Dinner Out

Juliette sat across from him, two uneven trails of dust and flakes from the bread bowl, one to him and the other to her. He talked about things, and the air pulled the words from his mouth and they floated. Medium well. The dock. Thanksgiving. He looked at her with such earnestness. It was a look thick and warm with sincerity and she felt like she was eating it. His look took up room in her mouth. Outside, she nodded but inside her brain raged, “Get out of my mouth! Take yourself and your ideas and your thoughts and your tenderness and get them out of my mouth!” She pictured herself raising an open palm and smacking him so hard that he fell from the chair, so fast that she couldn’t see pain pull apart his face, changing his landscape. Falling to the floor, cracking multiple bones in his face while she overturned her chair and fled the restaurant and the street and the town.

His eyes were wide and thick with meaning. The tablecloth was colored deeply, like spilled wine. His chewing sounds, the wet clopping of his tongue, his teeth knocking into his water glass. The dark curls on her head were shot through with static, currents of electricity pushing deeply into her skull. He covered her hand with his. It was too warm. Too tight and heavy and it didn’t feel fair, that he wanted so much from her. And still, she knew he wanted only a small smile, or a quick squeeze to his hand. It wasn’t much and it shamed her that she couldn’t give it to him, but still she was shot through with rage, his hand a heavy, furry paw on hers. She slid her hand out and squeezed her curls, the hair laden with electricity and pulsing into her scalp and temples and the nape of her neck.

They walk down the city street. It is evening and the air is warm. A hazy light, a muddied yellow, falls from the tall streetlights. The sidewalk is uneven and broken in places, overlapped and cracked like bad teeth. This makes the night more festive. Strollers in pairs and small gaggles touch one another, when they laugh or to squeeze an arm or steady a wife or a friend whose high heel as caught itself in a sidewalk crack. Outdoor cafes are held down with wrought iron tables and lit with votives and torches, bearing down and preparing themselves as they head into a raucous state. The married and the middle aged settle checks and finger through bills, turning from the group to count out the tip in bills.

Juliette and Michael walk, the cooler evening air sifting through the gaping holes in her crocheted wrap. ‘It should be enough,’ she thinks. The street glimmers with lit cigarettes and candle flames and waving votives, streetlights lighting upon silver earrings and flashing, teeth winking in the light from rolling headlights. Laughter breaks the night into manageable pieces, pieces the carousers can hold onto, pieces they can fit in their hands.

(Child hurt? Witnesses? Later, in the dark bedroom…)

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Fall Gardening- Edit

A tree trunk is the wooden bloom of a yellow leaf. You want to eat the leaf, to put it on your tongue and let it dissolve like a tab of acid or the body of Christ. These things are the same really, and in either case, you want to run the color down your throat and through your bowels. This is selfish and you simply can’t do such things.

In winter, squirrels act as suspenders and use their fine toenails to pull up the trees. You don’t believe me because you’re the kind of person who doesn’t believe things. If all squirrels got selfish at once, like we do, and jumped from the trees in a flash mob to grab at nuts rolling in gutters, every single tree would fall at once. I would like to hold a squirrel’s hand, his tiny mitt on the pad of my finger. The trees would crash noiselessly because big things don’t have soundtracks. Anything funereal is strangely quiet, a quiet entirely void of comfort, the quiet of leaving a church on a cold morning lit yellow. You wad a shredded tissue into a hard ball in your damp palm and you do not know where the casket has been taken and the sun is too bright. We are silent soundtracks, preserving wails on mute and snot and tears in amber stones that we finger on dusty summer mornings when the heady smell of cut grass makes our throat ache.

Find something finer than a squirrel’s toenail with its bleeding quick encased in a curved shell. God unfolded me over a map of the Vitruvian man and shot me through with bleeding quicks. I bleed from anywhere and it’s startling.

