blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1




The poet wants her to die, wants a bullet to find her temple. He writes in the margin with unnecessary pressure, her temple is like a thumbprint. The poet doesn’t want her to suffer. He wants pain and shutdown to be exact: a storm’s flash and roar stacking its violence overhead. But the poet can’t get the bullet out of the gun. He’s not stupid. That bullet’s got to be going pretty fast to shatter the car window and her skull. Maybe a killer waits at her exit; she slows down to read his cardboard sign, thinks, this man looks shattered, wonders, how does a puppy lose a leg. Oh, how the poet wants her to die and he doesn’t have to have a reason. Not enough people actually die in poems, not enough to account for all the dying found there. The poet, like her, just wants it to happen. He is bored with his own meager protestations that it’s not better to have loved. He is tired of the buff and shine. Most of all he is tired of words in the way all the time. The long white hallway of the page taunts him with more precision, more contact, and he just scrawls his graffiti: she sleeps the sleep of a petty thief, he scratches it out, she sleeps the sleep of a newborn. She is someone he could love. He aims the gun and fires.

          Driving to work, the way is smooth,
          each exit an opening. Others
          pull over to watch like she’s a parade.
          Before, the day was reluctant to take
          her in, even the road resisted.
          Before, it was enough to dictate
          herself point A to point B, surprise
          with point C, a video or soft-serve ice cream,
          enough to plan her day aloud
          like employee and CEO in one:
          a paper-chain life of then, then, then.
          You’ve seen her, the kind who does time
          on the front end of hope, keeping it
          trimmed, manageable, forcing the bloom.
          She’s the subject, always in the room,
          but loath to interfere, yes, loath,
          these words cling to her like cat hair.
          A bunker of good cheer, behind her
          eyes you can almost see the mime’s
          hands busily securing the box
          keeping her from you. But today
          she’s tuned to a different frequency.
          The world will “toss her a bone,” and not
          just with the absence of obstacles, a real
          invitation, a sign she’s welcome here.
          Her hands seize and whiten on the wheel,
          fall awkwardly to her lap, everything in her
          tightening, heavy with wonder at the last
          event: to press the gas to the floor.
          Then all sensations disperse like sparrows
          flushed out by hounds, then the generator’s hum
          ceases, then the oil derrick in her chest
          slows its bowing up and down, then
          the economical car nearly paid off
          lists into the median, scrapes the guardrail
          without enough force to spark, the car
          stops moving, the engine doesn’t, radio
          news drones on. Having no
          idea how tired she’d become—
          by her own dreams put to sleep.
          Pulling slowly back onto
          the freeway in early morning traffic,
          she’s shaken, embarrassed, not a mark
          on her of your ever having been there.

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