The Poetry Project


Kay Gabriel

Dear Jo:

Good morning, I’m shallow, sleepless, irrepressible. Does that endear me to you? 5 AM in March, wind smacks the skylight and hustles refuse over Flatbush like somebody’s idea of a Zeitgeist. Hi it says time to nap but instead I’m writing testaments of what and who I love— Mike is sleeping in my bed warm and furred like a cat with a beard and a tattoo sleeve, maybe he would resent that description, I can do no other, I’m awake in another room achieving nothing in the second person singular, hello.

I do it for God and the television, with a promiscuous heart. I do it with prosthetics but à propos of anybody with an opinion about them: you are forbidden I want to say from evaluating my component parts, I am an atom, fuck a metonymy, fuck a catalogue. First I composed that sentence, then I felt myself get eyebanged by every guy with a beard on the subway platform, don’t think, Jo, I didn’t sometimes return the favour. Mike’s gone now, who brought me Oreos and spooned while I dreamt my nipples turned into mice and died, it’s spring and I’ve been eyeing every aging wonder boy in the park plus his leanly pumping quads, their sprigs of magnificent hair, there’s even crocuses, furious purple delicate violet contemptuous yellow, now I’m on a train, hello.

My imaginative lusts riddle bullet holes in the side of the achievable. Have you ever wanted to get fucked by an abdomen, an armpit, a couple of peddling legs? My preferred position with Cam for instance letting him piledrive my face from above, I lie down on my bed like a failed porn actor, I can imagine the camera fixed on my dewy lined eyes the bottom half of my face obscured under a cock and a tremendous cupid’s bow my cheeks sharp enough to be an architectural instrument as both of us try to remember our lines—but from this POV it’s more like sex with a wiry frame and faded punk tattoos. Halfway into Jersey anyways and I’m I thinking about your letter, poem, whatever, “All I Want by Joni Mitchell,” where every paragraph begins I want. I is the letter’s only person, want its only verb. It’s Monday morning, what do I want? The flourishing of bees and grasses, never for anyone to pay rent, for the landlord to stop, for fuck’s sake, spying on us, also a backyard, “it all … the whole world,” to speak veritably about no appetite, never again authenticated, no more bad-faith prurience no more AWP, my done taxes, a living wage for CUNY adjuncts, no moving apartments no falling to pieces, various men, if only they could finger, only some items impossible some are consequential, I fill up the tank and say goodnight and go, I could go on.

Patty Schemel writes in her memoir she joined Hole after “Doll Parts” was already cut but wrote a new drum line for the end and can still hear the more ambitious resonance of her snare in the final 16 bars or so sounding a hollow trench for Courtney’s appetite I fake it so real I regularly dream I’m in a band but of course can play no instrument instead I writhe on stage exacerbating attention my face flushing well really my ears and my own desperate hot need to be seen, dear Jo, you get me.

So what if I want to be embarrassed? Usually I feel like telling anybody your dreams feels like showing your ass to strangers, well, so what if they look at what will probably bore and maybe severely excite them and won’t be any real scandal. Last night dreamt of being flat, ran all night to the top of my own dimension, night before the dream about the mice, then I came into possession of an immense stash, pursued by dream police I hid my ketamine in the pastel candy shop of other pharmaceuticals—even in dreams I can purloin a letter!—but the cops in my head got wise to the trick, even to a daring cinematic escape down a garbage chute where a “man with facial hair tries to recall my identity.” By train through Jersey no spring here yet everything brown enclosed backyarded, and what have they done with my full stops, the Wawa in reach, I’m Dunkin, I’m somebody’s sugary kid.

Call embarrassment less a discomfiting bug and more an intransigent object of megafixation, a hot flash an indisputable even if unconfirmed certainty of occupying somebody’s attention despite themselves whether in vexation mockery or aimless arousal though maybe now my sense of shame a fruit rotted on the vine like for instance to trick myself back to sleep watch videos of anybody else eating things I can’t or won’t like soups and noodles, foods on a stick, McDonalds breakfasts, lunch meats, eggs fried into toast oh hell as in a letter from or season in a staycation in hell Good hell morning I haven’t slept again I think I’m amorous infrastructure

Jo I think you’re a lyricist of infatuation and I’m a geographer of arousal. What, if any, is the relevant difference, how will we be graded, I’m a slice of cake and cream, I’m Michelle Trachtenberg in Mysterious Skin and you’re my malfortunate Joseph Gordon Levitt, we applaud each others’ poor decisions, late for work again goodnight you run up my phone bill I lie for hours in the hot water we toast with our remaining vices and make up about it, mutual spectators in the tragedy of semi-notorious men. Does that endear me to you? We’re on the run from one to another parking lot, one of us a cavalier drifter with life by the balls, the other a neurotic but the better driver, with hair “the colour of eyeliner” which am I? You’re a caramelized peach, poached, juiced, even at a distance so inconvenient it’d take a day to reach you by bus on several tumescent roads.

Can you hear me where you sleep? Dear Jo. I want to fingerfuck my boyfriend in this bar, and I want you to know I’m thinking about it. Surprise!

With love at a boil,

Issue 15