I word old wounds
—Marilyn Hacker, “The Regent Park Sonnets”
The abridged text of my life is a dull read.
Kumquats, not oranges; muscadines, not grapes
—I covet what I cannot afford. Shaped
by an eccentric land, I am strange seed
bound to that Land like the Earth to the Sun.
Long ago, I gave up the ghost, resigned
myself to Gravity and all her kind.
Brave-faced Southern girls do not come undone.
So when you inquired on which side my bread
was buttered, I did not blink but said both.
You pressed your lips upon my brow in dread
the same way in which the sick swallow chipped ice
—after grippe has lain siege to their throats.
You hoved, “I love you.” I said, “That’s nice.”
Neither long distances nor your live-in
deterred you from burning up buried wires
across seven states with cardinal fire
and your old busted-up, beat-down love. Sin
pinioned you to my sleeve, an epaulet
in sad disrepair. You chose the lesser
of my passions as your poison. And the sheer
mention of my effeminate Latin pet
made you writhe, all sangfroid aside, because
you knew, like I was to know, that he would
be the recipient of that season’s
mercy fuck. But why not speak the reason
of which we were both aware, the real cause
of the madness, the muse who consumed my world.
I have pruned myself free of delusions,
finally coming to terms with the truth
about that buxom Pole who choked both pith
and flower, one woman fodder for tons
of psychotherapy and ills. She left
me, ass out, just the way I left you.
You made a dire mistake. I made one, too.
Only a gull opts for beauty in lieu of other gifts.
I began to fear looking at women
like I fear looking at cute size 5 shoes.
That girl, that shoe, doesn’t seem so cute when
the long buck has been paid, straps are askew,
and what was thought to be the genuine
article looks fake, feels asinine.
The end came in the manner feared.
You and I sat, two lovers poised on opposite
sides of a wrought-iron table, smote
with our neat bundles of facts that left us in the red.
We sat, two dark coordinates, fixed points
upon an axis. I played the woman
accused, focused in the cross-hair site, and
you played the man. Stuffed down the front of your pants,
the steel barrel flat against your hairless
belly like some tortured intelligence.
You alluded to that woman, took aim
with the gun I gave you. The blood loss
was nothing compared to the scar. Inflicting pain,
though the weapon is love, is still violence.