You can’t outsmart yourself.
You wouldn't be land-locked and writing this
if you could.
Let’s try something different. Let's find a boat. We’ll meet at the bow, and try to forget what we know. We can start over. We can put our memories on ice and our hearts on hold. We can grow new lungs, and new eyes and our bones won’t ache in the salt water. Let's read the stars, captained by someone born without a lily in their teeth or a map in their pocket. They’ll have an anchor to choke and a rattle to keep us awake.
Let's sip the coffee of a woman with roots that run deeper than the earth, and speak the steady language of not-wanting. We can learn sea songs, cover our dreams with thick, acrylic paint, and bring our ghosts to life at preapproved parties. We’d all get along so well. I’ll undo the sound of my voice. You'll sweat out the nicotine. We'll eat strange fruit at balmy ports, acquire a taste for the rind, and our scars won't open; we'll be positively flush with Vitamin C and the pipes we've learned to whittle.
You’ll start to crave the way I smell like rain, taste like salt. I’ll show you what to do when your compass points left and you find yourself on the wrong side of the decade. I'll create a perfect starfish staccato, which is a dive I'll invent and perfect two days in. We’ll build a dream house out of sea glass, learn ***** jokes in morse code, and share a bunk with a man who claims he was born a crow and misses it every day. He might take our bones home to his blind wife after this voyage. He might make flutes from our thighbones, hock them around shipyards, or he might ask us to write his eulogy. He might be the guardian angel for someone who drowned centuries ago, or he might be God. We're fine not yet knowing.
We're on a boat, after all. We can do shimmery things, like tangle our limbs and kiss in nooks where the light doesn't touch. We can dive for pearls in the shadows of our own thoughts, and keep the sun on our faces. We can all learn to swim like angels and walk like saints. I’ll show you how to make a secret place inside yourself where you can wrestle unspeakable things and then send them into the storm.
Let's drink cider in the hull, lose our sealegs, and trace bumpy roots to an older, kinder world. Then let's sit very still and believe in it. Let's tie that kindness around our wrists. Practice our knots or not. Let's pass the bottle back and forth while we trade secrets with winter finches telepathically.
If we feel like it let's fall in love. Maybe with each other. Maybe with something else entirely.
Let’s talk about things we've never said aloud, let's try to put some of our sticky longing and heavy heartbeats into some kind of language. Or let’s pretend the city is only as large as our pockets and as static as the space between our chests. Let’s go back in time and see what would happen if I didn't kiss you on the West Side Highway six months ago. Maybe there’d be nothing to pout over, nothing to pine about. (Heavy heartbeats always find something to pine about.)
Let’s walk to the sea, let's forget what we know. Let’s start over. I’ll take the train in and we’ll meet for brunch. I won’t get red and loose-lipped from too much sun and *****, and I won’t look for black cats in highrise windows. We'll talk about things that don't sting and the city won't mind the bleak things I say.
After playing on the pier and not kissing, we won’t walk East, swaying. We won’t stumble into a church and genuflect, then slide into a pew, softly join the Rosary recitation. We won’t bow our heads, or stumble through the Apostles Creed (where was that one during ten years of catechism?) We won’t say Amen with our chest, study the stained-glass, and our legs won’t leave sweat on the kneeler after we stand.
We won’t barrel back into daylight where we’re old friends who don’t kiss and I’m still a prize- My cheeks can flush but I won’t let the mimosas get on top of me, or you get on top of me. like it was only a little bit inevitable. I won't babble; completely unhinged and hopeful, or drop my grace somewhere on an elevated train as dusk cradled us both in blue. I'll polish that part of Brooklyn with my poise, not my plea. I won't pray again on the train home, (not on my knees and slipping, but still on my knees and slipping.) I won’t have to meet rueful eyes in the window reflection with only one poem on my lips, ‘Have Mercy on me, Oh God-‘
I won’t have to sit sad and scalloped alone on a midnight Metronorth, bewildered and blanched, because we’re not here, we’re far away and out to sea. I’m still a prize, and we never have to say ‘Amen’ at all.
early 2023, shaking off dust