It only would’ve lasted
until I knew for sure-
fascination ended by
an answer, at last-
a thirst for the truth
to settle things
in their right place:
The gears would turn,
try to paint it in different lights-
the liar, the troubled, the confused-
which mask would it come down to?
But I didn’t expect
the least interesting mask of all.
The least helpful, least true
this mask of spared feelings-
to dishonor with lies
for fear of the hurt.
“Was any of it real?
Was it always in my head?”
A half-truth implied for protection.
A flimsy excuse to keep using.
I placed no blame on the blameless heart,
but the mouth who said nothing
and kept eating, who kept
accepting gifts, so easily
You were just an open box
I couldn’t pack away
because I didn’t know what
to put in it.
No friend should ever lie
no one who needs
should use so much.
I put a flask
and a pack of cigarettes
and a mask-
welcome to the junkyard.
If my head is a snow globe
and figures frozen in time
are all I can keep,
are all that will last in the end,
then when you and I fade away
we’ll always be dancing.
Like museum scenes we’ll stand,
other eras surrounding,
all those who turned into wax,
all the ones who turned into
somebodies I don’t know.
The man who was young
when he bought me a ring,
before he knew we couldn’t
grow up ’til we said goodbye-
he and I, in our underwear,
will always be playing Nintendo.
The man who was lost
when I found his heart,
when we’d hide from the truth
of an ugly world behind dumpsters,
there he and I will stay,
shooting milk cartons
with our slingshots.
The man who understood
what my pen tried to say,
tucked into a cabin
with the snow falling down,
so calmly I’ll always be
and he’ll always be painting me.
And you, the man who
I hardly knew, took my hand and
brought a reckless, lively joy
in your temporary wake-
you who were a gamble
that bloomed for me
under colored, flashing lights-
though others come
take their place in my snow globe head,
you and I will remain,
On your map there is a white space where I live-
nothing but the whisper wind and the flecks of rubber
where you erased.
It’s a normal world here that you forgot,
the family’s doing fine,
our white-washed coordinates in full color
hid under the bleach blanket of your mind.
But I have not forgotten you.
You’re in airplanes all the time-
do you look down and wonder
what hurt you so much
just beneath that blank white space?
I have heard about landscapes, covered in snow
which can hide all the ugliness, all the unrest,
which can paint a more picturesque scene,
that they put on the covers of Christmas cards-
but pain uncovers a map
and life deserves more honesty than that.
Fly over my white space and know
that I remember.
I surely am glad
every thought that I’ve had
has been secretly hid in my head.
If a thought was a note
every thought ever wrote
would be easily stolen and read.
And just think, even worse,
tied in bags in the hearse,
every thought you had rather not said
would be read at your wake
for remembrance’s sake
to haunt you long after you’re dead!
Do you ever stop and think of how little I matter
the way I sometimes think the same of you?
Do you find your heart ever soothing itself,
convinced that I feel no more pain?
Do you believe something that once mattered
cannot cease to exist;
like I don’t have to preserve you-
are you preserving me?
Do I flicker as I would mean to
in your seldom, peripheral thoughts-
do you remember?
To feign forgetting, a grievous shrill note
which will never be resolved,
a wisp of smoke which lingers
far beyond when the fire had gone-
it is no heartbreak but an itching scar,
a bell which peals forever.