I scold myself into offering up my big sadness,
the piece I’m not telling, but the only thing to say
is that my life-grip was always like iron, that I’ve
crushed joy like grenache, never knew the dance
or my own goddamn strength, have woken up all
these mornings with stains in the cracks of my lips
but no memory of the toast. I’m not some
run-of-the-mill masochist, never wanted to hurt
myself or anybody else. All I’m saying is that it
can turn on you, so that all your staring out
the window counting blessings in oak and peony,
all your unbolting the door for every droopy-eyed
soul who drops a knapsack on your stoop, so that
every warm room where you gave up holding your
breath, all those tiny wunderengines can quit turning
over, all those little joyfruits can shrivel up and say
Sorry, you’ve squeezed us out. Sorry! We are citrus
rinds at your pitcher’s base. Sorry you loved us empty.
And you are twenty-three, four, five, and you hide
in the pantry afraid to ask for anything at all, not even
pass the salt, not even salt in the wound, please—
You ask for nothing more, until all you have becomes
an abstraction of itself, prim boxes of everyone else’s
Love! Family! Success! Your little robot nod admits
nothing, you keep not-asking but still accept each delivery,
signature required or the buzzer keeps up its buzz.
Gift boxes pile up, look at all you’ve been given,
it is the wedding day of your self and your wonder
is not invited, sits up in the attic with highball, cigar,
photo album of the days when you were all together
and there is just one face, and it is yours.
It is mine.
This is not about you, general, not about you, reader,
though I wish it were, wish I could shrug it all off—
would rather someone else’s sob story, rather point
a finger at everybody else, Generation Who? Here, let me
tell you about you—In that case I’ll be over-simple and
brutal-true. In that case you’ll hate me but sort of love me,
too, and I’ll wipe my hands clean, harmonic, frou-frou.
Alas, alack, it is mine—the face is a sad-sack
sandwich called Slice of Self with Wonder, called
my life. That was my bread and that was my knife.
Self-imposed—the real tragedy, I suppose.
But, oh—I wanted to take us places: down Highway 40
in a metallic pink Cadillac, hair flaming, spirits snaking
like smoke, like the way mine used to. I did, I did, I do.