Boy with Your Heart Crayoned Pink on Loose-leaf Paper,
Not even your mother has a use for you. She swore
that she safe-kept your heart in a drawer. She lied.
She threw it away on that Sunday spring-cleaning day.
She lost every what that you gave her under the whats
that the mailbox gave her, and your heart expired
beneath coupons for chicken fingers, car ads with taped-on keys,
the thin tulle of a coffee filter losing its grounds. Little boy,
you will learn. You will meet and melt army men. You will
see the sun focused in a magnifying glass and you will teach
the ants what you have learned about pinks and words and
love. You will learn that to love is to want sleep and safety.
You will learn that, in love, the word safety is a lie.
…from The Voyager Record
I want you to be an old-fashioned phonograph playing impossible music in the soundlessness of space. Or an actual space mixtape, with handwritten tracklist in your plastic cassette tape holder, dark blotches of ballpoint pen covering spelling mistakes in the titles: Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar, Tchakrulo. I want you to gain consciousness and return as a giant cloud to destroy us. I want you to come back for DNA samples. I want to go with you, and I never want to come back. I’ll steer you by the cosmic array system, and when I’m tuckered out I’ll sleep inside of the transmission dish. And I’ll wake up in the morning, when we decide when morning is, since we are alone.
Pythoness (oil on canvas)
Alfred Leslie, David Owsley Museum of Art
Under the bent legs
of a crucifix I have been
thinking of you my post-impressionist,
as if we were these two
black figures moving stock-
still through a field of yellow,
and how we looked half-finished
in the studio, half-finishing
our wine and falling
sunlight into the messy brushstrokes
of the bedroom, then,
evening draping over us,
into another spat. Our last.
Now we’re hung up on a wall,
faces blurred, the breath
squeezed out of us.
The Death of Romance
At the famous artist’s mansion
turned into museum, I was bored
with every part of the man I had come with—
hand reaching for my hand, breath
dampening my cheek. We stood with the rest
of the tour—couples, happy, therefore not
needing to touch—nodding at French wallpaper,
crowding into narrow halls and bedroom doorways
to see the usual—rocking chair, chamber pot,
canopied beds with steps alongside.
The summer-school girl who was our guide
pointed into the largest room, explained this bed
was where five daughters were born
to the artist’s second wife, also where she died
giving birth to their sixth child, a boy, buried with her.
In the dining room we arrayed around a table
polished to black, set for twelve. I twisted away
from the hand stalking my waist,
nudging my breast. The artist entertained often,
but today his soup tureen was empty,
his silver dull. Above the fireplace his portrait
of the second wife, not a pretty woman
except for her blonde hair and the imaginary
happiness he’d painted in her eyes.
I Confide in Helen of Troy about my Divorce
but she finds husbands boring.
So I tell her about old admirers,
where they are now. I show her
an email from one that I know will
interest her. He’s an archaeologist,
going to Sparta. “Can you believe it?”
I ask. He writes, “It’s my birthday…
I’m drunk. I’m 48. So have a good
night, sweetie.” But she is only
interested in the part where he’s
going to Sparta. She thinks that
he is looking for her, back when
she was young, in the years
before there were husbands.
The Long Night Makes of Him a Coyote
Almost morning and he is still awake. Midnight
since he struggled to sit back against bunched pillows, kick
the quilt into a dike between footboard and itching feet. Nightmare,
night, its rubs and licks and nudges. Kidneys jump, vertebrae clack
like dice. But, oh, when the bed was not his alone—he remembers—
nurse log of her body, flannel-wrapped, steady rise and fall.
He would squirm or snore, and if those didn’t rouse her, loose a little shout
as from the innocence of sleep so she would turn to him,
gather him against her with a buried moan. Her thigh between his thighs,
their faces masks. Lovers not needing to undress to know each mile
of the landscape. She stroked and pressed, he kissed her with relief
and slept, his cheek tugging her hair. Now his eyes are sand,
his hands stiffened to claws. Light comes. She has fallen
from the earth. He totters to the brink and howls.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day with us, with poetry! Our past Valentine features:
Click on each poet’s name, above her/his poem, to see the poet’s solo feature. And be sure to visit the art of Susan Jamison: