Knock KnockSo now I live the story I made up for myself,
and I stare like a crocodile
at the fishhooks of your handwriting
or the curve of your hip
in a digitized photograph,
or listen to a reproduction
of your voice reciting fictions
just for me,
or I watch pixels on my computer screen mimic
the way your lips move
or your hands gesture
or your head cocks
or your forehead or cheeks
or the corners of your eyes crinkle. I try to find you
in these things, salvation
in salvaged bits and pieces. I sew them
into a quilt and crawl beneath it, bury
myself in its warmth
until the cold seeps through.
All these words, and they can't explain
anything. Just the need
barking at the dark. The sweet ache
of memory. Only your teeth understand.
Just one more lucky bastard trying to live
beyond his means. Should I gnaw off pieces of myself
and mail them to you
until you give in to my demands?
I take a bite from an apple, and the women
in the booth next to me start chatting about the city
where you live. My breath f
This Was Meant to Be a PoemThis was meant to be a poem, but as I typed it, one
of your songs came on the radio. It happens like that.
I don't have cancer, and it doesn't seem to matter.
The stitches came out today; the shaved flesh
already reforests. Soon only smooth pale scars
will remind me.
Still I am sad. In my roots. Under my skin. Like a
secret. Like a cancer.
I imagine that, when the coroner opens my corpse
(one day), he'll whistle low at how it could have gone
on for so long and not kept me from living.
What the Pygmies Taught MeI'm an opportunist. I take
what is offered. But when you part those
lips and let your secrets drool out
onto my breastbone,
stickying me over
like an old plastic honey bear, I can't help but want
to wrap my fist in your hair
and empty out the rest.
And I think about that time when I can show you
what the pygmies taught me:
how to weave a rope out of jungle vines
and tie it to a deadfall,
how to noose the leg of an elephant
one hundred times my size,
how to wait with such patience
until, tired (so tired), the knees
under the gravity of words.
And in my mind's eye, I watch them swarm
over that tender hide
and carve a doorway
with sharpened stones
in that heaving abdomen
and termite through your innards -
until, smiles wet and chins dripping, they heft out
that bitten and rippling heart
and offer it
to the grateful sunshine.
PrayersThe call singsongs over the loudspeakers,
blanketing Old Delhi. We shuffle
towards it through the afternoon haze.
A weathered metal detector chimes
as we pass. No one seems to notice.
As we crest the red stone steps, they tell us,
"Only Muslims," and point to a sign in English
listing prayer times for the Jama Masjid.
We crowd into the shade with the women
and the unfaithful. The mosque grows quiet.
I take a seat and watch a man root around
inside another's ear with a metal instrument.
Down below, a handful of kids play
with an abused cricket bat and a hollow
plastic ball. The leader smacks one
over a tall fence and has to monkey-climb
the gate to fetch it while the rest look on.
A little girl, three or four, hair braided
into a short black tail, collects coins
in the hammock of her grimy white apron.
She sits alone on the top step under the sun.
No one approaches her. Her body has been
kept whole, perfect. She may grow up
to be beautiful. I take a snapshot
as she examines the c