Another thing to know is that my body is hooked to my bowel, and it’s my ears that keep me standing. Otherwise, well. It would be a noiseless thing. And a ferris wheel, the whole wheel and all the colored carts of it, all of it swings from just one broken lightbulb, its broken quick pinging when the bulb is shaken. It’s the thick black sky that lights up the bulbs that aren’t broken. You think it’s the other way but you’re mistaken. Hang your face in shame, and mean it. This isn’t just for effect. Hole yourself into the dry corner of a library and study things. It’s one line in one book on a plain old blonde haired, blue eyed shelf that keeps the entire library from blowing apart like a flower gone to seed.

Slide your arms into a squeaky raincoat and kneel in your chilly garden while rain turns to snow and back to rain and back to snow. The trees are still held by brown and yellow leaves. It’s that kind of afternoon. Listen to me: your world is full of surprises and you are lucky you can’t see its beauty at once. If you did, your back would split in two and loll in the wet grass, your quick wrinkling like a peach pit. So much is lost on you. You’re not big enough to hold it, and you can certainly not make yourself small enough to protect it. You spend your life scouring your tongue and teeth with sand, rinsing your eyes with bleach, scrubbing out your groin with steel wool. Your fingers are a terribly boring ball in your lap. They are aging into peeling sticks.

Get down in the goddamn garden on your knees. Blink at the icy raindrops shattering across your fat face like birdshot. Your knees are heavy metal saucers. You delight in the cold metal. You could kneel and rock and probably sing Turkish prayers and Icelandic hymns. Turn over wet and heavy clumps of soil with a friendly spade. Lift breaking clods of earth. Dump them. Lift more. Mind the living things. Watch the black earth break into big pieces, like cracked dinner plates. This is how you come to life. [You didn’t forget seeds. Don’t be so ridiculous. You are always so ridiculous, always fretting. No one asked you to plant anything.] It’s already been done. It was done before anyone talked about aspirin in waxy cups at bedtime or fruit cups for train rides. Your naivety makes my fingers flutter, and I could just pinch your round heiney, split like a ripe fruit. You delight me. Etch a locket to say something important, like, for example, You haven’t the foggiest. Wear it. Don’t strangle yourself with it. Just only wear it. It’s meant to make you pretty, not breathlessly dead.

You are so wet inside. Take off your useless raincoat. Toss it to the side. Your quick runs the length of you, and you are longer than you can imagine. You are the Vitruvian man. Lay on your back like an egg. Roll in the snow and make yourself a cold nest. Unfold your legs. Spread your knees. Lift your chin. Open your eyes. The world, the entire wet world, is hanging from your fingertips. You are slick and fine and icy. You are smooth and long and wet. Don’t you dare shake your fingers. You are so wet, and I’ve not ever seen anything so broken open, so fresh and fragrant, so shot through with blood and life.

Notes…
Rework into something separate: God unfolded me over a map of the Vitruvian man and shot me through with bleeding quicks.

Tree trunk, squirrel, ferris wheel, library, gardening

Birth

I pulled at waxy yellow petals with my fingers.
I wiped clean a child’s fat, soft bottom while
She sang a song in a hot car and held a purple
Balloon to her round, sweatered belly.
I came home and cried on a sofa blooming with petals,
Like someone very important, someone wearing
A construction paper crown, had died. Not one
Person died. No one died and everyone is dying every
Day and each person has been dying since they pushed their
Wet crown into a chilly room tiled white.
Here’s what happened, a doctor with a
Face dripping skin, like a raisin rubbed loose between your fingers,
Pulled you out, and smacked your ass red and cheerful.
And the world got down on its knees
And slicked oil over its forehead and across your eyelids.
There has always been room for you here. There
Has always been a place for you.

My Song for You (edit)

I am going to write a song for you that will make you feel weird. It will set your teeth on edge, like trains knocked from tracks.

