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An Engine That Won’t

ISSUE:  Spring 2013

The town, my dear, is closing down: dead-
Bolts slipping into their sleeves, cicadas insisting

Like so many typewriters, drunk girls sleeping
In their shoes. Without you, the house begs

For disaster, love: extension cord nest, dismantled
Smoke detector. Something ticking—not like a bomb:

Like a gas burner trying to light, an engine that won’t
Turn over. Turn over

The pillow & the stain vanishes. Tuck the blanket up around
It & the body appears. Anything can look like a person

From the right distance. Anything can take off
Like a house on fire. The kind of light that gets you

Out of bed in the morning. Since April I’ve had one foot
In someone else’s grave, a drunk girl who left me

Her shoes. The way she would move through a party
Like cursive, a car passing through the underlit dark, gleaming

Like the eye of a cooked fish. What she didn’t leave was a note.
What I mean is: what a cliffhanger. This is no time to excuse yourself,

Dear: this is no time for a smoke, though we’re all a little hot
Under the collar these days. I mean, these days

If it isn’t the screenless open windows, it’s the chipped lips
Of the snifters, the splintered floorboards under your bare feet,

The hundreds of electrical wires, just humming under the plaster
Just nearly bursting with the same sweet secret as ever—Press

Your ear to the wall & hold your breath. It’s the absolute longing
The hair dryer feels for the bathroom spigot, & the ochre

Lungswell of waterstain on the bedroom ceiling, there above
The pillow line. A blown bulb that crumbles in the unscrewing.

Sometimes two things appear so identical, you have to repeat
To yourself: the dead battery is in my right hand; the replacement battery

Is in my left. Dead, Right. Replacement, Left. But still you forget,
And spend moments you don’t have to give switching one

For the other and back again: a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces
Are just the same blue sky. As if the top two corners of anything

Could contain what there is in front of you to put together.
It had to be you, the radio wisecracks. It had to be you. The kind of lie

That gets you out of bed in the morning. The ceiling fan spins wildly
On its mismounted base, love, & you watch it like a wasp loose

In the room. Loose in the room, a girl clumsies her whiskey glass &
Even the music stops to gasp at the shatter. How many other ways

Were there for her to excuse herself? No matter: it’s all dying
Down now. It’s curtains for this party, fading the way

An old typewriter’s letters bleed into the page. What I mean
Is: the lights of a town seen from above, turning off

Just before sleep. Just before sleep
Is when I found her, love:

Flip the switch & the body appears.


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