“One Last thing” at Nightjar Review
I have to tell you the story of the night you didn’t want to see me
& I was alone. Muhammad Ali died & all I wanted was to tell you
what you already knew, like words I took right out of your mouth,
how love can get up on the count of nine. I spent the night
in a room I rented from a stranger. Fluorescent lights buzzed
in the halls of the old asylum, 2 am. An elevator with a cage door,
clack of cables in the shaft. All of a sudden I was back
in the South of France, Nimes, the landlord chewing on his cigar.
I smelled like sex, a rough, blood-stained parchment, smudged
with fingerprints. The crowd roared in the arena, Feria de Pentecôte,
brass bands marched through the streets, girls in swirling flamenco skirts,
& small boys whipped the bulls with straps, running for cover.
I followed them down to the Corrida to watch, the only one
who remembers, longing so much to tell you, make you my witness.
On the sixth floor of the Brooklyn apartment, a man stood
in the doorway, lamplight behind his body darkening him into shadow,
calling out my name. I was afraid, suddenly, all of it so familiar,
because I had been raped before & it felt familiar, like a story
I know by heart. In my Brooklyn bed, I straddled the photographs
of you spread out on the sheets & wept for what gets ripped inside us,
how we pull or push too hard, go too deep in until suddenly someone
you want to love or someone you wish would love you back is gone.
Maybe you broke them, some bone fractured, & you feel ashamed
at your own violence, Come in close & don’t stop hitting, until
you snap-to & it dawns on you that this is not the ring, not the place
to throw your punches, but by then it’s too late, blood everywhere
& no one cheering. I stayed afraid half the night, fear balled like a t-shirt
stuffed in my mouth, a clog, a clot. What is the name of this song I sing
over & over like a gag? No words left, just a hum deep in the throat
like moan. I cross the threshold, back again over the bloody carpet
where he pressed my head against the floor, tightening a vice, ears sticky
with plasma. Go back now. Follow the trail of blood behind the bull
hooked & dragged out by horses. Mediterranean sun beat down, so hot
on my hair, your hand caught in the tangled strands of light. A shadow
behind the door calls my name & I go in. But where were you
when I was afraid? Where did you go? You made promises,
I’m here for you & share anything with me, what words are.
What’s said should mean something like bond, like scar on your skin,
a rare handwritten note, messages tattooed on tobacco papers, rolled
& smoked, inhaled into your lungs. I told you everything, all the details
of my own assault. But I’m one to talk, saying one thing & doing another,
So many vows I just can’t keep. We are cut from the same fragile cloth,
a thin garment of language. When you kissed me on the side of my face,
did that mean you were giving me your blessing, just to be in your life,
which somehow translated for me into being alive? All my flesh measured
in your no or yes. I hoped it wasn’t goodbye. I can still feel your five o’clock
shadow on my cheek & under my palm when we were in Hank’s Saloon
& I drew your ear down to my mouth with my hand on the side of your face,
so I could tell you something, & I kept thinking of more things to say.
Muhammad Ali is dead. I’m not trying to seduce you, I’m just telling you
things I want to remember forever about being alive, the way the blood
unspooled out from the wound & pissed its ribbons on the sand,
the way the knives shuddered with every heartbeat & thump of that dying beast.
The sticky sweetness of life matted in its fur. I have no motive or intention. You
had to pry me out by my hair. All I wanted was to sit & listen to you tell me
something, because whatever you had to say would be something new
& I’d rush right down to the arena & write a poem & plunge my bandelero
through the heart of it. Put my dress back over my head,
write a quick note to me in the morning & leave it on the bed, I know exactly
what I want you to write, tell me you’ll see me soon, tonight–
Tell me you’ll meet me ringside at the fight.