I, like Degas

After five rum shots,
Degas tried to paint keyholes
left handed. He saw

ballet women bend
in bathtubs, heads turned away,
hands in their hair and

feet in the water.
He carved the keyhole too thin.
He tried crawling through

but caught himself. Instead,
humming like mosquito wings,
he climbed the staircase

and, on the top floor,
Degas imagined dead bugs
around him, like spring,

when gnats catch in the
kitchen window screen and you
leave to run a bath.

Lay Over

Sleeping with you is like sitting in a platform or terminal:
so much of my time spent in transport, anticipation,
thinking of bus stops, airports, train stations, hands
hoping to catch their connections, strangers in a small room,
foretaste thick in our mouths, and the window’s landscape
blurring into the simplest, primary colors.

Between locations, my mind wanders and colors
us with thoughts of a terminal
destination, the final landing where I will crawl into the landscape,
unfurl my limbs, and leave baggage behind. Still anticipation
of bus stops, airports, and train stations will leave me craving a room
with the familiar smell of almond lotion and familiar hands

to return me.  I will watch the clock, measure the second hand’s
slow progression and wait for the late trains to come in full color,
the long moan of their horns translating my thoughts to the room,
“I must come/I must go/I must come.” And your body is a terminal
I arrive to, a connection I make briefly, a rushed departure. Anticipation
calls me to new highways, runways, train tracks and landscapes

and I cannot stand still. For brief moments the land escapes
beneath me as I speed past, beyond the grasp of even your hands,
but I always return after i leave, quietly, knowing your anticipation
has been building, knowing you are not a building, knowing true colors
should not always be shown. You do not understand my terminal
impatience but I do not understand how you can live in the same rooms.

Sometimes, even under high ceilings, I feel too enclosed. There is no room
for me and my elbows in your small apartment, so I flee to landscapes
and open spaces. I sit on hard train seats and wait for hours in terminals
only to eventually come to you and wait for hours at your hands,
hoping that the eventual arrival will break into me with color
so compelling it will undermine my transient anticipation.

Yet i am still haunted by the many unvisited places, anticipation
creeping under my skin in areas you cannot reach, enticing me to roam
past bus stops, airports, train stations, your body, until all colors
blend into the same brick and brown and I cannot distinguish landscapes
from bodies or the open night sky from my own open hands,
and I can only recognize the familiarity of sitting in an airport terminal.

The Pepsi Challenge

In a blind taste test in 1975, the Average American preferred the taste of Pepsi to Coke. When asked why, she could not be certain, but hypothesized that Pepsi tastes sweeter. The Average American likes sweet things, especially artificial sweetener, especially Pepsi. She likes the metallic cut of the carbonation, the way it soothes her sore throat, the way it goes down roughly. Last year, the Average American consumed 152 pounds of sugar. The Average American is trying to reduce her sugar intake, but she likes sweet things, and she doesn’t think of apples as sweet.

The Average American is 36.6 years old. She went to college, doesn’t have a degree, doesn’t own her own home, but owns a car, a Bible and more than one television. The Average American used to vote for American Idol. She watched it weekly, drinking Pepsi on the couch. The Average American is chronically dehydrated. She doesn’t drink water much anymore. It doesn’t taste like anything but her saliva. If she could, she would turn her saliva into Pepsi syrup, swallow most of it, spit some of it up, give some to strangers. The Average American has kissed 28 people and wants to kiss more.

The Average American does not like her body. One fourth of it is dieting, one sixth of it smokes, one third has credit card debt, half is divorced, one sixth doesn’t have health insurance, one eighth has been raped, and all of her is so very average. She stands in front of the statistical mirror, inspecting her reflection for dividing lines across her stomach, her thighs, her neck. She cannot estimate what a percentage looks like. The Average American is 25% body fat. The Average American thinks she is overweight. She is trying to reduce her sugar intake. She drinks 150 gallons of Pepsi a year.

If the Average American unraveled her large intestines, they would stand at eye-level. She could wrap her small intestines around her waist six times. If she could hold her stomach, it would fit in the palm of her hand. She could pry her fingers into its opening and look inside. She could keep it in a mason jar, keep 2 liters of Pepsi in it, drink from it when she needed, but keep it—keep it on the other side of the room.

Φιλομήλα

There is a trowel in my left hand
as I unearth Philomela’s tongue
from the garden I’ve been working
all week.

I see her red blade first and, thinking
it is a weed, I try to grasp underneath,
but it is too deeply imbedded
in the soil for me.

I think of my own tongue, recently
buried by the onions like a bulb
in full sun. It has yet to take root
or even begin to bloom blood

like this one. I think it was buried
upturned or in infertile loam,
already germinating spines
of dead poems and mold.

When I finally break Philomela’s
long tongue free, I lift it with my glove
and expose the network of lateral
roots extending down indefinitely.

During analysis, Catherine Deneuve

unhinges her jaw and eats the antelope whole,
hooves first. For the rest of the day, she hums
and extracts small hairs from between her teeth.

The sun, like a camera flash, catches her best angle
as she digests, imagining the wide open plains
of the therapist’s upholstery: a couch, an ottoman,

transparent curtains. She holds her stomach
and thinks, “I’ll keep the horns. I’ll put them
in a vase with water and pink tulips.”