Nabokov (en français et espagnol)
At the end I became obsessed with disasters:
specials on Katrina, articles
about parents who left their kids in cars,
then came back hours later to find
their small bodies baked, insides a stew.
“How can you watch this? It’s harrowing,”
my boyfriend asked, as I sat through a marathon
of a show about defying death.
This from the man whose favorite film
was by Rob Zombie,
and featured a psychopath wearing
another man’s face as a mask,
this from the man I left for you.
That’s a lie.
I left him for your cat, your MOMA
membership, the basil you grew in your backyard.
I left him for the way you chased me
down the street after we kissed,
when I fled the party like a princess
who had to get home before midnight
or she would turn into a slut.
For the Mayakovsky quote you sent at 2am
What will it be? Love or no-love?
You tell me.
I think back to all those hours of TV,
(how can you watch this?)
and pretend we have a chance,
remembering that no matter
how hopeless things seemed
for the people suffering for their
bad decisions, misread maps
there was always something
to save them in the end.
But life isn’t a Meg Ryan movie,
women don’t get rewarded for leaving
men they love for ones they’ve barely met.
When I try to see our future
all I can think of are the events
that come before the helicopters, rescue boats
how things always get worse
before they get worse.
A couple is stranded in the ocean
twenty miles out, skin cells swollen, bursting
like roe, bodies thrashed by jellyfish.
They swim for hours, hot muscles straining,
until the shore is finally in sight.
But their relief fades fast as they realize,
they’re trailing blood, attracting sharks,
and the island in the distance
is made of sheer rocks, which the waves
will crush them against.
Some winged crescents
Their light is iris
We shake hands with its perfume
Its heart is a hermit’s praise song
In his love
When his heart palpitates
and his limbs are lame
Some of us are heaven’s tear
Sparkles in the eyes of
A perfumed breeze
On Able’s tomb
And the trembling of his pure blood
Some of us sing for the devil
As he likes
Teaches him malice
To unveil his secrets
He swings where wind picks up
Threw them at
The perfume’s pure back
Some of us are like thorns in
A flower bush
Like a poisonous thought
Of cursed desires
Smell with depravity
Cain’s hands are stained with blood
His stars fell down
Heavy with sins
Bloods curse him in its circulation
And dress in black
He ridiculed it
And scraped its wounds
Some of us have the
Devil kiss their cheeks
And kneel down begging for an advice.
Scandalous are the ambitions of that some
The Devil has studied under them.
— Saida Khatir al-Farsi, Lebanon
Don’t you wish you could go back?
When your heart sang like a burning branch
When your songs sang themselves from the bottom of a well
Yellow eyes starward bound
Sickness was a reason to fuck around
Every shape turned blue
All of this for you
And did you ever get lonely?
Did you run like dogs in the afternoon
Did you howl down the moon
Hide it in your room?
My hands are filthy
I got ribs to spare from the garden
Please forgive me if I act a little strange
Our irises contract
Hips swing quickly back
We’re pushing it for the same reason it’s pushing us back
Understand me, I wish nothing but the best for everyone
Gold dust rivers run
Deputize the sun
The great Separator comes for me
The blond boy in the red trunks is holding your head underwater
because he is trying to kill you,
and you deserve it, you do, and you know this,
and you are ready to die in this swimming pool
because you wanted to touch his hands and lips and this means
your life is over anyway.
You’re in the eighth grade. You know these things.
You know how to ride a dirt bike, and you know how to do
and you know that a boy who likes boys is a dead boy, unless
he keeps his mouth shut, which is what you
because you are weak and hollow and it doesn’t matter anymore.
A dark-haired man in a rented bungalow is licking the whiskey
from the back of your wrist.
He feels nothing,
keeps a knife in his pocket,
peels an apple right in front of you
while you tramp around a mustard-colored room
in your underwear
drinking Dutch beer from a green bottle.
After everything that was going to happen has happened
you ask only for the cab fare home
and realize you could have asked for more
because he couldn’t care less, either way.
The man on top of you is teaching you how to hate, sees you
as a piece of real estate,
just another fallow field lying underneath him
like a sacrifice.
He’s turning your back into a table so he doesn’t have to
eat off the floor, so he can get comfortable,
pressing against you until he fits, until he’s made a place for himself
The clock ticks from five to six. Kissing degenerates into biting.
So you get a kidney punch, a little blood in your urine.
It isn’t over yet, it’s just begun.
Says to himself
The boy is no good. The boy is just no good.
but he takes you in his arms and pushes your flesh around
to see if you could ever be ugly to him.
You, the now familiar whipping boy, but you’re beautiful,
he can feel the dogs licking his heart.
Who gets the whip and who gets the hoops of flame?
He hits you and he hits you and he hits you.
Desire driving his hands right into your body.
Hush, my sweet. These tornados are for you.
You wanted to think of yourself as someone who did these kinds of things.
You wanted to be in love
and he happened to get in the way.
The green-eyed boy in the powder-blue t-shirt standing
next to you in the supermarket recoils as if hit,
repeatedly, by a lot of men, as if he has a history of it.
This is not your problem.
You have your own body to deal with.
The lamp by the bed is broken.
You are feeling things he’s no longer in touch with.
And everyone is speaking softly,
so as not to wake one another.
The wind knocks the heads of the flowers together.
Steam rises from every cup at every table at once.
Things happen all the time, things happen every minute
that have nothing to do with us.
So you say you want a deathbed scene, the knowledge that comes
and you want it dirty.
And no one can ever figure out what you want,
and you won’t tell them,
and you realize the one person in the world who loves you
isn’t the one you thought it would be,
and you don’t trust him to love you in a way
you would enjoy.
And the boy who loves you the wrong way is filthy.
And the boy who loves you the wrong way keeps weakening.
You thought if you handed over your body
he’d do something interesting.
The stranger says there are no more couches and he will have to
sleep in your bed. You try to warn him, you tell him
you will want to get inside him, and ruin him,
but he doesn’t listen.
You do this, you do. You take the things you love
and tear them apart
or you pin them down with your body and pretend they’re yours.
So, you kiss him, and he doesn’t move, he doesn’t
pull away, and you keep on kissing him. And he hasn’t moved,
he’s frozen, and you’ve kissed him, and he’ll never
forgive you, and maybe now he’ll never leave you alone.
Sometimes, walking into the kitchen
for tea or a glass of water, I forget
my mother is dead,
my husband is gone,
my children—their childhood
In the night I look out the window,
new snow falling in the yard.
Snow covers everything
but the tracks of the rabbit
suddenly show up.
Pebbled footprints go around in circles,
What hides the grass gives away the rabbit.
Rabbit, I know where you live now.
For a moment I forget
who I am. For a moment
I look out the window as if nothing had happened.
— Patricia Kirkpatrick, “The Rabbit” in Odessa: Poems
1984. Two Iranian soldiers kiss before they go to battle (Iran-Iraq war).