This poem originally appeared in Drunken Boat magazine, and subsequently in "wine for a shotgun" (EM Press, 2013 -- http://em-press.com.)

 

The Chariot in love

 

there is a red box in my bedroom 

for the disposal of needles. 

there is a woman in my bed 

 

with a body made of flowers. 

they feel like thorns to her, 

like weeds. part of me thinks

 

she is dying. another part says no,

that's how we sleep now

the hormones are new 

 

but the story is old: Tiresius 

was a man, then a woman, then 

a man. punishment, prophecy,

 

redemption. I’ve begun guessing

at the gender of lamp-posts. of couches. 

of calendars. watching the jaws of men 

 

on the train, studying their shoulders, 

the shrug in their lean. I've become

something different now, too. omnipresent

 

bystander, witness for the defense: the bed

is nothing like a coffin. the animal hair

at the end of her backbone has always

 

been there. I watch your body 

square into itself and think, armor.

the temperature of your skin in sleep

 

says fever, flight, release. we leave

the windows open all winter. I am cold

but you are here. I never learn

 

to push the needle into the meat 

of your thigh. does this make me

a coward, or the man in the moon? 

 

you’re extraordinary. don’t leave.

this spring, my sister ripped out half

a garden of blossomless poppies

 

because a neighbor told her

anything with thorned stems

and thorned leaves 

 

is a weed. no matter what answer

you give the gods, something 

will be granted and something taken

 

away. I would like someone to teach me 

a new way to pray. I miss the sight

of your breasts in sleep. your knees

 

are the same. I fold photographs

of you as a girl into postcards

and mail them to orphans. you are

 

your own daughter, they say. everyone

earns their body somehow. what

do we do now? 

 

2

 

transform, metamorphose, transmute, transmogrify, convert, transfigure: to change a thing into a different thing. transform implies a major change in form, nature, or function <transformed a small company into a corporate giant>. metamorphose suggests an abrupt or startling change induced by or as if by magic or a supernatural power <awkward girls metamorphosed into swannish ballerinas>. transmute implies transforming into a higher element or thing <attempted to transmute lead into gold, body into deity>. transmogrify suggests a strange or preposterous metamorphosis <a story in which a frog is transmogrified into a photograph once thought lost, now reappearing as an ad for feminine hygiene products>. convert implies a change fitting something for a new or different use or function <converted the study into a nursery, the bed into a boarding house>. transfigure implies a change that exalts or glorifies <joy, or maybe it was the hormones, transfigured her face>.

 

3

 

love. may the body you are becoming hold fewer

cruel boundaries. may its territories admit my hands,

hormones taking down fences like boys in cars

with baseball bats swinging at mailboxes.

 

dear mystery, dear mythological 

shapeshifter, may I adore you

in any skin, inherited or built. 

there is a hair below your chin

 

that I love to study. it is like

a small flag invented by an army

wildly outnumbered but with the very

best uniforms. their boots punched with holes

 

but polished to a sheen in which they can see

their gorgeous reflections. god’s perfect

monsters, they stomp through your bloodstream,

set up camp at the base of your spine where I tuck

 

my knee while sleeping. they are not sure

how to love me. a body untransformed, transfigured only

by time and afternoons at the gym. may you be able

to remind them, I was here first. or at least,

 

I loved you more.

 

4

 

you are not a war. there is nothing 

to be won here. you asked me once

 

what my ruin is. what could make me

a monster. I didn’t answer. the answer is,

 

fear. I am that ordinary. I was born

like this. but I have invented new ways

 

to pray. the clock is a liar who dissolves

in the light. the shower is resurrection central. 

 

your mouth is a storehouse of surrogate

bones, you grow fruit trees and crocus

 

in the back of your throat. give me

your moonshoulders, the stars all over

 

your body, and the keys. hand over

the map. you choose the road. I can keep

 

both wheels on the ground, I can hold us.

the book says, remember. victory is just

 

the beginning. we’ll make a banner 

from your binding shirt, collect my shed hair 

 

for the seams. my love, my sphinx, my vanishing 

point, I am not perfect. but I was built for this.