Here's my head, in a dank corner of the yard. I lied it off and so off it rolled. It wasn't unbelieving that caused it to drop off my neck and loll down a slope. Perhaps it had a mind of its own, wanted to leave me for a little while. Or it was scared and detached itself from the stalk of my neck as a lizard's tail will desert its body in fright of being caught. The fact is, I never lied. The fact is, I always lied. Before us, we have two mirrors. At times, they say, one must lie in order to survive. I drove by the house, passed it several times, pretending it was not my own. Its windows were red with curtains and the honeyed light cast on the porch did not succeed in luring me back inside. I never lied. I drove by the house, suckling the thought of other lovers like a lozenge. I was pale as a papery birch. I was pure as a brand new pair of underwear. It will be a long while before I touch another. Yet, I always lied, an oil slick on my tongue. I used to think that I was wrong, could not tell the truth for what it was. Yet, one cannot take a lawsuit out on oneself. I would have sworn in court that I believed myself and then felt guilty a long time after. I hated the house and I hated myself. The house fattened with books, made me grow to hate books, when all the while it was only books that never claimed to tell the truth. I hated him and I hated his room, within which his cloud of smoke heaved. I disappeared up narrow stairs, slipped quick beneath the covers. My stomach hurts, I told him, I was tired. I grew my dreams thick through hot nights: dear, flickering flowers. They had eyes which stared, and I found I could not afford their nurture, could not return their stare, Meanwhile, liars began their parade without my asking, strode sidewalks inches before my doorstep. I watched their hulking and strange beauty, their songs pregnant with freedom, and became an other self. I taught children how to curse. I bought children gold pints of liquor. I sold my mind on the street. 1 learned another language. It translates easily. Here's how: What I say is not what I mean, nor is it ever what I meant to say. You must not believe me when I say there's nothing left to love in this world.
Love Poem from South China, 1999
The tropical infection traced a map up my finger and standing outside the Kunming Red Cross Hospital, we watched this white rabbit eat Christmas poinsettia before we found the Doctor named Wen. Registration for the operation cost 3 kuai 5 equivalent to twenty-seven cents. Dr. Wen pointed two fresh, ready fingers at his table and repeated (in English) operation. After the lecture on pus and abscess, you expressed nonchalance at the sight of his knife, (he unwrapped it, you said, optimistic) and I whispered translations into the shirt where I buried my face at your waist. When Dr. Wen sliced the finger like tropical fruit the leather taste spread to the back of my mouth. Operation, your belt, Chinese vocab abscess operation, white rabbit, red plant. The day went on outside, and when I noticed it again hours later, I had stopped screaming, The bandages were just gauzy hotel curtains, angels in fluttering light. When I rolled from the shadows of hospital shock, you introduced me to my finger. Gored and masked criminal bandit! Escaped from the red cross, you said: Finger X. Read a passage from Our Man In Havana. Yes, China, Havana nary a trauma; we double wrapped the digit’s disguise with a plastic shower cap and swam off the coast of Hainan. But just to be safe, you carried me through the water with my hand raised like a torch above the waves.