Your skin will get tight and itchy like you are too much pink meat shoved into too small a casing. You are going to need to start wearing long sleeves in July because you will tear your skin into ugly ribbons with your infernal scratching. You’re going to walk toward the pharmacy for a box of envelopes, say, or a ginger ale, and your skin will slough off you, leaving a fine white powder in your wake. You were that little girl who peed in the pool and ended up bobbing in a floating purple ring. All of the other kids in their brightly flowered bathing suits knew you were the one then. Everyone knows you’re the one now.

You with the skin of your arms like fly strips hung by an open kitchen window will forgo the envelopes so there’s no chance of running into your mother’s neighbor picking up her heart medication. You’re well aware that no one wants to see you looking like this and you yourself are going to need heart medication, not envelopes, when I’m done with you.

You will walk shame-faced into a diner to borrow a little hand broom for your mess on the street. Chilly pies will spin on a carousel. You will think ‘I’m hungry,’ and you will realize you are ravenous enough to eat your hands, both of them and then your toes, so you’ll buy up all the pies, the chocolate ones and the pumpkin ones and the syrupy cherry pies, and even the coconut pies, which you say you don’t like, but watch. You’ll buy those ones, too, along with every other pie in the place. You’ll return to the parking lot and sweep the white dust from the blacktop. You will think about licking it from your palm or rubbing it into the wet screens of your eyes or, if you’re feeling proper like you sometimes do, you’ll think about sifting it into a pound cake batter.

This song I’m writing for you is going to make you put your hand in your pants when you think I’m not looking. I’m always looking. Put your hand in your pants and if you do, I’ll put my hand in mine, and it will be like we are making pies together except that we’ve run out of lard. We stood at the sink and fed it to one other by the spoonful last Tuesday, each heavy dollop nearly big as an egg and run through the sugar bowl. Remember how our greasy teeth flashed at one another, our foreheads glowing like palms of moonlight laid over an evening lake.

So we will make cookies instead, side by side at the kitchen counter, cracking eggs and pulling apart stiff knots of raisins. I will hum it first and then sing this song that I’m going to write you, and it will make your arms and legs and your torso, all of the long parts of you, run loose like running water.

You will sleep fitfully at night while uneasy chains of words take over your head. Words like rotgut and apricot and kettledrum. You will think things like pigeon shit on my fingers and a cold bullet in my brain and gladiolas abloom in my lap. You will lie in the dark wondering why don’t we ever sit on hills and watch fireworks at noon, why don’t we clear away the snow and garden in the frozen ground, when our houses are really in need of something bright. Everything is going to make so much sense, even those things that never make sense. You are use to being coy but you will know what it all means, all of these loose trains of words looping through your head and tying you to the bed. You’ll probably gasp for breath dramatically. I will make you feel so weird, quietly singing this song into your pink ear.

Songs

I am going to write a song for you that will make you feel weird. It will set your teeth on edge, like trains knocked from their tracks. Your skin will get tight and itchy, like you are too much pink meat shoved into a too small casing. You will leave behind a fine powder of skin in your wake You will make such a mess that you’ll need to borrow a little hand broom from that diner that spins chilly pies on a carousel. You will be so ashamed. You will be ravenous enough to eat your hand but instead you’ll buy armloads of chocolate pies and cherry pies and coconut pies which you say you don’t like, but watch. You’ll buy it, along with every other pie in the place on your way out. You’ll sweep up your white dust and you will think about licking it from your palm or rubbing it into the wet screens of your eyes or, if you’re feeling proper like you sometimes do, you’ll opt to sift it into a poundcake batter. This song is going to make you put your hand in your pants when you think I’m not looking. I’m always looking. Put your hand in your pants and if you do, I’ll put my hand in mine, and it will be like we are making cookies together, side by side at the kitchen counter, cracking eggs and measuring out spicy spoonfuls of cinnamon and pulling apart hard knots of raisins. My songs will make uneasy chains of words take over your head, words like rotgut and apricot and kettledrums, and the chains will wake you in the middle of the night, tying you to the bed with your hand buried in your legs. You’ll probably gasp for breath dramatically. I will make you feel so weird if you give me the chance, humming dirty little songs into your pink ear about whining dogs and blue cheese on picnic tables and raspberry poprocks and folding card tables stacked in an uneasy pile on the morning’s spongy, wet grass.

