The One Secret That Has Carried

Jason Shinder - 1955-2008
Irene loves a man
      who is afraid of sex-- 
            she's attended

to everything,
      said it was okay,
            held me until I slept.

She says, Why don't you just
      not think about it?
            But I want to know

every sensation,
      nothing untouched,
            though I pull my hand away

once she's found it
      I can't be around a woman
            too long,

too much.
      I say, I was mistreated.
            She says, A cup of tea?

I say, I can't start a thing
      and then
            describe the kind

of thing I'd start.
      We talk about ballrooms,
            long sleeves and sashes,

say someday 
      we should go somewhere
            though we can't think

of anywhere
      and then I say abruptly,
            I've never loved

hard enough
      to be loved back.
            I say it as if I've had enough

of the whole goddamn
      world and will never
            be satisfied.

I'm looking
      at the wall.
            She's looking out

the window because
      she needs 
            to be somewhere.

Later, I leave a note:
      Sorry for the difficulties.
            Meaning: how come

you don't leave?
      I've never told this story.
            Even at the moment
			
of dying, 
      I would say
            it was someone else's.

More by Jason Shinder

Jacksonville, Vermont

Because I am not married, I have the skin of an orange 

that has spent its life in the dark. Inside the orange 
I am blind. I cannot tell when a hand reaches in 

and breaks the atoms of the blood. Sometimes
 
a blackbird will bring the wind into my hair. 
Or the yellow clouds falling on the cold floor are animals 

beginning to fight each other out of their drifting misery. 

All the women I have known have been ruined by fog 
and the deer crossing the field at night. 

Little America

My friend says she is like an empty drawer 

being pulled out of the earth. 
I am the long neck of the giraffe coming down 

to see what she doesn't have. 

What holds us chained to the same cold river, 
where we are surprised by the circles 

we make in the ice? When we talk about the past

it is like pushing stones back into the earth. 
Sometimes she digs her nails into her leather bag 

to find out where my heart is. The white sleeves

of her shirt are bright with waves when I visit. 
When we lie, we live a little longer—

which is unbelievable. If you love 

someone, the water moves up from the well. 

How I Am

When I talk to my friends I pretend I am standing on the wings 

of a flying plane. I cannot be trusted to tell them how I am. 
Or if I am falling to earth weighing less 

than a dozen roses. Sometimes I dream they have broken up 

with their lovers and are carrying food to my house. 
When I open the mailbox I hear their voices 

like the long upward-winding curve of a train whistle 

passing through the tall grasses and ferns 
after the train has passed. I never get ahead of their shadows. 

I embrace them in front of moving cars. I keep them away 

from my miseries because to say I am miserable is to say I am like them.