I have found you where I shouldn’t—in the wrong bodies,
at the wrong time, and once on a subway platform
with my feet stuck to a pool of dried soda taking gum
from a near-stranger’s mouth. That night you were spearmint
and the 6 train. I have been woken by you, put to bed by you.
Had you serve me coffee in my favorite mug with milk
and just enough sweetness. An easy gift. A debt of pleasure.
My therapist said: Sometimes it’s better to be understood than it is
to be loved. I believed her because I am better at understanding
than I am at feeling. I have said I love you to men whose names
I can’t remember now. And who’s to say it wasn’t true?
Who’s to say I couldn’t have tried forever with any of them?
Couldn’t have tried learning to sail and opened a sanctuary
for elephants, or perfected the tambourine and followed the band
on their bluegrass tour? I don’t know why anyone stays in their marriage,
my therapist said. Love is illogical. A man I loved once raped me.
I did not leave him. At least not then. But the next time I loved,
I chose someone kinder. I thought it would make a difference.
I stopped looking people in the eyes when talking to them.
I kept wanting to kiss them, the intimacy of language turning
into metaphor and urge. Everyone. I wanted to kiss the cashier
handling my poblanos with such gentleness and curiosity.
To kiss the person next to me on the bus with bad taste
in music and vanilla and bergamot in his cologne. Kiss
the woman holding the door, saying: Have a good day.
Her smile so goddamn bright and real and meant for me.
You’re trapped, my therapist tells me. Only you can break this cycle.
But I want exactly this kind of trouble. I have sweat between
my breasts that needs licking. I have an iamb in my chest that keeps
skipping. I have stockings on my thighs. Oh, I’ve got stockings
on my thighs that need ripping. I read my way through all
the paperback romances and need a more adequate fiction.
I need my hair pulled, mean and gentle. I dressed you up in
every excuse and black gloves past the elbow. You open
the silk in me with zippers and buttons sewed on with breakable
thread. I have pulled tinsel from your hair and called it mistletoe,
led you into the woods wearing cheap underwear and handed you
the switchblade from my boot. I worshiped the myth I made of you,
but I’m off my knees now. I want your hands to become language
and make me offer you one thigh at a time. Let it sting loud
and sweetly. Let bruise be proof. Let the smell of your hands.