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?
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>.
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.
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.