Wishbone

Wishbone

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

relentless,

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.

Don’t bother.

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.”

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from “Spork Editor’s Pages: Black Telephone”

from “Spork Editor’s Pages: Black Telephone”

Let me tell you what I do know: I am more than one thing, and not all of those things are good. The truth is complicated. It’s two-toned, multi-vocal, bittersweet. I used to think that if I dug deep enough to discover something sad and ugly, I’d know it was something true. Now I’m trying to dig deeper. I didn’t want to write these pages until there were no hard feelings, no sharp ones. I do not have that luxury. I am sad and angry and I want everyone to be alive again. I want more landmarks, less landmines. I want to be grateful but I’m having a hard time with it.

– Richard Siken

Scheherazade

Scheherazade

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.

– Richard Siken

 

again.

Detail of the Woods

Detail of the Woods

I looked at all the trees and didn’t know what to do.

A box made out of leaves.
What else was in the woods? A heart, closing. Nevertheless.

Everyone needs a place. It shouldn’t be inside of someone else.
I kept my mind on the moon. Cold moon, long nights moon.

From the landscape: a sense of scale.
From the dead: a sense of scale.

I turned my back on the story. A sense of superiority.
Everything casts a shadow.

Your body told me in a dream it’s never been afraid of anything.

– Richard Siken

 

favorite

Boot Theory

Boot Theory

A man walks into a bar and says:
Take my wife–please.

So you do.
You take her out into the rain and you fall in love with her
and she leaves you and you’re desolate.
You’re on your back in your undershirt, a broken man
on an ugly bedspread, staring at the water stains
on the ceiling.
And you can hear the man in the apartment above you
taking off his shoes.
You hear the first boot hit the floor and you’re looking up,
you’re waiting
because you thought it would follow, you thought there would be
some logic, perhaps, something to pull it all together
but here we are in the weeds again,
here we are
in the bowels of the thing: your world doesn’t make sense.
And then the second boot falls.
And then a third, a fourth, a fifth.
A man walks into a bar and says:
Take my wife–please.
But you take him instead.
You take him home, and you make him a cheese sandwich,
and you try to get his shoes off, but he kicks you
and he keeps kicking you.
You swallow a bottle of sleeping pills but they don’t work.
Boots continue to fall to the floor
in the apartment above you.
You go to work the next day pretending nothing happened.
Your co-workers ask
if everything’s okay and you tell them
you’re just tired.
And you’re trying to smile. And they’re trying to smile.
A man walks into a bar, you this time, and says:
Make it a double.
A man walks into a bar, you this time, and says:
Walk a mile in my shoes.
A man walks into a convenience store, still you, saying:
I only wanted something simple, something generic…
But the clerk tells you to buy something or get out.
A man takes his sadness down to the river and throws it in the river
but then he’s still left
with the river. A man takes his sadness and throws it away
but then he’s still left with his hands.

– Richard Siken

Horrible-Wonderful.

Dirty Valentine

Dirty Valentine

There are so many things I’m not allowed to tell you.
I touch myself, I dream.
Wearing your clothes or standing in the shower for over an hour, pretending
that this skin is your skin, these hands your hands,
these shins, these soapy flanks.
The musicians start the overture while I hide behind the microphone,
trying to match the dubbing
to the big lips shining down from the screen.
We’re filming the movie called Planet of Love-
there’s sex of course, and ballroom dancing,
fancy clothes and waterlilies in the pond, and half the night you’re
a dependable chap, mounting the stairs in lamplight to the bath, but then
the too white teeth all night,
all over the American sky, too much to bear, this constant fingering,
your hands a river gesture, the birds in flight, the birds still singing
outside the greasy window, in the trees.
There’s a part in the movie
where you can see right through the acting,
where you can tell that I’m about to burst into tears,
right before I burst into tears
and flee to the slimy moonlit riverbed
canopied with devastated clouds.
We’re shouting the scene where
I swallow your heart and you make me
spit it up again. I swallow your heart and it crawls
right out of my mouth.
You swallow my heart and flee, but I want it back now, baby. I want it back.
Lying on the sofa with my eyes closed, I didn’t want to see it this way,
everything eating everything in the end.
We know how the light works,
we know where the sound is coming from.
Verse. Chorus. Verse.
I’m sorry. We know how it works. The world is no longer mysterious.

– Richard Siken