Like an Auto-Tune of Authentic Love

I’m watching an old movie in one corner
of my laptop and in another the shadows
nesting in your neck, the flickering frequencies
of your sweater, and remember the Jack Nicholson
tagline in that movie we almost watched then decided
against fearing the little taser of misogyny:
You make me want to be a better person. Sometimes
the only thing I want is to say marry me
even though we both think marriage is archaic and weird
or at least for us. It’s not marry me I want to say
but rather weld with me like a net we also sit in.
Oh FaceTime face and shadow neck and the almost synced
sound of our shared watching. You have a list of things
that are going to be the death of you,
and so do I, which we cover in our debriefings.
All of this is to say that distance makes my heart go farther
into the terrain of heartfelt and I love it: how ordinarily
classifiable it is like feeling literal figurative butterflies
in your stomach. The good being fundamental.
Surprising love can happen at any part of one’s life
like the pixels deciding when to flicker into bursts.

Redaction

We make dogma out of letter writing: the apocryphal story 
of Lincoln who wrote angry letters he never sent. We wait for letters 
for days and days. Someone tells me I'll write you a letter
and I feel he's saying you're different than anyone else.
Distance's buzz gets louder and louder. It gets to be a blackest hole.
I want the letter about the time we cross the avenue, and you reach 
for my hand without looking—I am afraid I'm not what you want. 
We float down the street as if in the curve of a pod 
and the starry black is like the inside of a secret. We're drunk. 
The streetlight exposes us which becomes the deepest 
horror. Yes. End the letter like that, so it becomes authorless. 
Then the letter might give off secrets: acid imbalances that detonate.

Beasts

My siblings and I archive the blanks in my mother’s memory, 
diagnose her in text messages. And so it begins, I write although 

her disease had no true beginning, only a gradual peeling away 
until she was left a live wire of disquiet. We frame her illness 

as a conceptual resistance—She thinks, yet she is an other—
to make sense of the transformation. She forgot my brother’s cancer, 

for example, and her shock, which registered as surprise, 
was the reaction to any story we told her, an apogee of sublimity 

over and over. Once on a walk she told us she thought 
she was getting better, and exhausted, we told her she was incurable, 

a child’s revenge. The flash of sorrow was tempered only 
by her forgetting and new talk of a remedy, 

and we continued with the fiction because darker dwindling 
awaits us like rage, suspicion, delusion, estrangement. 

I had once told myself a different story about us. 
In it she was a living marble goddess in my house 

watching over my children and me. So what a bitter fruit 
for us to share, our hands sinking into its fetid bruise, 

the harsh flavor stretched over all our days, coloring them grey, 
infesting them with the beasts that disappeared her,

the beasts that hid her mail in shoeboxes under her bed, 
bills unpaid for months, boxes to their brims. The lesson: 

memory, which once seemed impermeable, had always been  
a muslin, spilling the self out like water, so that one became 

a new species of naïf and martyr. And us, we’re made a cabal 
of medieval scholars speculating how many splinters of light 

make up her diminishing core, how much we might harvest before 
she disappears. This is the new love: her children making an inventory 

of her failing body to then divide into pieces we can manage— 
her shame our reward, and I’ll speak for the three of us: 

we would have liked her to relish in any of the boons that never came, 
our own failures amplified by her ephemeral and fading quality.

Default Message

I have thirty seconds to convince you
that when I’m not home, my verve is still,
online or if I’m sleeping when you call,
sheep are grazing on yesterday’s melodrama.
Does anybody know what the burning umbrella
really meant? Forget it. Tell me what you need.
Leave me a map. Leave me your net worth
for reference. Leave me more than you ever planned.
Frankly, I’m anxious your message will be a series
of blurs, that you’ll leave the endearing part out,
garble your confession: A misstep here, a domain there.
A ventriloquism. The phone is in the kitchen,
but I’ve lost my way. It must be hunting season.
I retract every last gesture for your same retraction.

Related Poems

The Artificial Infinite

like a room with an open window, we
               were haunted:
                                         neither exit nor entrance,
fully: so the ghosts crossed our thresholds:
               they have all gone out, they have all gone in:
the little houses leaning into the field of grass, the water
               tower levitating into the sky, the roadside drill
that digs in the grit:
                                     shock of the human
               machine
continuously beating but irregularly: so absence
               fills with expectation, overfills: and the thing is
king:

Song Out Here

if i could sing

i’d say everything         you know

from here on the street can you turn around

just for once i am                     here

right behind you

what is that flag what is it made of

maybe it’s too late i have

too many questions where did it all come from

what colors is it all made of everything

everything here in the subways

there are so many things and voices

we are going somewhere but i just don’t know

somewhere

but i just don’t know

          somewhere

do you know where that is i want to sing

so you can hear me and maybe you can tell me

where to go so you can hear me and just maybe

you can tell me where to go

all those hands and legs and faces going places

if i could sing

you would hear me and i would tell you

it’s gonna be alright

it’s gonna be alright

it’s gonna be alright it would be something like that

can you turn around so i can look into your eyes

just for once your eyes

maybe like hers can you see her

and his can you see them i want you to see them

all of us we could be together

if i could sing we would go there

we would run there together

we would live there for a while in that tilted

tiny house by the ocean rising up inside of us

i am on the curb next to a curled up cat

smoking i know its bad for you but

you know how it is just for once can you turn around

a straight line falling behind you it’s me i want to sing

invincible                                             bleeding out with love

 

just for you

Deleting Names (A Decaying Sestina)

Scrolling through the at-the-limit list of names,
I’m caught unaware: my phone displays a friend
I’ll never be able to call again.
Now that all that’s left of her are memories
I can’t delete her entry, it seems too final,
as if it would erase our entire past together.

Phones are democratic: jumbled together
are lovers and colleagues, name after name
in alphabetical order. It was she who finally
convinced me to get a phone; the day my friend
and I went to buy it is still a vivid memory:

I was having one of those lapses of memory;
not long before, he and I had spent the night together.
We run into him on the street; both he and my friend
expect an introduction, but I’ve forgotten his name.

I’ve now forgotten so many boys; only their names
remain, stored in my phone’s memory.
Those I can delete, but not my friend’s.

It’s as if all that remains of our friend-
ship is this metonymy of her name

on a SIM-card full of memories and names.