend the night.

Some men will want to fuck your poems, and instead they find you.

Some men will say, “I’d like to see how you look when you come,” and then hail a cab.

Some men are a list of ingredients with no recipe.

Some men never see you.

Some men will blindfold you during sex, then secretly put on heels.

Some men will try on your black fishnet stockings in a hotel in Rome, or Saran Wrap you

to a bedpost in New Orleans.

Some of these men will be worth trying to keep.

Some men will write smugly condescending reviews of you work, making you remember

these lines by Frank O’hara:

I cannot possibly think of you/other than you: the assassin/of my orchards.

Some men, let’s face it, really are too small.

Some men are too large, but it’s not usually a deal breaker.

Some men don’t have one at all.

Some men will slap you in a way you’ll like.

Some men will want to crawl inside you to die.

Some men never clean up the matter.

Some men hand you their hearts like leaflets

and some men’s hearts seem to circle forever: you catch sight of them on clear nights,

bright dots among the stars, and wait for their orbits to decay, for them to fall to earth.

You Were by Kim Addonizio

the bride of gin, bride
of men you followed home & let fuck you

only to discover that they already had a woman,
a woman who would never know

what you had done with her man, never
know what a shit she was married to, you were

enamored of impulse, tearing flower heads from sidewalk squares
that had converted from cement

to soil. How pure your longing
to be anything other than yourself. How difficult

to extricate the stem, to hold only the scattering,
brooding petals

& how you longed for that stem. Little former whore,
self-you-have-almost-outgrown, think

of Clytia, pining for Apollo, her whole face turned
toward an idea of heaven. Think

of the faces turned toward you now, as you recite
from the myth you have made,

all of them listening
to you. Of all flowers: you.

Muse by Kim Addonizio

When I walk in,
men buy me drinks before I even reach the bar.

They fall in love with me after one night,
even if we never touch.

I tell you I’ve got this shit down to a science.

They sweat with my memory,
alone in cheap rooms they listen

to moans through the wall
and wonder if that’s me,

letting out a scream as the train whines by.

But I’m already two states away, lying with a boy
I let drink rain from the pulse at my throat.

No one leaves me, I’m the one that chooses.
I show up like money on the sidewalk.

Listen, baby. Those are my high heels dangling from the
phone wire.

I’m the crow flapping down,
that’s my back slip

you catch sight of when the pain
twists into you so deep

you have to close your eyes and weep like a goddamned
woman.

Affair by Kim Addonizio

God it’s sexual, opening a beer when you swore you wouldn’t drink tonight,
taking the first deep gulp, the foam backing up in the long amber neck

of the Pacifico bottle as you set it on the counter, the head spilling over
so you bend to fit your mouth against the cold lip

and drink, because what you are, aren’t you, is a drinker—maybe not a lush,
not an alcoholic, not yet anyway, but don’t you want

a glass of something most nights, don’t you need the gesture
of reaching for it, raising it high and swallowing down and savoring

the sweetness, or the scalding, knowing you’re going to give yourself to it
like a lover, whether or not he fills up the leaky balloon of your heart—

don’t you believe in trying to fill it, no matter what the odds,
don’t you believe it still might happen, aren’t you that kind of woman?