You saved my life he says I owe you everything.
You don’t, I say, you don’t owe me squat, let’s just get going, let’s just get gone, but he’s
keeps saying I owe you, says Your shoes are filling with your own damn blood,
you must want something, just tell me, and it’s yours.
But I can’t look at him, can hardly speak,
I took the bullet for all the wrong reasons, I’d just as soon kill you myself, I say.
You keep saying I owe you, I owe… but you say the same thing every time.
Let’s not talk about it, let’s just not talk.
Not because I don’t believe it, not because I want it any different, but I’m always saving
and you’re always owing and I’m tired of asking to settle the debt.
You never mean it anyway, not really, and it only makes me that much more ashamed.
There’s only one thing I want, don’t make me say it, just get me bandages, I’m bleeding,
I’m not just making conversation.
There’s smashed glass glittering everywhere like stars. It’s a Western, Henry,
it’s a downright shoot-em-up. We’ve made a graveyard out of the bone white afternoon.
It’s another wrong-man-dies scenario
and we keep doing it, Henry, keep saying until we get it right…
but we always win and we never quit, see, we’ve won again, here we are at the place
where I get to beg for it
where I get to say Please, for just one night, will you lay down next to me, we can leave our
clothes on, we can stay all buttoned up?
or will I say
Roll over and let me fuck you till you puke, Henry, you owe me this much, you can indulge me
this at least, can’t you? but we both know how it goes. I say I want you inside me
and you hold my head underwater, I say I want you inside me
and you split me open with a knife. I’m battling monsters, half-monkey, half-tarantula,
I’m pulling you out of the burning buildings and you say I’ll give you anything.
But you never come through.
Give me bullet power. Give me power over angels. Even when you’re standing up
you look like you’re lying down, but will you let me kiss your neck, baby? Do I have to
tie your arms down?
Do I have to stick my tongue in your mouth like the hand of a thief, like a burglary
like it’s just another petty theft? It makes me tired, Henry. Do you see what I mean?
Do you see what I’m getting at?
You swallowing matches and suddenly I’m yelling Strike me. Strike anywhere.
I swear, I end up feeling empty, like you’ve taken something out of me, and I have to search
my body for the scars, thinking
Did he find that one last tender place to sink his teeth in? I know you want me to say it, Henry,
it’s in the script, you want me to say Lie down on the bed, you’re all I ever wanted
and worth dying for too
but I think I’d rather keep the bullet this time. It’s mine, you can’t have it, see,
I’m not giving it up. This way you still owe me, and that’s
as good as anything.
You can’t get out of this one, Henry, you can’t get it out of me, and with this bullet
lodged in my chest, covered with your name, I will turn myself into a gun, because
it’s all I have,
because I’m hungry and hollow and just want something to call my own. I’ll be your
slaughterhouse, your killing floor, your morgue and final resting, walking around with this
bullet inside me
‘cause I couldn’t make you love me and I’m tired of pulling your teeth. Don’t you see, it’s like
I’ve swallowed your house keys, and it feels so natural, like the bullet was already there,
like it’s been waiting inside me the whole time.
Do you want it? Do you want anything I have? Will you throw me to the ground
like you mean it, reach inside and wrestle it out with your bare hands?
If you love me, Henry, you don’t love me in a way I understand.
Do you know how it ends? Do you feel lucky? Do you want to go home now?
There’s a bottle of whiskey in the trunk of the Chevy and a dead man at our feet
staring up at us like we’re something interesting.
This is where the evening splits in half, Henry, love or death. Grab an end, pull hard,
and make a wish.
– Richard Siken
I’m struck down by this poem. It feels as if I’ll need years to digest this.
In a Goodreads review of Silken’s book “Crush,” where “Wishbone” is found, reader Kristine writes what I’m out of words to:
“and the gentleness that comes,
not from the absence of violence, but despite
the abundance of it.”
I read Richard Siken’s poem “Wishbone” on the internet. I read it once and closed the page. The next day I was painfully aware I couldn’t leave it behind. That my mind kept circling back to his words. So I read it and re-read it again and again. Dozens of times, until I realised it would never be enough, so I ordered his book.
I have never in my life anticipated the arrival of a book more than I did with this. My entire body was aching for it. And then it arrived.
With a start like this, and with expectations as high as mine, you’d think the book would come up short. That it would somehow not deliver. But it does. It truly fucking does.
Siken is beyond talented with words, that much is clear, this entire collection is a work of pure art, something you rarely find these days. Every line is powerful, it’s got secrets. Every poem has meaning, and soul and something deeply terrifying about it.
I am in love with it. That’s the easiest way to put it. My copy is worn out from being opened, read in, then thrown onto the table or put carelessly down as I try to gather myself up from my messy emotional pile on the floor and try to deal with, well… myself.
I’ve read many books, some of them have taught me about the world, about people, about feelings or ideas. This book taught me something monumental about myself.
It changed me, and I’m not even kidding or exaggerating. I read it (or devoured it might be more accurate) and suddenly found a side of myself put into words. Words I was never able to find myself, but needed more deeply than I’d realised.
I’ll never stop reading this book, and that’s the great thing with poetry, analyzing, understanding and interpreting and simply feeling it, is a neverending process. I carry his words with me everywhere, both in the shape of his actual book, but also in who I am.
“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.”