I want to know you like I’ve studied your language, failed, found a tutor, studied long and hard with index cards, took your exam, got a C, broke down and cried, begged for extra credit, stayed up for nights on end building a scale replica of your likeness, gave a public presentation on the metaphoric significance of us meeting in relationship to the chaos of dust in the cosmos, studied more, slept less, took your little blue book final and narrowly escaped the semester with a B+, I can do better, I’ll never stop learning, I want to know you like I’ll never stop knowing you, minored in, majored in, bachelors, masters, doctorate, I’ll keep studying.
The year I learned to hone honesty in the direction of travel, while moving toward you at the speed of forgiving myself, was the same year I learned the distance between my heart and the roof of my mouth. It was four years ago. The same year the cavemen alive in my chest rubbed everything together the right way, discovered fire, and danced, warm—they knew they were finally on to something.
The last time we talked I must’ve looked like a magician with the way I kept masking the truth. The last time we talked I forgot to mention that I want to be a decorative strand of lights still hanging in your residence long after the holiday. Long after the party. Long after the day we met and the celebrating and the moment when I meant something. I want to remain long after my obvious purpose not because you forgot me or because you’re lazy or because I’m hard to reach but because we both found a place we can occupy together pleasant and still fill it with light and sound long before the holiday. Before the party. Before we bring meaning to the silence that exists between occasions.
It might’ve looked as though I was turning away, it might’ve appeared as though I was panning for the nearest escape route, it’s just that twelve years of Catholic schooling taught me to turn the other cheek. And so I turned and turned and turned like a hurricane, alphabetically named, temperamental and temporary.
Each one of them like man.
Each one of them whole.
Each one of them speaks tongue-tied.
Each one of them begins where
each one of them ends.
Each one of them wing-tipped and double-breasted.
Each one of them walks upright like a stand-up bass yelling, “down in front!”
Each one of them wrapped up and curious-
All eight sides of my being are alive for you
in the way you nose dive
into prominence, potential
wear it like a graphic tee
that proudly announces your irony.
You opened the sky with your appearance.
I stood bold in your italic threshold
asked for your presence to iron out the wrinkles
in the ways that I had been approaching myself.
You rolled moon rock into my shadow and called it night.
I called myself rough draft.
You pressed a finger to my lips, created silence.
You stood sky-wide in my horizon
asked for my presence to occupy your basin
in the form of ocean flood.
You turned your eyes to me like binoculars
said, “the only thing rough about this draft
are the glaciers—and they’re beautiful.
Don’t go melting them off just because I asked for your bath.
We’ll find balance
in long-form attendance.
These are not corrections-
just places where I recognize- you stand out
like the 1980s”.
This skeleton is a laundromat wall.
This skin is graffiti.
These words are warmth and drier sheet scented.
She just won her son’s happiness with a new toy. But we’re riding this bus together so I can see in the way she wears her face that her happiness is in debt. She carries grocery bags beneath her eyes—full of wants she can’t afford, but that doesn’t stop them from keeping her awake at night. The bus keeps this moment honest and brief and bumpy. But I can tell, this woman has rubbed the dull side of her last penny against some pretty mean scratch tickets while reciting Frank Sinatra lyrics hoping that this time will be different than last time, that this time will be better than last time. She teaches her son that money can’t buy happiness but he then has a lot of trouble understanding the smile on his own face. I want to hug her. I want to take back every time my childhood drew that face on my mother. I want to reach across the aisle, acknowledge that this bus was built for strangers, I want to say, “Lady, I know I don’t know you but we just spent several miles of the same road together and I couldn’t help but notice our eyes did similar dances looking for the same distractions to occupy this void. Just know that if I could win you happiness, I would. And If I could carry those grocery bags for you I would, for both of us,” because I can tell we’re both going to lose sleep tonight.
