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Posts in Letters
Letter to Jan

Jani. You send me dimly lit photos from Wurtzburg and I wonder if the sky is always so grey, or if it is still just you. We talk every day now and when I say I’m doing alright you always reply that I can leave North America and her bright wide way whenever I wish. I turn the idea over in my mind and try to imagine you on cobblestone roads. I cannot. We are asphalt kids, children of merchant marines. Mohawks and muscle tanks, sailing practice set to Lars Frederiksen. A couple of bastards. Do you ever think of the docks? I swear, sometimes I can still smell the brine on my hands. No ivy league degree seems to get it out. No poetry workshop knows what I know about a changing tide. We are both so far from that island now and yet the more Michelin Stars you earn in Germany the more I think of it. What does it mean to be of a place? To have marsh water blood and Bawlmer woes. What language are we? 

Tide’s a low 0.2 feet now and rising in Fells Point, but the Baltic does not respond to diurnal tide forces and so it remains unchanged. Even the moon can’t control Eastern Europe. Ask your old man how a catboat would fare there. Ask your old man if a son on the Baltic Sea can ever be moved.
I should pull the old photos from the basement before we are too old to find ourselves in them. The portal through them is the only way either of us will ever go back.
It’s like Alex said after he yelled goodbye to Lenin; try not to forget.The future is still in our hands, uncertain and promising. 

you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form

We planned to meet in person on the corner of Dundas during the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. You, the man who emailed to say I looked like the kind of girl who liked Woody Allen movies, approached from the left. And I, the kind of girl who would not learn for many years that you already knew her better than she knew herself, watched from an alleyway like a vintage shop made of windows no one ever looked in. I bit my knuckles as you dialed my number over and over again. I liked your shoulders and decided I couldn't meet you that day, maybe never. I turned, and left. Had I crossed that street we might've laughed a little bit and touched one another's flesh the way strangers do before they become strangers again.

It has been four years and when I write poems now they remind me of the present, which is to say they are unsatisfying. You call me drunk from Dubai at least three nights a week to confess your various sins. I whisper "meet me at midnight in Beirut" and mean that I'd cross two oceans to hear you list every vile thing you've ever done just so I could tell you that I love to walk in the rain, too.

poem for a Palestinian insomniac

I lie my head upon your belly and listen to the sounds of war. Babies are crying, fathers wailing. This flesh is a map and I follow it through generations. Across brush backed valleys. Graffitied streetways. Lemons litter courtyards where they fall from pregnant trees. Behind a picket fence of ribs your horse hoof heart beats faster faster. Great swirls of dust rise from the stomping of hooves, heels, boots. They cruicifed you on the back of a prickly pear* and yet when the harvest comes you will sip nectar only from the fruit of patience.

Why is it that you wonder why you cannot sleep?

unsent texts

I want to drop you like a china plate
send deep cracks through your artfully
drawn centre story
that cause everything that binds you to
chip away
bottom out
shatter
and after
I dispose of you, careful
not to cut myself on your broken bits
I will think of you only as a missing
piece of a larger collection
a thing I might have placed something
hot and untouchable upon
and now
do not.

for sama (before I told you)

The night your mother tried to marry you off I wanted to ring your neck with my arms and pull you in like a tide. Instead I tugged my scarf tighter around my face and rinsed dishes while giggling with your brother at your humiliation. I threw you under the bus that night. I was a true little sister.

The village girl never meant to be your wife spoke English with a German accent. She was delicate and soft in all the ways I wish I could've been for your brother. Our hands brushed against one another in the soapy sink water and hers were small and smooth. Could they   have guided your heaving heavy body onto hers? More importantly, would she have stepped gingerly, one toe at a time, into your depths? None of us have ever been down in there but I wanted to go. I am not afraid of the dark.

