The curl of iced vine palms
the window and I see you in
the light sliding along
glossy undersides of power
lines. You amplify
to image and fall into how
your hands felt on
the dinner table, stern lily
pads I wouldn’t touch—
You had just cut your hair.
Chopin bit my lips.
The naked clean mirroring. And I
am in the bus shelter
thinking kisses, kissing
I say all this to
to show you that I don't believe
any more. I only believe
in the man tuning our piano,
his seersucker cheeks. Do you see
these, his hair and stubble the colors
of ridge-knifing rocks, his head tipped
to catch pitches like gnats
as he plods on the plangent keys again?
He has flayed it;
he pulls its ribs back
to expose velvet like old photographs'
red dresses, their pigments pressing through
dust, to unwrap gold coils
to straw and splinter. Love is bitter
and all there is, Zelda said, and you know
this to be true. I have had to show you.
I tell you this to speak it.
I tell you as I'd spit on the floor.
This is the discarded Chupa Chups wrapper
stamped into the shape of a gingko leaf. This is
what it means when the gray couple uses eight
creamers and lines them like ruptured vertebrae on their table,
the lids wilting to both sides. This is why
whenever I read his notes the cadences
stick to the insides of my elbows
for days. This is why I name
cats for poets and limbs for clock hands.
This is why I don’t believe that you
or anything is real or true.
There was something in that night walk
to the 24-hour gas station, something
terrible in the way stars dropped on the wet streets,
too tired to leave, reduced
to matted Styrofoam and paper holes.
The car with one headlight out, the sandy roses
planted behind the Thai restaurant dumpsters.
I poured most of the coffee out before I got back and pretended
I’d been standing in the backyard the whole time.
It means the world will dunk your soft head
in the dirty water over and over, like an uncle,
and, when you surface with fish and small suns
streaming under your eyelids, it will
kiss prism, moth, one stone, each heavy ear.
* Above poems are part of a collection awarded 1st place in the Goronwy Owen Prize category for best collection of poems as part of the 2012 English Literary Awards.