I thought about Newt’s completely feasible moon colony and the first moon-born human. I thought about illegal aliens and inalienable rights. But I didn’t say anything. We just sat there in perfect silence like two ukuleles wanting to be acoustic guitars, perfectly tuned, painted in moon reflection. I said, what are we doing? And you didn’t have to ask. You knew. When I said we, I meant the species.
Three times in my life I failed to peel back my Band-Aids fast enough.
Offer up my wounds for healing.
Yes, there is blood beneath these words,
there’s a man on the other side of this voice, clutching
on a stone he soon realizes- his heart.
He’s done slain the last of the dragons,
come back to a vacant cave, weeping
he talks to the skeleton that surrounds him,
swears the sky is as thin as his flesh,
swears he hears a voice on the other side
talking in terms of confession.
[a man sits alone in his room talking to himself inaudibly]
The first thing I have to understand
is what the word means to me
before I can ever understand
what it’s gonna mean to somebody else.
We defined them for a reason-
to avoid confusion
but, man, some of us took to writing our own dictionaries.
We aren’t angels.
We are not angels.
I need you to really hear that.
We speak in clichés too often.
The metaphors aren’t helping.
My entire life has led up to this moment.
No shit. That’s always been true.
If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be here.
So, can I please leave my closet doors open
in front of you
without you judging the contents or
the way they’re arranged?
And, yes, mother, in this instance
the closet is a metaphor.
That’s where we hide our skeletons
like trees hide their roots,
we can’t see the pattern
but we know where they’re coming from.
[inaudible humming fades out]
I made it past the slack in my pastor’s voice,
past the guilty stitch of the heavy robes,
past the thickest of incense storm clouds
with enough sense to recognize a statue when I see one.
But I still have trouble recognizing gods.
Though my spine knows the exact prayer angle
at which to pivot my neck, tilt cranium
in the precise direction of their pedestal height,
turn my skeleton-covered-in-skin toward them
in waiting for their judgement with river mouth and deflatable raft heart.
I have trouble recognizing my belief in gods
because their rejection—the most beautiful thing I have ever seen—
their rejection is a plastic bag and my confidence is a curious child.
Subtle as an airport control tower.
We carry checked baggage, claimed.
Sure as the runway only gets us to the end of another runway.
I landed like a Kennedy in Boston.
You landed face first in a hotel bed.
Neither of us has ever been any good at departure.
I know nothing about elliptical galaxy Messier M49,
other than knowing that it exists in the constellation Virgo.
But I don’t even know what that means.
These facts mean nothing but these numbers and these words
prove that there’s coincidence at work in the universe.
I don’t even believe in coincidence,
I just don’t know what else to call it.
Sometimes I call it love.
Don’t ever call it love.
At any given moment I’m a fraction of the whole of myself.
When my mother’s God broke me at my birth he was drafting one of two blueprints.
Neither was fully realized.
So I’m open to interpretation.
I don’t know if I belong in the gallery,
my maker may not have been a painter,
he might have been an architect.
Which means that some of us- construction sites,
some of us- landfills.
I am a Virgo and somewhere in my astrology there is a galaxy
named after your birthday-
which could only mean one thing:
Sometimes the last thing we need is a reasonable explanation.
Honesty is a naked truth standing
in the middle of a clear desert
on a pale moon night
with skin the color of temperature,
eyes the depth of oceans,
a glass of whisky in one hand
and an invitation to forgiveness in the other.
Let’s be honest.
I’m your Get Well card.
I musta got lost in the mail but I’m here now.
Follow my instructions.
Now it’s your turn-
be my acceptance letter.
Be my eleventh birthday wish.
Be my lifetime supply of ego boosts.
Be my church bell, be my armor,
be my porn.
I’ve got a few decades left
and I was kinda lookin’ for somebody to spend ‘em with.
Let’s burn calendars like the universe burns stars.
You’ll find a lot of objects in this galaxy get struck by meteors.
Lucky for you, all my ugly’s on the surface.
Get past that
and you’re good.
The whisky is for celebration.
The invitation is BYOB.