She always writes poems. This summer
she’s starting a novel. It’s in trouble already.
The characters are easy—a girl
and her friend who is a girl
and the boy down the block with his first car,
an older boy, sixteen, who sometimes
these warm evenings leaves his house to go dancing
in dressy clothes though it’s still light out.
The girl has a brother who has lots of friends,
is good in math, and just plain good which
doesn’t help the story. The story
should have rescues & escapes in it
which means who’s the bad guy; he couldn’t be
the brother or the grandpa or the father either,
or even the boy down the block with his first car.
People in novels have to need something,
she thinks, that it takes about
two hundred pages to get.
She can’t imagine that. Nothing
she needs can be got; if it could
she’d go get it: the answer to nightmares;
a mother who’d be proud of her; doing things
a mother could be proud of; having hips
& knowing how to squeal at the beach laughing
when the boy down the block picked her up & carried her
& threw her in the water. If she’d laughed
squealing he might still take her swimming
& his mother wouldn’t say she’s crazy, she would
not have got her teeth into his shoulder till
well yes she bit him, and the marks
lasted & lasted, his mother said so,
but that couldn’t be in a novel.
She’ll never squeal laughing, she’d never
not bite him, she hates cute girls, she hates
boys who like them. Biting is embarrassing
and wrong & she has no intention of doing it again
but she would if he did if he dared,
and there’s no story if there’s no hope of change.
When I said I wasn’t with another girl
the January after we fell in love for the 3rd time,
it’s because it wasn’t actual sex.
In the February that began our radio silence,
it was actual sex. I hate the tight shirts
that go below your waistline.
Not only do they make you look too young,
but then your torso is a giraffe’s neck attached to tiny legs.
I screamed at myself in the subway
for writing poems about you still.
I made a scene. I think about you almost
each morning, and roughly every five days, I still
believe you’re there.
I still masturbate to you.
When we got really bad,
I would put another coat of mop water on the floor of the bar
to make sure you were asleep when I got to my side of the bed.
You are the only person to whom I’ve lied, knowing
I was telling the truth. I miss the way your neck
wraps around my face like a cave we are both lost in.
I remember when you said being with me
is like being alone with company.
My friend Sarah wrote a poem about pink ponies.
I’m scared you’re my pink pony.
Hers is dead. It is really sad. You’re not dead.
You live in Ohio, or Washington, or Wherever.
You are a shadow my body leaves on other girls.
I have a growing queue of things I know
will make you laugh and I don’t know where to put them.
I mourn like you’re dead. If you had asked me to stay,
I would not have said no.
It would never mean yes.
what we do in the dark has no hands. no
crossover effect, no good-bye kiss after the alarm.
what we carry in, we carry out, end of story. this
doesn’t even want to be love. except in minutes
when your face has the shape of my palm and I think
lungful. let want out with the cat. returns
and returns, something dutiful. persistent.
hold your breath, let it build, let go. this is practice.
I’m losing weight, a bad sign, I’m happy. serious,
you say. contained, I think. the cat comes back
with a dead bird to the doorstep, an offering. bloodless
this should be easy. a two-step to cowboys. you’re beautiful
but that’s not the point.
I know my way back perfectly well. like the back
of my hand, as it were. but look, the labyrinth walls
are high hedge and green. this also could be joy.
I literally don’t know your middle name. does that
matter? what systems we arrange for intimacy, small
disclosures like miniature bridges, your mouth. not
what I’d anticipated. softer. to begin with,
I should tell the truth more. I could miss you,
and that’s a liability.
I am not often off-kilter. but you’re so silent, even
naked, and almost absent. I hush too, why
are we here. go. want to throw things, you, the clock,
break windows until something bleeds and you finally
scream. I tell you too much; we are not
those people. or nothing—maybe I say
utilitarian fuck. how would that be. I want you
to want to fall in love with me and that’s
unhealthy. wrong. leave your shoes by the door
and pretend it’s about the movie. it’s love
in the movies it’s casablanca and toy story
and water no ice come here. pockets need
to be untucked, drawers thrown open,
nobody’s safe. there, I’ve said it:
someone I was could have loved you.
— marty mcconnell