I peel your poems from my skin like so many layers of rotting flesh. How I once loved you and how you once
wrote to me in the dead of winter and−
“One cannot stop believing illusions when they become real− if something were not there, can it ever be?” and yet your voice remains buried in my hands, face the tiny veins under my forearm. Is this where you lie?
Between beds crawling with unfinished hay we watched the morning begin from windows thrown open to the stench of the world, and yet
you never flinched as your nostrils extended, drooped under the barrage.
And how I admire you for that! Walking, unarmed, through the streets of a warring town (or so you said) proves bravery from small earrings set in white gold.
And now, if these words written before I was even born were to somehow become transparent, would I still shed this skin I’ve worn as my own for so many of these years?
Like when you threw a shawl over the back of the door in that abandoned hotel by the river. You called it “home.”
If I could bear to be half as comfortable, I wouldn’t need to write these words.
We weren’t “marching through the streets,” but
as if the pounding rain
snipers’ nests. And a brown package (plastic
explosives) labeled “STAY THE FUCK BACK 500 FEET!”
a smile, wave – quick glances
at your feet
and you move your hands
in that old dance, writing
in black paint on asphalt gleaming with puddles of the streetlamps’ glow.
Ghosts whisper of memory: an overturned Jeep, broken glass still bearing etched letters
there, a “p” followed by numerals so faint the heart cannot feel their presence.
I followed you back, through quiet streets who, in faint black paint, speak:
I take my desires for reality because
I believe in the reality of my desires.
And your masks, lying littered on the ground next to an unused wastebasket. There’s the tiger, the bear, the bull and the eagle. You do not fly.
It was only then you collapsed in a pile of dirty collars, sprawled across a floor swept poorly so might small things escape. Darting like mice
they began to materialize: work, sleep, death. And slower: consume, produce.
As your skin began to peel
my eyes drawn close to my cheek revealed
a feather tucked so carefully behind the mirror: dust, dispossession, decay.