Answer from Jenny the Muse
—after James Wright
Though you wish I’d never whispered
my come-ons in your ear,
I hear you, Come up to me.
Come up , you say, up to where the body
is number—measurements of time
and milligrams, where the body is a counted
alchemy of needle and blood.
It’s not that I expect you
to come down to me, I know you
will, you must, and I know you love
and despise me for thinking of you only
sometimes, and you call, keen
and wish, too, that my breath never
came through your mouth—that our breaths
that speak of the end of things in one full exhale
stopped and started.
Yes. Come down to my bed, away from your florescent
night, bleach and Stargazer lilies. If you come
down, who needs the smoke curl of my voice?
But down here, you wouldn’t listen,
it would be too easy to hear
in the moss dark and repeat
from below and above—an ear given
to each world. I am your melancholy,
your nostalgia. Face down, my eyes closed
in mud, trees shaped like men dance
in the history of dark, echoes of a black static.
There’s the flat bind of sulfur
and a fish smell, salt and wild onion—the sharp damp
of green. My skin tastes rich like iron.
So come down. But let me tell you, if you’ll just listen,
let me explain—now, with you up, me down—
you chase me down, seek to hold my wrists, reduce
me to a page. You think to contain me
to a woman who can be kept,
but I am the breath you turn to catch.
You can’t let me be
that woman you sleep beside night after night.
I tell you, let me lie separate.
If I hear you right, your voice—
spilling the red words of drunks and thieves,
lilting and bitter—your voice, my voice,
I am your calling.
Your wants are Germanic,
guttural, single-syllabled and blunt
like the stone that you could strike your neighbor,
store clerk, representative, ex, husband, lover
over the head with—leaving a gash, a wound, a line
of blood, stark down the cheek. Want is teeth
inside you. And here you thought you’d evolved,
learned how to contain, spell, round and draw out your words, soften
them with sibilants and tongue. Yet nearly forty, and they still come at you
like stones, like fists, though you’ve never felt a fist hit.
Cursed at? Yes. Screamed at? Yes. Accused? Yes.
Told to fuck off, kiss ass, called those single-syllables that the polite
shouldn’t repeat? Yes, yes and yes. And likely because you’ve kept others
from theirs, from thighs, flesh, belly, lobes, bend, crease, each word
a blow to the gut, each worth at least a stone, or a stone fist, flung,
they pile, stack, and the low and lean break through you,
rattling against the back of the eyes and the knees, demanding release—
a rash would do, or a gash to the eye, a bite to the tongue,
or even just the red bloom of the cheeks.