You call me now in the middle of the night. Two am. Four fifteen. I know 90s rap is playing in the background though I cannot hear it. I used to cry when you got sad and played it so loudly I could hear it down the block when I went for a run to escape. Now I sing it at karaoke bars with my white girlfriends who I doubt could locate Pakistan on a map. 

We talk about girls you like. I never mention the men I don't. You tell me you miss me and I say that sometimes the others send me messages, too. You say to call. I never will. I want to tell you that home is the smell of cardamom. That whenever I am sad or writing or happy I make biryani even though I have never seen anyone in your house eat it. Tell mom she taught me how to be a woman. I remember your laugh like a bat in the rafters. After all this time it is louder than the words still stuck inside my mouth.

Seventeen Hills

I should use an eye cream, hold the whipped cream. Think about waxing my brows and my arms which should be thinner and carry more than paperbacks into coffee shops on crowded avenues. I should consider reading local news, science journals, other people's poetry. Context clues. I should soak in tubs until I am soft again. Smile sweetly behind my hand. Shake less when my voice raises in public and when I am underneath you in a thin film of sweat. It is almost dawn and my fingers hover above your back. I draw constellations between your freckles. Aquarius. Cassiopeia. Thin ribbons of light snake through the blinds. I watch your chest rise and fall like a tide. I should but will not wake you.

Corporate Tarzan.

I've never told anyone how we used to bite one another. How I would draw blood from your wrists and drink you in big gulps. You would drive fast down back roads and I would lick my teeth and scream, "Oliver! Oliver, you're going to wreck me!" and you did. We left scars. We lived on the edge in the way you can only do when you have a curfew. You went away to school and so did I and we made plans to go to Philadelphia to see Rent. I knocked on your dormitory door that Friday afternoon and you didn't answer but I could hear you inside. I knew your kind of sadness and it was savage. I was angry about it for a long time. On the way to Philadelphia I stopped at a Starbucks to get directions because we still used Mapquest then and it was as awful as Apple Maps is now. The barista had a sad smile and I brought him with me. You know the rest of the story.

You're still alive in San Francisco and we write letters, long ones. You tell me to never take given advice and I ask what stage of decomposition you think Joey's body is in. Whenever we say 'I love you' it always means we miss him. There's a whole part of me that exists only inside those postage stamps. There's a whole other part you called a rattlesnake without a rattle and it's the part I am afraid of. It's the part that knows I won't ever see you again. 

I"m not sure who will inquire first, the police or the readers, but when they ask who you were I'll tell them the truth. 
You were the beginning. 

Spit Slicked

 

I can write a dozen of you
Tall and dripping with curls
with a hand on the marbled arch
slipping behind the doorway 

a secret, With secrets, 
whispered low on whisky lips
tumbling with pool bar smoke,
you hand out the cues

for the always coming and sometimes going
It is the grunting,
with wrist to brow
version I choose, every time
This is the one that'll be remembered
This is the one that stays.

Cotto v Margarito II

It was my best punch to date. Knuckles lined under the cheekbone, pinky finger in your wet mouth. Your lip split like all things do, down the middle into what is not and what is left. 

I should've said more, should've talked some shit. Should've talked some shit and I would do it again. Yeah. I would do it again. Right hook to lower jaw. You. Me. This is what happens when you showed up and when you show up. It all splits down the middle into what went wrong and what is left. 

It was my best punch to date. You just stood there. You just did nothing.

The Watershed.

I try to write a letter like he’s my Elizabeth, “God bless you, Fitzwilliam Darcy,” but I cannot because like Fitzwilliam I am proud but I am also a blur. He is not. I am a blur and I cannot tidy myself enough to explain what it is I wish to say. I tell you I am being very much and extremely an adult. Meetings are taken. Dishes are washed. I do not tell you the bottom has fallen out of everything.  How I wish I could be lovely, like one of your girls. The ones like broken birds that you love so much. I want to tell you I need you like when we were young. I need to touch your thighs and let my hands say all the things I could not speak.