What a privilege it was to matter to you.
– Beau Taplin
What a privilege it was to matter to you.
– Beau Taplin
I have learned that people will stay, leave, save, and destroy you, but by far the most dangerous thing they can ever do is come back.
– Beau Taplin
What’s a good death? Good about death?
Good about saying goodbye to breath?
I am your land. You are my sky.
How shall we speak a world’s goodbye?
How make good the cosmic ache
Of universes going to break?
How make good the final kiss,
The final friend, the final bliss?
How make good the final sight
Of final day forever night?
You quit the form I slept so near.
And still you’re dear.
But am I, dear?
– Lucy Berry
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.”
Everyone hurries a touch in the moody weather
but I’ve reached peak Aquarius: calmer in risk’s orbit,
ruthlessly down for whatever, even or especially if it stings
Good morning, universe, with yr sudden biting air—
My erotic imagination remains on sabbatical despite
many blessings in the house of novel apparatus
& the alleged libido spike tied to this astrological transit
as consolation for its relentless cataclysms
I tried to look moved when you showed me
a vibrator that doubles as an alarm clock
though most days, I wake trembling around
the edges & think, What rot awaits?
which cancels out both my OPTIMUM CHILL banner
& the energy-cleansing effects of a Himalayan salt lamp
my mother gave me because she suspects
I’ll never produce grandkids
& this may be true, since our economic system
is structurally rigged to fuck the working class
so let’s not go around
incriminating my dirty chakras
♢ ♢ ♢
If break room babble is any indicator,
the impending cuffing season isn’t nearly
as kinky as it sounds, & mostly hinges
on a crude sense of urgency
In the reality I inhabit, some friends
avoid saying partner, as it indicates
a hierarchy, & this harshes
the anarchic vibe
I don’t seem to fall into either camp:
power dynamics maintain their hobbyist appeal,
while having a primary partner
sublimates me into a gentler form
To demonstrate why this is important,
I gesture now at the unstable world
♢ ♢ ♢
More than 100,000 want to go to Mars
& not return reads the headline
Well, I’ll wait right here & bore a path into
the dead center of the earth using just my anxiety
or otherwise carry out the neoliberal conspiracy
of self-care: Rumors on repeat &
a man-repellant shade of lipstick
named dirty money— smudge-proof
for all those late late-capitalist nights
spent tidying this condition to let someone in
After returning from a wedding, I dart
around you for days, just in case
nesting is a communicable state
or desire molds to its closest container
When you send a fresh batch
of dick pics, my equilibrium returns
in the stillness
we’re all just dopamine vampires
trying to skirt the mortal coil
Bleak humor suits
my soviet blood
& everything does feel fine
when Rachel says
Do you know anybody
who is okay right now
with the question mark
deliberately left out
Reclaiming my life
explains an article about hoarding
As if I get to choose how long
her muted perfume clings, or apply
logic like a compress to the forehead
The difficulty of divesting
isn’t in the discarding
It’s in knowing what
But I recall our particulars
Which is to say incandescently
Which is to say I romanticize
the lack of understanding that keeps predictability
or comfort from permeating “our thing”
Nothing’s nailed down in our liminal space
of torpor & grope
Limp parts left out
in case of mood lift,
drape swell & recede, hoarse mouth
suckling a shoulder, language
held taut & this oracular heart of mine
resigned to hit snooze again
So much for yr fixed sign
& a wobbled laugh on delay
but like, radically
Turns out no such creature steals
shiny objects for a nest
I spent a while verifying this:
folklore so rarely runs parallel
to reality & the afternoon
plainly wasted already:
no afterglow, no one left
on the to-do list
Same mild satiation
as after a bland meal
♢ ♢ ♢
What wants are left?
said new someone
& I sped through every welt,
every well-worn route to sunrise,
every kink indulged until
fringe turned its own vanilla,
every throat-pulse caught & held
throbbing, some name escaped as hiss
mine accented as a languid stretch:
leeena on a bus w/ summer cunt
post-fuck stench summoning
every stillness where the shudder
should’ve been &
every cheery shower whistle
♢ ♢ ♢
Gala says of her girlfriend,
I summoned her
now I deal w/ her
Devotion like the best curse
you can hope to suffer
Once, we held out for months
waiting to learn who was crueler
& I wanted you to win;
call it a masochism loop
or caged bird blues or
as a favorite ex put it,
People can tolerate infinite
damage of this variety
♢ ♢ ♢
What’s left to want when
the door’s never latched?
