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If It We by Lisa Zaran
It is later than late,
the simmered down darkness
of the jukebox hour.

The hour of drunkenness
and cigarettes.
The fools hour.

In my dreams,
I still smoke, cigarette after cigarette.
It's okay, I'm dreaming.
In dreams, smoking can't **** me.

It's warm outside.
I have every window open.
There's no such thing as danger,
only the dangerous face of beauty.

I am hanging at my window
like a houseplant.
I am smoking a cigarette.
I am having a drink.

The pale, blue moon is shining.
The savage stars appear.
Every fool that passes by
smiles up at me.

I drip ashes on them.

There is music playing from somewhere.
A thready, salt-sweet tune I don't know
any of the words to.
There's a gentle breeze making
hopscotch with my hair.

This is the wet blanket air of midnight.
This is the incremental hour.
This is the plastic placemat of time
between reality and make-believe.
This is tabletop dream time.
She said she collects pieces of sky,
cuts holes out of it with silver scissors,
bits of heaven she calls them.
Every day a bevy of birds flies rings
around her fingers, my chorus of wives,
she calls them. Every day she reads poetry
from dusty books she borrows from the library,
sitting in the park, she smiles at passing strangers,
yet can not seem to shake her own sad feelings.
She said that night reminds her of a cool hand
placed gently across her fevered brow, said
she likes to fall asleep beneath the stars,
that their streaks of light make her believe
that she too is going somewhere. Infinity,
she whispers as she closes her eyes,
descending into thin air, where no arms
outstretch to catch her.
Born woman. Go on.
It's farther than it seems,
but okay.

Credit card's been stolen.
Go on.

Above all, remember,
whenever you cry,
husbands roll their eyes,

and children worry.

Go on.

The father that was yours
gets killed by a lung disease.

He loved you, at least you think so.
Go on.

Drink, smoke, do drugs.

Go on.

Drag your crippled bones
to work. Hate your boss
behind her back. Smile

to her face. Go on.

Eat. Don't eat. Get fat.
Get skinny. Go on.

Time fragments.
Space fractures.
Lives intersect.
Wombs bloom

with new life. Go on.

Hold on.
Pale scrapings of people
with lipstick ringed glasses
and cigarettes burning,
and laughter trickling up and down
their knotty throats.
What is this,
a gathering of henhouse critics?

My father's voice in the back of my head,
saying, forget that I'm dead and if you
can not do that than pretend.

I am standing
just outside the gallery
beneath the shadowy bough of a birch.
The moon is floating in the sky's dark lap.
Faraway I can hear the ocean sigh.

Now father, I am asking,
what smile are you wearing?
What color are your eyes again?
How many teeth have you lost?

Don't you think I want a kiss.
Perhaps I don't. Perhaps I don't
want to stand and pretend you
not dead while the wet, champagne
mouths of the living tell me how wonderful
your paintings are.

As they crook their fingers and strain their necks,
lose their vocabulary inside the artwork's depths
and colors.

Father, I want your reputation to outlive the pursuits
of others with their iron-on reviews after an hour's
worth of browsing at a lifetime of your work.

Father, are you crying?
Stop that sound.
I went looking for God
but I found you instead.
Bad luck or destiny,
you decide.

Buried in the muck,
the soot of the city,
sorrow for an appetite,
devil on your left shoulder,
angel on your right.

You, with your thorny rhythms
and tragic, midnight melodies.

My heart never tried
to commit suicide before.
after, when you are driving
75 miles one way just to get to her
and her wind-touched hair,
bleached white by the September
sun, the gray sky coughing up clouds,
that is when the doubts surface,
hard as stones.

it is late afternoon by the time you arrive,
the storm has already been through here.
you are not in your own element.
you are a runaway.

but, then she is there, standing right in front
of you, wet with rain, slender as a branch.
you watch as she makes her way over
and your heart gardens, rupturing red.
love is believable
in every moment of exhaustion
in every heartbroken home
in every dark spirit,
the meaning unfolds... every night that sings
of tomorrow. in every suicide
i carry deep inside my head.
in every lonely smile
that plays across my lips.
love is believable i tell you,
in every scrap of history,
in every sheen of want.

what can be wrong
that some days i have a tough time
and in each chamber of my heart
i pray.
You could die for it--
or refuse it altogether
and know nothing
except the urgency
of youth. Men

have been
for ages
carrying the
stoniest of hearts
in their broad chests
while we women

begin too early
brush the brown leaves
from our shoulders, go
from bloom to fade
as soon as
we see the sunrise

We let our eyes go first
Then there is the limp lolling
of our hearts from side to side
the tongue we cut away
the blind kiss on the backlash of night
the giving giving giving of skin

As women
we blindly wish
past the ****** of passion
as we vanish into a world of men
whose ribcages we were scraped from
Perhaps we are born of seeds
our essence crawling up the stem
to feed the bees.

every flower you see
is a woman
and when
she's in bloom
and when she is blooming
and when her leaves are wingbeats
of green in the autumn wind
beating wings of green, yes
even as the wind tries to humiliate her
it fails because
she's in love
and only she would die for it
Death is not the final word.
Without ears, my father still listens,
still shrugs his shoulders
whenever I ask a question he doesn't want to answer.

I stand at the closet door, my hand on the ****,
my hip leaning against the frame and ask him
what does he think about the war in Iraq
and how does he feel about his oldest daughter
getting married to a man she met on the Internet.

Without eyes, my father still looks around.
He sees what I am trying to do, sees that I
have grown less passive with his passing,
understands my need for answers only he can provide.

I imagine him drawing a breath, sensing
his lungs once again filling with air, his thoughts ballooning.
All around me, the sky with its deep shade of dark.
The stars.

The moon with its shrunken soul.
Can I become what I want to become?

Neither wife or mother.
I am noone and nobody is my lover.

I am afraid
that when I go mad,
my father will bow his downy head
into his silver wings and weep.

My daughter, O my daughter.
~for Jackson C. Frank
It seems almost too far fetched really,
too difficult to believe.
This unassuming moon shining like a copper plate.
These milkcrate blues.
This soft trellis of sound
wobbling through the wind
as if pouring out from the window
of some lonely house on the hill.
How beautiful it is,
the ghost of your voice,
haunting this empty valley.
At one end of the couch
you sit, mute as a pillow
tossed onto the upholstery.

I watch you sometimes
when you don't know I'm watching
and I see you. Who you are.

You are a self made man.
Hard suffering. You are grey
stone and damp earth.
A long scar on a pale sky.

The television is tuned to CNN.
The world's tragedies flicker
across your face like some
foreign film.

You are expressionless.
Your usual gestures ground to salt.

How do you explain yourself
to people that do not know you?
How do you explain to them,
this is me; that is not me.

However many words you choose
in whatever context with
whichever adjectives you use
could not compare.

Even you describing you
would not be you.
Not totally.

Your hands are folded
together, resting in your lap.
I study those hands until
every groove becomes familiar.

Like a favorite hat,
you wear your silence

I sometimes can not help
but wonder what we will
talk about if we ever
run out of things to say.

You are the curve
I burrow into. The strength
I borrow. You are the red sun
rising over the mountain.
You are the mountain.

— The End —