Amy Herschleb

A POEM CALLED A POEM FOR JASWINDER BOLINA

I keep my pride in this pocket, a lint cradle, next to an apology I never got
and directions to a place downtown I’m not welcome anymore where they watched me
sign the ledger with a look I know too well to call indifference.

you name all your books after things I say, and that’s my favorite:  You Name All Your
Books After Things I Say. one is I Try Not To Misrepresent Myself. one is I’m Reserving
All Sympathy This Time.

you wear pride on your sleeve like it’s the sleeve of a shirt made of no other
characteristics. I’m not going to tell you what else I was doing that autumn we met. I
put it in my book under the heading Things I Will Never Tell You right after Things To
Do Other Than Go To Chicago but before That Which I Will Now Do. most of these lists
are about arson, parking lots, bad faith, the best ways to get tetanus, recent funerals,
the death of love, the hills of Ohio.

there’s no secret, I’m just withholding what I have to say until someone else says it
first and gags on it. I am offering you photographs of these objects and calling them
Proof: a bus transfer, a button, a dogwood tree, a house with no electricity, a list of
the lists I’ve made.

Things I Never Wrote Down Because My Hands Were Shaking, Because My Chest
Was Shaking, “I adore the way the light shakes when you’re near it,” I don’t know what you
said. You said, “you look so fragile behind your rabbit-proof fence” but there are no
holes in it.

*

*

THE TITLE OF THIS POEM IS A SECRET

look what memory makes of us, pinetree,
bones in the bathtub fail
to illuminate you unless they are burning or chandeliers, your gloom
gobbled my gloom, the marrow made a sucking sound

grass grows in the tablecloth yard
stitched with the evergreens we name tombstones, look
that ghastly look, the grisly green-grey rising dawn,
lymph and Lyme sluggish in the wings, pleats
of flesh limblike

holes in the roof
of Hell & little wonder it leaks, the rope road, the descent

I took all my southernness to bed with me, under
quilts sweat & soundless, I took a hammer, the way

a cut into the haunch will reveal our
classic assumptions. a cut buddy will reveal
what tacit feelings remain under subcutaneous
anger. this sliver of tenderness left in the backstrap.
this capacity of hurt in the wrist’s ligature.
You held my broken ankle by its stem and sipped
from it, the smashed
look of lips against the screen door and the rips in it

all rottenness around, plum thickets stinking of plum pulp,
birds hidden in the grass like meat Easter eggs, fur
strata of mulch, blood in the whiskey, possum screams
severed backbone fury, out-cheated and out-deathed,
a feather cut, mud in the beds, oak leaves, left
tannin in the wells.

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