Hey yea still up,
come press here—
It’s never enough
but at luckiest
the white light holds
for an instant
After the ragdoll jerk of turbulence, the lurching buses,
benzos bitten clean in half, borrowed coat, borrowed car,
ring road followed all wide & serpentine for hours, headlong
run thru knee-level mud, now grinning stoned in this lava field
where Joe & Ryan pick crowberries for jam, chattering in the
secret dialect lovers take on after enough years together,
I think of you
& The Ethical Slut, 2nd edition, chapter 7: “Abundance”,
wherein the authors lay out their argument against
a starvation economy approach to love, how it’s not this
finite resource, so shake off all yr cultural programming
& the desire to possess— instead, get better at scheduling,
an art I can’t execute w/ any finesse & that’s partly why
I’m here w/o you or any of the others, though one of
yr curls held fast all this way, until it lifted off
& landed in the cushioned moss, which grows so slowly
w/ a sense of order I totally admire but cannot fathom.
♢ ♢ ♢
Here as home as anywhere, a Laelaps in runny nylons,
roaming from mouth to mouth, a secret or two
left intact in the babble before my hemline slides
right back to wholesome, then the harbor solo
to gape dumb at the midnight sunset & wonder if
one can bore into another w/ such precision
that the lust is perfect & all you sense, even in summer,
these long stretches w/o darkness as a comfort
to settle you, so all those big ideas dilute into
a buoyant postcard signed Yours
as in sending love from this smoky cove chock w/
episodic arguments in favor of constant motion,
each gorgeous detail the only one of its kind, &
the mind’s dazed shutter relentless to capture
this sublimity, this proof we ought to be tender,
given that our undoing breezes in just the same
♢ ♢ ♢
As muscle memory is made stubborn,
so it can reprogram: like the trick where
I pinch longing mid-shudder, save it for another
time, get the shower good & scalding,
head out divine & untethered
into the endless day.
True Love is but a humble, low-born thing,
And hath its food served up in earthen ware;
It is a thing to walk with, hand in hand,
Through the every-dayness of this work-day world,
Baring its tender feet to every roughness,
Yet letting not one heart-beat go astray
From Beauty’s law of plainness and content;
A simple, fire-side thing, whose quiet smile
Can warm earth’s poorest hovel to a home;
Which, when our autumn cometh, as it must,
And life in the chill wind shivers bare and leafless,
Shall still be blest with Indian-summer youth
In bleak November, and, with thankful heart,
Smile on its ample stores of garnered fruit,
As full of sunshine to our aged eyes
As when it nursed the blossoms of our spring.
Such is true Love, which steals into the heart
With feet as silent as the lightsome dawn
That kisses smooth the rough brows of the dark,
And hath its will through blissful gentleness,—
Not like a rocket, which, with savage glare,
Whirrs suddenly up, then bursts, and leaves the night
Painfully quivering on the dazed eyes;
A love that gives and takes, that seeth faults,
Not with flaw-seeking eyes like needle-points,
But, loving kindly, ever looks them down
With the o’ercoming faith of meek forgiveness;
A love that shall be new and fresh each hour,
As is the golden mystery of sunset,
Or the sweet coming of the evening-star,
Alike, and yet most unlike, every day,
And seeming ever best and fairest now;
A love that doth not kneel for what it seeks,
But faces Truth and Beauty as their peer,
Showing its worthiness of noble thoughts
By a clear sense of inward nobleness,
A love that in its object findeth not
All grace and beauty, and enough to sate
Its thirst of blessing, but, in all of good
Found there, it sees but Heaven-granted types
Of good and beauty in the soul of man,
And traces, in the simplest heart that beats,
A family-likeness to its chosen one,
That claims of it the rights of brotherhood.
For Love is blind but with the fleshly eye,
That so its inner sight may be more clear;
And outward shows of beauty only so
Are needful at the first, as is a hand
To guide and to uphold an infant’s steps:
Great spirits need them not; their earnest look
Pierces the body’s mask of thin disguise,
And beauty ever is to them revealed,
Behind the unshapeliest, meanest lump of clay,
With arms outstretched and eager face ablaze,
Yearning to be but understood and loved.
– James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)
You must read his biography from the Poetry Foundation. What a mind! What a man!
To remember is to open
the white corridor
to say Yes when asked,
Are you anything?
Did she love you?
– Robin Ekiss