You challenged me
to use phalanges in a story, a poem,
said you'd be impressed
if I could do it without sounding ridiculous.
That's the way we go: you throw, I catch & run and you chase,
call out the next play, determine the formation,
and that way we get somewhere. That's how it seems so far,
of late—but wait: important to state that not all of this is real
no matter how true it feels. There's the rub, the hub and the risk
of working in words: the more you think you disguise,
the weaker the lies until the digits point and wag and what I never meant
to say you ever said is what sticks, in the throat; chokes. Us. Both.
Your words were real and clever and kind and used to reach my eyes
before my mind had time to spin your coy grin into a sneer.
When you start keeping score, parse out the cost, read fear as frost
is when you're lost. Love means finding a way.
Others would stop there, throw hands in the air, yell
"GOAL!" but not I, not thee—we go all the way, take
the long way 'round, run that ball deep, pound it
into the ground and dance, dance, dance through the end zone.
No, not done yet, a poem about phalanges, a poem "about" you
must include actual fingers on the keys and you and me;
the notes, the nights: restau-bars, chaste au revoirs—
and for the most part no cars—feet, drinks neat, Anglo beat,
and then those kisses, kisses, kisses, all… the way… home.
Four sets of phalanges we have, you and I—each—so
between us fifty-six bones but it only takes one
phalanx to take aim and here's where we come to the point
of this phalangeal fiction: where shields go up
and swords stand out but the worst wounds occur
because armor is difficult to walk in, mi amor,
and in a field littered with bons mots a soldier is bound to trip.
I bled and you said you had expected as much and then fell ill
but still showed a measure of care—but there is where it started,
where the chain mail began to clink
and I heard the first chink in what had felt
like a hale heart and holy frame. You didn't blink. Or wink. I picked,
you bit, and the rest of it was all about believing what we wanted to
and dancing around the sniffles, all the way home.
War is hell and hell is other people and we are not like them—
we agree on that—but what about compatibility?
A compromise is a promise together and compassion
means to suffer with and this tiff is stiffing us each and both
and driving our lives apart.
What do you want from me?
does not imply a granting of the wish but nevertheless
I don't know
really blows because we know what we want
and we know what we want is unreasonable:
to jump into the river without getting wet,
without having to trudge home in wet socks,
slipping on rocks, our garbage in tow; exhausted, unmoored, lost;
and we, riven, all the more vulnerable to the bears whose habitat, whose home
and abode we've trampled in our trammelling.
But this is the way of community, of communion, a holy union,
a phalanstery of two: knees scrape, throats chafe, and love is unsafe;
running and falling, calling out to the wild,
Wait—help—I've never been this way before…
No river is ever the same twice and here the water freezes
where it once was warm and the shallows are steeped with leeches,
after what blood we've left. Back on shore the path is no more, brambles
slice and snare, carpet bomb the way, obscure the where and somehow
there is so much more to pack out than we seemed to carry in.
The bears, they are we—bumbling about, feeling sure, matting fur,
scrounging scraps, dropping scat, having mistaken a warm spell for spring.
Of a winter day the songs that then softened now sting, paralyze the world
your fingers drew forth—each breath, such depth, now bereft
of art; a dearth of mirth—and your recipe, your originality
is again all foreign to me. Complexity equals inscrutability,
and we—that you, that me—reluctantly,
are done and gone. Gone, gone, gone, floating away
on that icy stream, rushing, raging, far out to sea.
Part of the Covers series