For Missy Who Never Got His New Name
I hear the stars are sentient. Which gives
me hope for the nitrogen feeding your grass.
Even more for the mole ending the day’s
burrow in your skull. I’m told your atoms
are still atoms. Somewhere you’re sitting
by a pool picking apart the physics
of swimming. In the hallway of a large
high school in Mississippi, you’ve resumed
the sophomore guarding my classroom
entrance with a letter, like an undiscovered
prince. I’ve resumed my surprise at desire
I thought was for cave dwellers.
This is where I go wrong. I loved
a body you didn’t. My younger self wants
the word to rebuild, rather than stop
at the blond hair, middle part, low ponytail,
the impressive manliness
with which your hips carried utility
denim. I tell my young self to flatten
her memory’s landscape. Picture two
scars liberating a torso. A first name
that doesn’t hiss. Soon, a Brooklyn
apartment. We pretend it finally
happened for you. It really did.
Mississippi, Missing, Missy, Miss
I drive from the graveside to my apartment,
59 miles from your body. Your villain has yet
to go public. She’s larger than the highway.
She says to keep your name quiet and I bury
each holy letter in the undergalaxy
of dreams. In the car, I scream for a raccoon
failing to lift his own body with his tail. A grief
more bearable than getting lost in the dual
image of you squatting in the gym one day
and dangling from a light fixture the next.
At home I begin playing videos of a cow
weeping for her child who’s left the pasture
to become veal. I think maybe their villain
is the grass in their bellies.
In my dreams you call from the decade-old
landline that held our breaths until 3 a.m.
There, I can see you leaning on the blue wall,
saying you’re alive and so sorry. In the daylight,
I drive an earless cat home from the highway,
juggle this new obsession with nonhumans
alongside the old obsession with women and men
who insist on my wanting them until I do.
I do not believe you are here now and so sorry.
I believe the soreness of each woman
you collected is worth your warm, aboveground
body collecting more women.
That is to say I am inconsolable.
Every day a new definition
of inconsolable. Yesterday: I have a body
and you don’t. Today: your villain is a place.
Look, I tell her, how evenly you flatten a face.
Gospel for Missy During Our Three-Day Birthday Season
April 21—24, 2019
I rise on Easter to my thirty-seventh,
hear He is Risen and resent
his attention. Each morning I peel
the linen from my face without
an angel’s announcement.
Somewhere, not far, you keep
jumping from a mountain. Once,
you talked me from the same
smooth edge. Now, I eat olive
and fish, stay active by hiking
the foothills. On weekends,
I float the femur’s heaviness
in a heavier sea. This, Missy,
is not survival. When I ask
the villagers Why survive,
they look out at their boats.
Once, you and I spoke our own
gospel like mad messiahs.
The neighbors kept whispering
you were not a prince. We said
that’s the way of all heroes.
In three days I’ll visit the valley
of your bones, tell the ankles
to sprout cartilage and they
will not. I’ll return to the village
without the miracle of new hair
or tongue. Every night
the town holds a parade
for Lazarus. I can hear their lutes
from my bedroom. I can hear them
rejoice about who gets miracles.