Friends with No Benefits
I now replace desire
Instead of saying, I want you, I say,
there is meaning between us.
Meaning can swim, has taken lessons from the river
of itself. Desire is air. One puncture
above a black lake and she lies flat.
I now replace intensity with meaning.
One is a black hole of boundless appetite, a false womb,
another is a sentence.
My therapist says children need a “father” for language
and a “mother” for everything else.
She doesn’t get that it’s all language. There is no else.
Else is a fiction of life, and a fact of death.
That night, we don’t touch.
We ruin nothing.
We get bagels in the morning before you leave on a train,
and I smoke a skinny cigarette and think
I look glam, like an Italian diva.
You make a joke at my expense, which is not a joke, really,
but a way to say I know you.
I don’t feed on you. Instead, I watch you
like a faraway tree.
Desire loves the what if, the if only, the maybe in another lifetime.
She loves a parallel universe. Or seven.
Meaning knows its minerals,
knows which volcanic magma belongs
to which volcanic fleet.
Knows the earth has parents. That a person is raised.
It’s the real flirtation, to say, you are not a meal.
To say, I want you
Copyright © 2023 by Megan Fernandes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 13, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.