Fall Gardening

See there. A tree falls off a yellow leaf. That leaf weighs less even than the receipt for cigarettes skittering across your dusty dashboard at red lights. And in winter, squirrels pull the trees up with their fine toenails. You don’t believe this because you’re the kind of person who doesn’t believe things, but if all of the squirrels got selfish at once, like we do, you know what would happen. Squirrels would leap from the trees at the same time after nuts rolling in the gutters, and every single tree would fall at once. Every one of them. Noiselessly because big things happen without soundtracks. You find something slicker, something finer than a squirrel’s single toenail. Try. A quick bleeding darkly in the center and encased in a long shell, curved and smooth.

Another thing to know is that my body is hooked to my bowel, and it’s my ears that keep me standing. Otherwise, well. You know. It would be a noiseless thing. And a ferris wheel, the whole wheel and all the colored carts of it, all of it swings from just one broken lightbulb, the quick snapped last summer. It’s the thick black sky that lights up the bulbs that aren’t broken. You think it’s the other way but you’re mistaken. Hang your face in shame, and mean it. This isn’t just for effect. Hole yourself into the dry corner of a library and study things. It’s one line in one book on a plain old blonde haired, blue eyed shelf that keeps the entire library from blowing apart like a flower gone to seed.

Slide your arms into a squeaky raincoat and kneel in your chilly garden while rain turns to snow and back to rain and back to snow. It’s that kind of afternoon. Your world is full of surprises and you are lucky you can’t see its beauty at once. If you did, your back would split in two and loll in the wet grass like peach halves, your quick wrinkling. You know how you feel when icy raindrops shatter across your fat face like birdshot? You could kneel and rock and probably sing Turkish prayers and Icelandic hymns. Your knees are heavy, cold metal saucers. You are so wet inside. So much is lost on you. You’re not big enough to hold it, and you can certainly not make yourself small enough to protect it. You spend your life closing your mouth, hiding your eyes, scrubbing out your crotch and crossing your legs. Your fingers are a terribly boring ball in your lap.

Turn over wet and heavy clumps of soil with a friendly spade, its bowl no bigger than your palm. Lift up breaking clods of earth. Dump them. Lift more. Mind the living things. Watch the black earth break into big pieces, like cracked dinner plates. This is how you come to life. You didn’t forget seeds. Don’t be so ridiculous. You are always so ridiculous, always fretting. No one asked you to plant anything. It’s already been done. It was done before anyone talked about aspirin in a waxy cup at bedtime or fruit cups for train rides. Your naivety makes my fingers flutter, and I could just pinch your round heiney, split like a ripe fruit. You delight me. Etch a locket to say, You are so important, you haven’t the foggiest. Wear it. Don’t strangle yourself with it. Just only wear it. It’s meant to make you pretty, not breathlessly dead.

You are so wet inside. Take off your useless raincoat. Toss it to the side. Your quick runs the length of you, and you are longer than you can imagine. Unfold your legs. Spread your knees. Lift your chin. Open your eyes. The world, the entire wet world, is hanging from your fingertips. You are slick and fine and swinging, and you are smooth and long and wet. Don’t you dare shake your fingers. You are so wet, and I’ve not ever seen anything so broken open, so fresh and fragrant.

