I’m not sure how many of them exist.
Like that cabin in an unexplained clearing
in an island off the coast of Nova Scotia.
The fireplace sounding like a page
of sheet music being eternally crumpled,
as if to say to us: Sit down. Read a little.
The bed is made and we’ll make a bet
to see who gets to ruin its serenity
first. Then maybe I will kiss you.
Then maybe I will step in the shower
and explore the lengthy chapters
of the book of happiness. Then maybe
I’ll get out and lie down and whisper to you
the thousand feelings I cannot name
zipping around my body like molecules.
I will ask you to tell me a story
about your childhood, or ask you to look
outside at all the trees we don’t recognize.
All the colors we didn’t know existed.
All the while I cannot say where you are
in the cabin. Or outside of it.
I have stopped trying to imagine
the entirety of you. Or at least trying
to fit it into a poem. But still on rainy days
I catch myself dwelling on the drifting island
of my heart, imagining that somewhere,
you are practicing all the words you know
for longing, as I am doing in the language
of poem, very rarely spoken outside its country
of sorrow. But maybe happiness as it is,
and longing, and love, can make it.
Can make a good poem. Or maybe you have ruined me
exactly the way I wanted you to.
I’m not sure how many of them exist.
I love that summer dress flowing down your body like a waterfall in the sun. And when you curse in the morning before the coffee’s done brewing. The way you wear a hat in the store as if it were your own. I can only love women who look stunning in hats. I love that smile. How if your city had a pageant for its top five smiles, you’d be up there on stage, answering a question on how the world can come closer to not hating itself. Your smile, then, cannot possibly be “killer.” I’ve always wondered why men don’t fall for smiles that can end wars. I can only love a woman who can launch a thousand ships back to their dark, rainy harbors, metaphor for a jilted king’s heart. Why do men turn evil when their hearts break? Does the heart begin pointed north until it is pounded into not? I love the way you photograph. How all of us turn less beautiful in a universe in which time is time, and continues to be time. I can only love girls who spend eternity making the world stop, and by virtue of that, only girls who are eternal. I love that thing you do with your nose and keep wondering how you breathe when you do it. I wonder, too, how you calm yourself when you sleep and how you are most beautiful in the mornings. I love that story you sent me and how it reminded of the bananafish, and I love how you love the bananafish. I love that song on repeat in your room somewhere behind the hundred doors of my body, or maybe somewhere across an ocean. The one that has no words, that makes me feel like I’m on a train headed for another train, and another. But most of all I love that song you keep whistling while your back’s turned, your hair tied in a bun, as you’re dealing with the latest morning of your life, frying eggs.
Today the cloud shapes are terrifying,
and I keep expecting some enormous
black-and-white B-movie Cyclops
to appear at the edge of the horizon,
to come striding over the ocean
and drag me from my kitchen
to the deep cave that flickered
into my young brain one Saturday
at the Baronet Theater where I sat helpless
between my older brothers, pumped up
on candy and horror—that cave,
the litter of human bones
gnawed on and flung toward the entrance,
I can smell their stench as clearly
as the bacon fat from breakfast. This
is how it feels to lose it—
not sanity, I mean, but whatever it is
that helps you get up in the morning
and actually leave the house
on those days when it seems like death
in his brown uniform
is cruising his panel truck
of packages through your neighborhood.
I think of a friend’s voice
on her answering machine—
Hi, I’m not here—
the morning of her funeral,
the calls filling up the tape
and the mail still arriving,
and I feel as afraid as I was
after all those vampire movies
when I’d come home and lie awake
all night, rigid in my bed,
unable to get up
even to pee because the undead
were waiting underneath it;
if I so much as stuck a bare
foot out there in the unprotected air
they’d grab me by the ankle and pull me
under. And my parents said there was
nothing there, when I was older
I would know better, and now
they’re dead, and I’m older,
and I know better.