When You’re Broke and No One Loves You

Listen.

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For That Which We’ve Been Longing (15/30)

The ways we would wear it.
Cropped close and singing in the wind,
long notes heard on other side of telephone lines.

How many pairs of boots, cigars in ashtrays,
flannel shirts hammered and hidden,
woven into the promises of our grandfathers.

How many miles wide
our grass covered plains
smoothed by oceans
no longer
full of fossils and
forgotten things.

How many hours in front of mirrors,
necks creaking and pulling and
straining with each new sprout.

We’d garden each other into it.
Take each other to the barber shop,
the hardware store,
the bar.
Spin our stools around and point
ring our mirrors together,
spill ourselves over with revelry.

For all the first times we’d feel our bodies
lined up just right against yours.
Bristling and strong.
Just children in the night.

For the rooms full of lifetimes full of you listening,
us more boring and you sweeter with
every knuckle and knee, every bicep and backside,
full of that thing that made us
sing.

For all the ways
We could wipe it away
Shaving it close, plucking it out by the root.

Complain
about the ways we had to work at it.
Chide each other about where it came in.
Each strand
more important than the last.

For how just when it might have
been perfect
it would begin to wane.
How we’d go to war in the dark
ashamed and without history books to
reference a battle strategy.

How eventually,
we’d lose.
Get rid of it, or leave it cornered and
whispered behind our ears, a memory in meters.

How you’d let us rest our weary parts
in your laps and pretend
You’d never heard a sadder tale.

For the way we could never make it up to you,
and for the way we wished we could.

The Year We Did Not Get Married

I wished you into the dock over the lake
on the day I was born.
Cities blinking back told me that fall
was a season I could count on.
Like your lips on my shoulder,
my hands in your hair.

I put roasts into the oven of you,
Scrubbed clean and safe and new
My brain spinning birds nests of songs.
Banjo Sunday sun ripe and worn, my hands
Stoking something warm.
Something I deserved.

Drunk on dirt roads
and piled under blankets
we slept closer to the headboard.
Pushed our barnacled, spindled posts
toward the salt spray
of the wintered city
through the burning blue of
your eyes and mine.

Blooming, thunderous, and green
never getting over it,
Sheet music and four stanza’d feet
keeping time.

I wished you into the summer time
Placed mason jars full of lemonade lightning bug promises
into your sock drawer.
You used your teeth and your lips and your spit
To stain me, proud and glorious on
the back porch of our bellies stretching.

You put on your earrings in the hallway
and I put on my jacket on the stairs
and we walked down the street holding hands.

Magazines full of white dresses
next to open windows
sailed into something that
lake wasn’t large enough to hold.

Scheherazade By Richard Siken

Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake
and dress them in warm clothes again.
How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running
until they forget that they are horses.
It’s not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,
it’s more like a song on a policeman’s radio,
how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the days
were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple
to slice into pieces.
Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it’s noon, that means
we’re inconsolable.
Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we’ll never get used to it.

Mr. Siken is still one of my all time favorites. This poem kills me in a new way every time I read it. A few months ago I had the honor of teaching writing to a few high school classes and I chose this poem as the one we read and discussed. I learned so much from the students about how to enjoy poetry, how to ask questions, how to be humble.

Scheherazade was a legendary Persian queen and the storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights. From wikipedia:

The frame tale goes that every day The King would marry a new virgin, and every day he would send yesterday’s wife to be beheaded. This was done in anger, having found out that his first wife was betraying him. He had killed one thousand such women by the time he was introduced to Scheherazade, the vizier’s daughter.

Against her father’s protestations, Scheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the King. Once in the King’s chambers, Scheherazade asked if she might bid one last farewell to her beloved sister, Dinazade, who had secretly been prepared to ask Scheherazade to tell a story during the long night. The King lay awake and listened with awe as Scheherazade told her first story. The night passed by, and Scheherazade stopped in the middle of the story. The King asked her to finish, but Scheherazade said there was not time, as dawn was breaking. So, the King spared her life for one day to finish the story the next night. So the next night, Scheherazade finished the story, and then began a second, even more exciting tale which she again stopped halfway through, at dawn. So the King again spared her life for one day to finish the second story.

And so the King kept Scheherazade alive day by day, as he eagerly anticipated the finishing of last night’s story. At the end of one thousand and one nights, and one thousand stories, Scheherazade told the King that she had no more tales to tell him. During these one thousand and one nights, the King had fallen in love with Scheherazade, and had three sons with her. So, having been made a wiser and kinder man by Scheherazade and her tales, he spared her life, and made her his Queen.

Now read the poem again.

Little, Lit and Left

Walk out and look over the lost moon,
the caustic light dim in the murk.

A river deep in the burned morning countryside,
smoke standing at the edge of winter.

Rough boys open up the ground to light for warmth
Like great men have no evil, only the burning twist.

(day two early, tomorrow is a busy one)