For a long while I was with you & faithful
as I was to the black hair dye on aisle eight,
as good at covering-up.
For a long while I gave you to the stage
in exchange for Aunt March in Little Women,
Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie.
It felt entirely like an act, but wasn’t.
The curved back of the spinster, the clunky leg.
I read the lines like hell I read them loud
and clear I read them well.
This is the spine )
A closing parenthetical.
What did my body mean to say as an aside?
All states of being have referential content:
A friend calls, her brother shot himself
in Tennessee. She says,
I need to talk to you
because you & he
both are were
Now it is Saturday night & I am writing
another letter to Lucy Grealy, who I will never meet.
You do not know me. It feels wrong
for me to know about the heroin, the bags
of mail you kept, the bolt in your face.
For what it is worth, I have a bolt in my hip,
a hook along my spine. I don’t want to talk
about any of this. Tell me: what was your last
good thing? Can we stay there?
The boy, nineteen, in his car driving through
Tennessee, left a note taped to the rearview mirror:
I am always in pain.
Elaine Scarry writes that pain is simultaneously
a thing that cannot be confirmed & cannot be denied.
In me, a shooting like a flash like a planet like a fire.
In you, a question mark.
The boy & I both with a bird in our lungs.
Ribs press in, constrict. The medical
dictionary describes it as crab-like ribs.
Even they resort to figurative language.
The boy’s sister on the phone asks,
Are you also in pain? How does it feel?
She means to say, Tell me why this happened.
For a long while I was with you & faithful.
I did not mind, you shooting, you itching
as if you did not know we lost that foot.
Someone would have played lover to her brother
& meant it. This happens all the time:
When mine said, I am getting used to
your body, it sent me batty, bawling, bastard,
how could he love this husk? Then I flipped
that switch. I no more notice the twitch
of a lover’s eye because it is my lover & his eye.
Descartes was always partial to cross-eyed women,
because the object of his first love had such a defect.
This doesn’t explain
the boy the gun the car the drive the mountains
the woman the drug the skin the face the floor
I am angry with you. Which was it?
Did you abdicate to beauty or pain?
Say pain. It is easier for me to understand.