after Jorie Graham, Sylvia Plath
I understand you now. The gesture, too.
You just wanted something to sink your teeth into.
And so you plucked. The bough frowned.
So did God. And Adam, still unseeing, felt something in him crumple.
The fabric of the universe wrinkled. The veil of time tore in two.
Before and after. Before you plucked, after you tasted.
How sweet this song of womankind.
Eternity bores me,
I never wanted it.
Skin torn, letting the juice drip to the elbows.
How apple-crisp is rebellion, that chewing and swallowing of freedom?
I get it, beautiful sister of mine.
You had your eye on it from the moment it began growing.
It’s what we do best, giving nothing up.
for eternity, in.
a privilege it would be
to be a little less fire.
less microcosm of chaos. less coming apart at the seams.
less doubled-over Holy Lance, millennia still bleeding.
less scarlet fever soul. less gunfire.
less gaping mouth, letter O, still sounding.
to be, instead,
more pastoral meadow. more cherubs on cathedral ceilings.
more first real love, years still sweet, still sore.
more sleeping baby. more sky before snow.
more mother’s touch. more Sunday morning, still quiet.
the definition of Paradise is this
and it is lost to me.
I fear I have fallen from the grace of myself.
I want so badly to love someone badly
and I do not mean poorly, no, I mean
wicked, flaming love, fingernails carving
baby pink trails into the vertebrae.
Call me your wild, unschooled surgeon.
I’ll leave my mark, digging deep into every secret crevice.
Dashed line drawn across your chest. Let me excavate.
I am the archaeologist of hearts that beat like yours.
Reach in, dissect, take what is mine.
I want love like an open wound,
like cavity, like something that is both the act of taking
and something already taken, all that red
seeping through the cracks of my hand.
If you look closely, you’ll see it pulsing.
So many nights I have mourned over 16.
That year still glitters like a peach ripening in the summer of memory.
Those precious days I learned how to drive, reckless and unpracticed,
fighting my father in the passenger seat.
You have to look both ways. That car. You didn’t see it,
he criticizes one day, death grip on the safety handle.
I had almost shuttled us straight into oncoming traffic.
But I didn’t, okay! And that was the fact of the matter.
At 16 I could still play God like that, unacquainted with tragedy.
Nothing had yet corrupted my sweet suburban air.
I could still skirt catastrophe that way, a self-proclaimed badass
in a floral dress. The baby Houdini of cheating death.
Oh, to be so much lovely innocence again, believing
I could simply swerve from harm’s way every time without fail.
Three summers later and all I can do is laugh.
This crisp nostalgia: my dad’s face a pale moon of anxiety,
my red hot fearlessness, all anger and angst and imagined invincibility.
I can still smell it sometimes, that particular 16th summer,
if I try hard enough. It’s like catching a whiff of Old Spice
on a street corner and being transported back there
yet again– the one boy I was convinced I’d marry one day
wore it every single time he promised me forever.
Funny, I can’t even remember his voice.
A few months shy of scraping 17
and none of us saw the car coming.
nostalgic for a memory that hasn’t even happened yet and probably never will. something about summer. something about you.
i have this vague, static electric memory of a day we share together. we’re driving, well, you are— i’ve never liked being in control. the open road scares me, so you tame it. one hand on the wheel. i’m all tangled hair and sea salt in your passenger seat. red with love. my thumb finds the hollow of your dimple, staying there as if finding a temporary home. i trace it all the way down the interstate.
it’s memories like these— flashbacks that aren’t quite backs of anything at all. these moments aren’t caps, aren’t flesh, aren’t solid. flashes, yes, but without the implication of reality. because i know you’ll never love me like that. i know i’ll never make it to your front seat, that whatever passion you have for me won’t make it to the summer. or even the spring.
it’s okay. i close my eyes. we’re there. we’re 60 in a 45 and my hand is a bird flying right outside the window. and it’s the only thing fast enough to keep up.