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My Head On Fire, Dull But Glowing
christmas tree head on fire william carlos williams.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Head On Fire, Dull But Glowing
I

A miniature salamander rears
his tiny head in the halls
of discordia praying a mantra
to stand for the supple flag
he hopes reveals our segues

And really, I am only talking
to myself in the hidden corner
of this café because no one else
can hear what I’ve just said.
That woman’s a genius
and I want more than anything
for her to know the use of position,
more than anything, I want to know
the position of her hidden position

I walk the sidewalk backwards
in turquoise slippers of dust mites
beside graffiti taller than me
and on a whim in an adjacent alley
a rapist makes his third hit this week

Our Christmas tree this year
is a kind of metal thing with lights,
and I’m lying about us when
we’re only me and the four-legged beings
toe-tapping shadows across
my one-room apartment

Everyone knows what the world’s all about
and for prophesies in rapt attention
they fashion speakers from used tin cans
and we pay with our rapt attention

After days over days of shoveling,
it comes down to
a matter of longing
and the emotions we stretch to hide
the strength of longing
and her quiet ability to bury
its enduring company

Longing whispers like a whisper
back in the mirror at 3 a.m.,
a shot in the dark
with the light turned toward
my head on fire, dull but glowing
in the middle of a shrink-to-fit silence
in the middle of existence
staring back wistfully in silence

A newer longing freezes my face
as smoke signals from my ears
spell out my most intimate secrets,
the point of which is lost or muted
to anyone paying zero attention
to re-run spin-offs of reality television

And the smoking embers peddle
these softly-padded slippers
forward then backward again
retracing my historical progress:
when I leave this malleable planet,
which questions should I ask?

Was the grass scratching my tender
soles stroked and fed enough?

Did the strangers in my building
hear my passive voices?

Is bearing witness the same
as standing aside with cigarettes
on lonesome streets in movies?

I, who do not smoke, bend at
the waist to leave pieces of silver
in the cracks of my own wake,
lures to seed stranger distractions

II

If love is an answer, how long is the question?

I don’t forgive or mistrust the law.
I am an acute public citizen.
I often excuse sin
and doubt its real relevance.

My breasts will never make the magazines,
and I stand smitten by supplemental shame.

The law heeds no boundaries
and I long for a country
that keeps the perfume of death
out of my back pocket.

How is it that no one ever died in my presence?

Outback, the turnips bury their bodies,
preparing for their resurrection.
More than most fruit, they rot
to the skeletons and their bones
become vapors eluding the steps
treading their graces.

Lengthwise, I inhale bacteria and ache.
My relatives are all marrow and blood
over innocence to me.

The air in my palace is heavy with night.

III

As a child, I climbed the nursery school fence
where Tommy sliced his arm in two
on the razor top
we had so tenderly avoided.

I am telling this, above all else, a true story.

I possess regrets I avoid in repetition.
Blueberry jam never soaks in
and the toast tastes drier than bread.
My kitchen is a woman’s nest
of anti-domesticity, of anti-cooking lessons.
I told my southern uncle about my mess.
He promised me a wife this forthcoming holiday
and blessed my smoldering head.

Above all, I am repeating a true story.

The ancients have gathered outside
my only door. I am at home
in the open hand only.
Through the peephole they look like
the statues of granite reproductions.
I hear Archimedes profess, “Eureka,”
and remember, at least, that
a cook can never leave
her rice alone in hopeful isolation.

By now, I have fallen asleep in love
with a person of ephemeral dimensions.
The sandpapered walls sound
hollow without my usual absence.
As the sun softens its part,
my breathing vibrates intention.
I am the nexus of a pendulum motion,
a hand back and forth
in goodbye and hello emotion.

Tomorrow, my darker hair ages
in honor of the woman who gave
her body to science, who fell asleep
at the wheel, exacting her donation.

Between the pauses of retreating ancients
stand the imminent spaces of genius,
and from today on,
I wave my salamander flag
for these burning recognitions.

 

©Amy King. All rights reserved.