The assignment’s an homage to hypotheticals:
Imagine marketing clothing to men
eyeing their place atop the corporate ladder.
In quick-moving merchandise,
cheap, with double meaning, lies
affordable, sartorial aspiration.
I create the persona of my consumer,
fashion Sam from mental clay;
a recent college graduate,
stuck in a dead-end internship,
he struggles to land his first big gig.
Cultivate your confidence, my content tells him.
The clothing’s all that missing, it winks.
A faceless reviewer assesses my work,
finds Sam a compelling creation.
As for the creator, the peer
knows of nothing he could do better.
If my ideas demanded development,
my writing, coherence,
perhaps then I could have been
a woman, a she,
I wanted to walk the length of the expanse before me, held back only by the water itself, so I pinched and pulled at the map on my iPhone in search of the nearest spot where brown met blue, uninhibited by docks or harbors. We parked our rental car and made our way down a road that dead-ended at our destination. We got more than we bargained for: a beach of stones and swooping swathes of water divided by a sandbar that reached outward to an indeterminable end. And thus, nearly by accident, we discovered Bar Island Sandbar while visiting Maine this summer. In hindsight we learned that place was as serendipitous as time: the sandbar, which connects Bar Island to the town of Bar Harbor, is exposed only for a few hours each day, during low tide. With one move in either direction we might have seen a different sight entirely. Coincidences, I’ve come to believe, are no small thing.
You knelt as you marveled,
your finger sliding unscathed and unstopped across one’s surface.
We slid it in your pocket
to bear the weight of the whole.
From afar, they are one beach,
the thousands of stones.
The water has closed in and retreated until they lay
with their callouses softened,
Only my feet touched the water.
It lapped and pooled at my ankles,
where I thought I left it behind,
When we returned to the city,
I knew otherwise:
I let the soft tide close in to remind me
how to bend and listen and know,
how to give mercy.
We placed the stone on a window sill
overlooking an expanse of building bricks
and an alley, overgrown.
It has been patient with us—as if to say
it knows we did the best we could,
the sunlight the closest we could return it
to its natural habitat.
His paws sink into the wet earth,
an act of submission.
He feels the soil beneath his feet,
knowing it not as ground or clay,
but as the unnamed constant
that bears his weight.
He does not consider the water it can contain
before its porous particles burst
nor how long it will withstand our abuses
before forsaking us.
He only knows the way it feels
before he pulls his paw away,
lets the impression remain;
he only knows its smell when he
puts his nose to the damp darkness.
He carries it as a part of him,
on his feet, his nose, his body,
discerning his place in the earth,
the earth’s place in him,
without asking or being told.
I watch you walk while
I pretend to distract myself
with a book of poems.
I read a word, a thought,
a line or two.
Then I pause,
measure your progress.
In a moment, the buildings
will turn sinister,
form corners to engulf you
in what I wish were my arms.
You say innocence is the sexiest thing
as I rest my knee against your knee,
my foot against your foot.
We sit, small and meager,
beneath the dome of St. Paul’s, while
worshippers, immersed in Mass, hear
choir boys sing Haydn:
Praestet fides supplementum
I look for God where you find Him,
in your closed eyes, your silent prayers,
and sense only the warmth of lust,
the guilt of wanting to ravish you.
Beneath the image of Christ,
I watch wine become blood,
bread become body in your belly.
As I sit across from you,
I search our silence for
a way to undo the twenty
minutes of our undoing.
I look for you
in wilted lettuce leaves
in a puddle of ginger dressing
in an off-white salad bowl.
I make the mandible and maxillary
of chopstick jaws move
apart and together and apart: a nervous fidget.
We hear the sound of wood meeting wood,
but more the moment afterward
of air—like tendon separating bone.
contents separated from disuse,
a pink as cold as flesh
tangled necklaces and earring
half-pairs—like Excalibur to
Bedivere when his hands
trembled above the water
her youngest daughter’s baby
book, scribbled invocations
of lost teeth, of a goldfish
named Buddy, buried at sea
photos of strangers’ faces:
memories that follow her,
one by one,
into the forgetful earth
I stopped eating when he could no longer touch me,
swore only he would touch my lips.
First I let go of my morning rituals,
then lunch, dinner.
By the time I could slip jeans with
fastened buttons and lodged zipper teeth
over my pubescent hips,
I no longer fasted for him. I saw him as he was:
hands slimy from spoilt, spilt masturbatory seed.
Instead, I fasted for those other girls—
my golden idols with hips like Scandinavia’s gnarly fingers,
rib cages blossoming second pairs of knobbly breasts—
who could also slip their bodies, like bone sacks, into size twos.
In autumn, I am the one with
the rake, trying to uncover
grass at sight of the first
leaf. I work with purpose.
Through the window, you observe
me like a specimen, wait until I come
inside to say leaves belong where they
sit on the sidewalk,
pretzel dipping into sugar glaze,
cinnamon melting on tongue,
as you relay your
philosophy: spring’s green
makes leaves turn skyward
for water, turns green into
color absence, heat as bleak
I touch the small,
empty space on the sidewalk
that keeps you
within arm’s reach,
the need tangible to