I unclasp the clip on the back
of my bikini beneath
a towel in the passenger-side seat
while you play acoustic songs off your
iPhone in Brielle, NJ.
The A/C is on through the side,
front, feet vents.
I am cold, but you need to stay
awake. Goose bumps form on my skin—
thousands of white, white plucked
on my almost-tanned arms—
you paid $14 for sunscreen
on the boardwalk
to keep us from burning.
I pull my head through
the Bob Dylan crop top
you made fun of me for ordering
off Brandy Melville, after watching that film
with Christian Bale.
Earlier, I watched you wave-dive,
further and further out, until
you were lost in swimmers.
I am still wearing the damp
slightly sand-filled, tie-string bottoms,
as I shiver in and out of sleep,
cheek pressed against the sunned-on window.
You ask me to stay awake with you, and I do,
only as far as the Garden State Parkway.
You used to practice flipping a Queen
of Hearts between your fingertips
so it disappeared, appeared,
At the Huapalai ranch, facing
the West Rim of the Grand Canyon,
a magician had me write my name
on an Ace of Spades,
before folding it into his shirt pocket, then
moments later, pulled my card
from a chest on the table,
unopened until then.
Earlier that day, I laid on my stomach
and looked down the dusty colored lines
of the canyon walls. Layers
of purple, burgundy, burgundy-red,
red-orange—a sun setting down 6,000 feet.
It took 17 million years to form.
I will not say we are carved,
or eroded until something beautiful
is left. We do not have
17 million years. We are built in pieces—
206 bones in bodies that die
I have never met anyone unbroken,
in one piece, unable to bend their
knees, elbows, spines.
I’ve never seen anyone become
We break each other, but then,
we can break ourselves, over and over,
layers of mixed sand-art color and glitter
and dirt: material for new selves, built
by heartbreak, daydream, a will to
forming, endlessly becoming. We are
not monuments. Maybe
water molecules in the Colorado River
that shape the permanent beautiful,
with all our ugly, all our broken,
all our impermanence—
we fade, brighten, lose ourselves
in emptiness, find new selves,
I watched, mesmerized,
as the card went invisible,
and then back into sight
through your index
and middle fingers. You
smiled as it appeared, finally,
out of thin air.
To you I was a photograph—a photo-chemical reaction
recording the impression of light
on a silver-coated surface of atoms
that left you breathless, stunned.
I was always beautiful, drowned
in late afternoon light. Flat,
scrolled-through photos by the click of an arrow
on a Nikon D300S—
deleted the ugly, blurry, dark.
And you could see nothing but sunlight
behind my figure, without warmth,
nothing to squint your eyes against
or leave twinkling black Christmas lights
in the corner of your eyes.
White smile, smile, smile,
forever smile. Illuminated
pixel by pixel. When you held me,
it must’ve been like holding film—
a see-through outline of me. Shimmering,
smiling, held up to the sun to catch
reflections of clouds in my cheeks.
And if there was too much shadow, delete.
Although I know
“future” doesn’t exist, “past” doesn’t
exist, and if
I learned anything
from American literature it was never
to let a dream collect enough starlight
it blinds you.
But when you told me
what you had done with her,
I had already created a world
from stardust and blown eyelashes
fallen from our lids. I had
created cities of steel and reinforced concrete,
windowed skyscrapers, mirroring,
and so much light.
Still I remember, the drive home
sitting shotgun on the way back
from the Cinemark in Moosic,
it was snowing
but the windows were down. Shivering,
I watched the cool blue-green glow
from the dashboards
of the cars around us, bubbled in
Honda Civics and Ford Escapes,
and thinking we all
create our own Earths, worlds,
When we pull into my driveway,
you turn the key,
shut off the ignition, the headlights
disappear, and the dashboard dims
and there is nothing left
but starlight, blinking,
My house is empty and I go
from room to room, switching on light
Two porch-side stargazers, wrapped in a red blanket,
mid-December, facing opposite directions.
I lean, my back, against yours. Your spine
is toothed and sharp, but when you turn,
I can feel you.
It is cold, and we take swigs of wine
from plastic cups. There is an ocean
in my stomach.
Twenty-minutes go by, and I have seen more stars
than you. The warm yellow window-glow
from the house looks inviting. Then,
behind me, there is something like a lightning
flash. The liquid in my cup lights red,
for a moment, we are suspended,
held together in falling-starlight.
I turn in the direction you are looking,
but there is nothing now.
Dialogues for Daffodils
I write dialogues for the daffodils you gave me in November.
You didn’t speak—you knew my mother was asleep.
You held them out, an offering.
I say nothing.
There is nothing to be said to flowers, ribbons, foam, and Floralife.
I watch your frame fade into darkness,
hunched and huddled against the cold.
I see nothing for a while. Maybe we both adjusted
our eyes to the stars. Then, the cabin of your Saturn lights up
and you step in, darken,
the headlights come on—
I am standing in a box of light cast from the open door,
you are a blue-green world lit by a dashboard
at the end of my driveway.
When your taillights are no longer visible
I pick the petals, one-by-one,
not questioning your love,
but my own.
I have written dialogues for the daffodils you gave me in November,
I imagine their faces turned, mouths widened in sunlight—
the dialogues are blank.
They say nothing. They are only flowers.