A Lentil and a Popsicle

I am living just outside my life. On the edges, sewn into the hem, along the outline, in the grout. I am quite sure I can fit myself into one of the cream tiles lining the bathroom floor. Picture it: the tile is a square dime, smaller than an inch by an inch. I could fit there, or on the head of a pin or on the pale green shoulders of a dry lentil. I am bigger than the blue in the sky if it were to be bottled and sold on low wooden shelves at a farmer’s market. I would never sell shit at a farmer’s market. I’m not that kind of person. I’d buy it, though. I like to own things. I’d like to own the pattern of my breath. I believe I can fly. I think I can walk. Walking trips me up. I am usually not here. I cannot put my thumb on life. It is curious. I cannot press it or mark it. It is like this. I sit in meetings and talk numbers and dates. You can’t imagine. It’s not me. I never show up. The furniture is out of proportion and I consider touching the person sitting beside me. To feel their outline. To know if they are as porous as I am. They’re not. They are soup sloshing in a bowl. I’m a flowered bowl holding still soup. I spend a lot of time pressing my back teeth together, like a hot iron held firmly in place on a stubborn wrinkle. I want to flap my wrists and flutter my fingers in the air beside my temples, shaking my head like a child and humming low and deep in my throat. It is curious. I look pretty when I do this, if you have the right kind of eyes. I sit in a meeting. I sit in a chair. I perch on a top shelf. I curl into a candy dish. I drop my eyes onto a pencil on the table, a pencil gnawed by a nervous child. I am a nervous child. Teethmarks run the length of the pencil with dents, the pencil marked like an old fashioned typewriter. I slip into the slats in the heater vents. I pull at my feathers with my beak and chirp from a tree outside the office window. I know songs. I know songs. I’m full of shit in real life. I’m top notch on the edges. This is hard to follow. I could not have names for myself. I haven’t a clue what my name is. I don’t answer to anything. I’m confused like a glass vase holding dirty flower water, dying flowers pulled out from the water with a tight hand around their neck. Maybe it was me who gnawed the pencil in the real life that I sit on the edge of, like a child sitting on the hem of a community pool, concrete pulling at the seat of her swimsuit, legs loose in the water like cooked spaghetti. Her thighs are hot. Her calves and feet slim once they cut through the chilly casing of the pool water. I am stuck in casing. I am going to die in here. It’s definitely probably me who gnawed the pencil. I am always gnawing at something. You haven’t any idea. I am at all times looking for something to bite, something to sink my teeth into, something to fill my mouth, something to worry at with my teeth. I am going to break my teeth doing this, crack them and grind the stubborn ones into a fine powder. I should have been a beaver. I would have been an excellent beaver. I am not an excellent human. Humans aren’t always looking to bite, to snap. Maybe the little girl is me. Maybe those are my thin legs in the water. I left myself behind so long ago, sitting on the edge of a pool and sucking on a grape popsicle. Sucking the grape from the popsicle and leaving behind ice the color of skim milk. My lips were cracked and purple, my tongue wrinkled. I haven’t eaten in years. I can’t stop eating. Maybe somewhere a narrow version of me is walking, thin and tall as a pencil. That bitch is probably living my real life, leaving me behind lead footed. I hate her and mark her as selfish. I cannot fit into my life. I am too big. I cannot fit, I would like to scream. Wrists flapping, fingers fluttering. I ruined my bathing suit sitting on the concrete. The seat is pulled and pilling, so I left the suit behind in a damp pile on the tile floor. I stand naked in the middle of a 7-11 on a fake street in a real town in a fake city with matchbox cars zooming across steaming black asphalt. I clench a soggy box of grape popsicles in my hand. My fury has a fury. The box is soft and furry as it melts, and I scream at the bald cashier with a tattooed neck: I can’t fit. He doesn’t look up, he rings up a young mother with a thick brown ponytail held in place with royal blue elastic. I am too small, and there is too much room to fill. I get tired of thinking about it. I can’t sleep. My mouth aches. I am always tired. My tongue is pilling. A pale green lentil rattles in a mason jar. A string of cooked spaghetti slips down the kitchen wall, leaving behind a tacky streak of starch. Grape syrup can’t just leech back into ice. That’s not how it works. I don’t know how you don’t know these things. My wrists are flapping, my purple fingers are fluttering. Blue pistons break apart the glass bottles, too big to be contained and splitting the glass with sharp cracks. There is no place for me here. It must have been me who gnawed the pencil. There’s no other explanation.