Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Map of Amsterdam

The Map of Amsterdam 

What does love search for 
if not to grow wings 
and become a hermaphrodite. 
Is it not the obsession of the loved one 
to burn your summer
until you cook like escargot and die?

(I was kneeling in front of him,
my mouth on his hardness.
His knees trembled and swayed.
When I looked up 
his eyes were closed
and he asked: Do you love me?)

Love, immobile happiness 
of the swamp.
Who was he to my intimate places
to ask me that discomforting question?

Did his wings carry the same dark dirt 
as my map? Had he found my scent in Paris
and lost it in the canals of Amsterdam?
Had he found that place in me—
the where,
where he could always return?

I had fallen in love with a man 
who had a name to protect. 
I shut myself in the bedroom for days 
buried under shame.

Friends brought me look-a-likes,
but it only made me smell of bitter sweat
and dead gardenias. 

I’d listen to them speak
as if from a far distance, eyelids heavy, 
like stones swollen with salty wetness,
cheeks flushed as if with fever.

After a while, they’d find a hollow place
inside themselves and crouched there
until the storm around me abated.

Then I’d sing spirituals and tell stories 
of birds and people with thin hearts.

Meanwhile the man with a name to protect
would walk around the city punching 
every glass window he could find

until he’d reach my house. Friends 
let him in. He’d sit on the edge 
of my bed and trace his finger across the recess
of my ass. Everyone in the room would disappear,
leave the two of us together. No one ever
heard us talk— two lovers above time and space.

If you look closely, you’ll see a blood stain 
on the letter W on page 2 of my map of Amsterdam. 
And on page 10 you’ll find the same stain on the letter H,
page 18, the letter E, 19, the letter N, 22-L, 24-O, 27-V, 29-E, 
and D- O-E-S on page 35. On page 41 N-O-T and G-I-V-E, 
page 47 L-I-F-E, page 53, I-T-‘S O-N S-A-L-E.
What became of so much love?

It was 3pm and the pedicurist stabbed 

the corns on my left foot.

My skin 
was the perfect page 
for the imprint of your fingers.

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