Dear Sister, After you went, a low wind warbled through
the house like a spacious bird, making it high but lonely.
When you had done the love came. I suppose it would. The
supper of the heart is when the guest has gone.
–Emily Dickinson to Mrs. J.G. Holland
In fear of death we lose out in life. We stuff an owl with arsenic and leave it totally
perfectly not alive in the study, like something coveted privately by Calypso, like the
greatest line ever written, embalmed with iron, staring down at us from the filing
cabinet, never read aloud. What makes us despair is the impermanence of beauty.
Until Nothing is beautiful we despair.
My sister and I write back and forth about mom. “Have you talked to mom??” “No.
Did you??” Mom is deep into Jewish mysticism. She sits in the second row of an Elie
Wesel talk at the 92nd Street Y. She takes elaborate notes and drawings in her
journal. The row is completely empty except for her. “I had the whole front row!”
she says. “It was bizarre. No one would sit by me!” Mom dreams about grandma. My
sister scrubs the table each morning before the children get up. She feels the insects
of the mind against her skin. They lay their precious eggs in her, they climb her, sac,
follicle and feeler. She labels the cupboards with instructions on how to feed
everyone. She writes about body confused, lost, undone. Writes about the currency
of children. Her neurons fire and smolder—she wants to be loved right. She
arranges the weekend away.
And of those ancient peoples just discovered, who constructed totem poles covered
in wolves and demons—where are their bones now? Or the genes, unraveled and
rewired, stretched like taffy—do they mean eternity?
Truth is always getting closer, vanishing everything possessed by inertia. When
grandma died her forehead perspired and a sickly-sweet odor filled us up, like the
calm urine of infants.
In my mind,
In my mind, in my mind for days
after there was only a nail when I closed my eyes.
A new, straight nail. Upright, un-pounded.
In my mind for days after: Antigone.
Antigone, whose portrait I was drawing as a horse that couldn’t be tamed.
A wild horse with goggles who disrupted dinner parties. Antigone, who couldn’t
stand the idea of her bother’s body out there with the wolves, and dug up a grave
with a shovel and her bare hands, all alone in the creepy night—
Antigone, whose sister wanted to row out into the darkest water with her—
Wicker and stovepipe, fluid and skin—the body, not assumed, lays still in the
love’s gross duties—it is a continuous bloom with a terrible fragrance.
There is nothing to stop you from taking it into your arms, telling it
it is a good.
At the Möbius Strip Club of Grief, come on in, the ladies are XXX!
If you want the skinny ones we got skeletons cracking ‘round
those poles. And over at the bar—there she is, with her breasts
hanging at her stomach—gorgeous with a shook Manhattan, and
murderous with a maxi pad. At the Möbius Strip Club of Grief all
the drinks are free. Grocery store rosé, in gallon bottles on every
table. And the dead don’t want your tips. They just want you to
listen to their poems. Don’t do anything potentially dangerous.
And call every once in a while. In fact, they tip you at the MSCOG.
With checks. With a sigh they’ll throw one down at your feet—
We make it rain with checks.
Then the dead are sitting down in the back of the club, dying
further. Sniffing. Shuffling into the bathrooms, holding their skin
in their hands, farting methane and sobbing across the stage
with their last meal—it’s the raciest show in town. And ladies,
there’s men too, hanging themselves on the bathrooms doors and f
rom the rafters, totally naked, with their cocks in their hands,
tears coming down their faces. Ladies, you’ll love how their feet
smell. How their bones protrude. How they leave no note.