Not only am I too privileged to be her,
I am too privileged to crudely diagnose her symptoms;
my expertise tells me: “drugs.”
Ashen skin, the subway lurch,
40 people pretending not to watch her,
pretending not to pity her.
She has these little stickers on her chest with metal in the middle
Like I had when I got an echocardiogram
The boyfriend tugs the zipper of her hoodie up to cover them.
Her head lolls, she burrows into his chest,
he clutches her purse closer to himself,
his face a palette of fear, worry, culpability,
and the spaces in the middle where the paints mix together.
I am hot shit
on this airplane
ordering a cheese plate on my Delta Skymiles Platinum credit card,
and the girl across the aisle who asked me whether they give out free headphones
and is on her way home from her high school band trip to the Big Apple
is watching me and my
three slices of cheese, eight perfect grapes, one individually wrapped chocolate square,
and this is probably a formative moment for her,
she will probably remember this moment when she’s choosing her major in a few years and think:
“what would the woman with the cheese plate do?”
I sat on the center of the bed, a lilypad in the monochrome bedroom that had become my everything, and he looked up at me or maybe he was sitting kind of behind me, I can’t remember, and he said “you’re such a treasure,” and I felt like I had been kicked in the gut, because I knew, and I knew he probably knew, it was going to be over so soon.
Didn’t they already feel outdated?
The powder blue suits with the bellbottom legs,
my mother’s long, straight, Cher hair.
From my seat in the future, it’s impossible to think
they couldn’t see at least a glimmer of our today then.
Painting white puffy clouds on the walls of the nursery,
laughter, magic shows, tumors, the babies who couldn’t hold on,
or that one day they’d have two grandsons; their three girls all grown up.
Because when I look at you, it’s so clear:
a future so vivid it’s like it’s already a memory.
It’s just us, and sometimes
it smells like fish. The kitchen is so small
that when we cook, our butts touch.
We take our pants off at the door, wonder
if everyone in love does that. We can’t
grow plants, but our tchotchke shelf is a vision.
No place has ever felt so much like my space.
Your voice, guitar, piano, fills all the gaps.
We drew arbitrary boundaries: I could
pour out the plastic urinal bottles, but not
dump his dumps out of the commode, plop,
into the toilet, flush. And sex was another story,
neither of us wanted much at all, imagine
the chemo-semen, coursing gleeful, evil. And
we’d go out to dinner, pretend to be normal,
I’d wheel him push him uphill on 84th street,
the hostess fluttering around us, hospitality,
pity, forgetting which was which.
Not thinking much about my actions
for fear of fear, for fear of wasted time.
I’m a child who reaches up, unthinking,
slipping hand into hand of a stranger where he expected a mother to be.
How can I be stagnant but spiraling at the same time?
How can thinking make doing so much harder?
How can it be that the thought
of looking back with laughter later
brings no solace at all,