Peter Pan and the Pledge of Allegiance

I wanted to sew my shadow to the sole of my foot,
little beads of blood at the base of neat hemming stitches.
Not because I was afraid of separation.

I wanted this necessity.
I wanted something
strange and familiar.

I look down and it too is flicking a page,
a tangle of hair bobbing
just slightly in the air-conditioning.

I want to know you,
and I want you
to be unknowable.

I am the others [the pretty, cheaply-scented girls with neat, compact
calves, the gaunt boys with long, elegant fingers blunted with calluses].
I contain them I and strain to touch their separateness.

There is a knowledge
I can only get by brushing
your arm on accident.

It’s like we’re all reciting
the pledge of allegiance,
divisible like the moon,
like the face of the clock,

solemnly pronouncing
our indivisibility.


A Valentine’s Day Poem After Reading Mark Strand

The meat of my heart
and the meat of your heart
can never meet.

They are plugs in closed systems
enclosed in closed systems
so that you cannot trace
their tracery, map their trajectories,
or monitor their levels
of order or entropy.

We are pressed together—
dried flowers, forgotten book.
We press for knowledge,
thinking we might know
of each other what
we cannot know
of ourselves.

George Bell’s Silence

You may have thought of yourself
as of a piece with the possessions
you gathered, rather like the heron
flying with one twig wedged within
its commissure, and flying again,
the whole action becoming a map
of the gathering, a map superimposed
on a nest, each twig a record of place,
each ring within each twig a record
of arboreal growth. Your apartment
was just such a map, but when you died,
all of it, and you too, no longer belonged
to yourself—you all belonged to the state,
to the city that issued a parking ticket,
veined with creases bent in by the wind.
But now the debt represented is forfeit,
and your neighbors, once perturbed,
have put aside their vague disquiet
about the engine never roaring to life
with the great gusto of combustion.

Your apartment was just such a map,
but when you died, it evaded sense;
now, who could ever comprehend
the take-out boxes, months/years old,
careening in towers, or Real Mayonnaise
containers queuing up on the stove,
or how you might have chosen your tapes
[the criteria], or why you never ceased
buying long strands of Christmas lights,
or tire-pressure gauges or ironing boards,
or the piles of unopened greeting cards,
or the streaks of grease, cured like sap
and red as rust, that paint the pale faces
of your appliances, or the bathroom sink,
unusably full of full bottles of cleaner,
sitting like tributes on an altar, fetishes
containing the spirit of cleanliness?