Wouldbelove, do not think of me as a whetstone
until you hear the whole story:
In it, I’m not the hero, but I’m not the villain either
so let’s say, in the story, I was human
and made of human-things: fear
and hands, underbelly and blade. Let me
say it plain: I loved someone
and I failed at it. Let me say it
another way: I like to call myself wound
but I will answer to knife. Sometimes
I think we have the same name, Notquitelove. I want
to be soft, to say here is my underbelly and I want you
to hold the knife, but I don’t know what I want you to do:
plunge or mercy. I deserve both. I want to hold and be held.
Let me say it again, Possiblelove: I’m not sure
you should. The truth is: If you don’t, I won’t
die of want or lonely, just time. And not now, not even
soon. But that’s how every story ends eventually.
Here is how one might start: Before. The truth?
I’m not a liar but I close my eyes a lot, Couldbelove.
Before, I let a blade slide itself sharp against me. Look
at where I once bloomed red and pulsing. A keloid
history. I have not forgotten the knife or that I loved
it or what it was like before: my unscarred body
visits me in dreams and photographs. Maybelove,
I barely recognize it without the armor of its scars.
I am trying to tell the truth: the dreams are how
I haunt myself. Maybe I’m not telling the whole story:
I loved someone and now I don’t. I can’t promise
to leave you unscarred. The truth: I am a map
of every blade I ever held. This is not a dream.
Look at us now: all grit and density. What, Wouldbelove
do you know of knives? Do you think you are a soft thing?
I don’t. Maybe the truth is: Both. Blade and guard.
My truth is: blade. My hands
on the blade; my hands, the blade; my hands
carving and re-carving every overzealous fibrous
memory. The truth is: I want to hold your hands
because they are like mine. Holding a knife
by the blade and sharpening it. In your dreams, how much invitation
to pierce are you? Perhapslove, the truth is: I am afraid
we are both knives, both stones, both scarred. Or we will be.
The truth is: I have made fire
before: stone against stone. Mightbelove, I have sharpened
this knife before: blade against blade. I have hurt and hungered
against flesh. I won’t make a dull promise.
Copyright © 2019 by Nicole Homer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Oh, but it is dirty! —this little filling station, oil-soaked, oil-permeated to a disturbing, over-all black translucency. Be careful with that match! Father wears a dirty, oil-soaked monkey suit that cuts him under the arms, and several quick and saucy and greasy sons assist him (it's a family filling station), all quite thoroughly dirty. Do they live in the station? It has a cement porch behind the pumps, and on it a set of crushed and grease- impregnated wickerwork; on the wicker sofa a dirty dog, quite comfy. Some comic books provide the only note of color— of certain color. They lie upon a big dim doily draping a taboret (part of the set), beside a big hirsute begonia. Why the extraneous plant? Why the taboret? Why, oh why, the doily? (Embroidered in daisy stitch with marguerites, I think, and heavy with gray crochet.) Somebody embroidered the doily. Somebody waters the plant, or oils it, maybe. Somebody arranges the rows of cans so that they softly say: ESSO—SO—SO—SO to high-strung automobiles. Somebody loves us all.
Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. "Filling Station" from The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel.