Three Sketches of Anxiety

Curtis Bauer

I’ve got two hands and an urge
to yank out your teeth,

my lover said, dropping the dress
she made from my shirt

to the floor, to see the landscape
a mouth of holes might look like
.

Maybe jagged potholes on a rainslick
street
, she said, climbing over

the bed. Maybe, she winked, a prairie
dog town in West Texas after a flood
.

More by Curtis Bauer

Stupid Job

I’m a liar. It’s not a job
that pays well but I am
my own boss. My wife
brushes teeth. Hers. She
flosses, too. I’ve asked her
to do mine. Get a job,
she tells me. I have one.
I’m a liar, I tell her. We
look at each other, as if
we were paintings, as if
looking would make clear
some deep meaning,
make us smarter,
make us at least feel
better about ourselves.

Lines to a Friend in a Less Windy Place

Today I still don’t know
how to fly a kite, or let it
be flown, picked up
and assaulted by the gust
constant as sun rise
in this south that isn’t
south for those who live
here. I haven’t been swept
away either, by any face
or woman’s bare shoulder,
not even spring budding
again after a late freeze,
even though it’s more beautiful
the second time around. Like
that woman you told me about
who smiled once when you
met, and once when you both
turned to admire the distance
between you. She must have
had beautiful eyes, looked
at you without blinking,
squinting out any dust
that would be flying here.

Self Portrait in Dark Interior

                                  —for Patrick Rosal

Before, ache never seemed long like a tunnel
under the city flaring off another tunnel
the subway rumbled against, or the dark

jutting out of daylight’s reach up on 187th
when I know some part is inhabited and
that habitation looks out at me. I know

every uninhabited place lodges a thing looking
out. I have grown into a life, become middle
aged, deepened into the hidden inside, like

the day into its other half, or a memory
of a woman’s silence after she didn’t
want to be kissed, and I wonder when rot

began, and I wonder what other ideas the cabbie
had when he turned into the truck’s path.
Sometimes silence is emptier than some oaths

I have made. Hours change habits and late seeps
into early and rain, in another part of this
country, suddenly, heavily falls, flattens seams,

frays and splits them like I did away from a lover once
in a city where both of us were foreign, and she
the only person who recognized me for a thousand miles,

the only one who knew where I was. And
then not. This ache is empty like that.