In It, I Loved a Man
My married friends will give me things. They will gather me from remember, and rescue my holidays when my wrinkles rich, ensconced by cats in echo. My skin is the sound of a period dropping to a page. Each morning, an ellipses stutter. It is April; the trees put their clothes back on. And yesterday, I was hugged, really hugged, for the first time in six months and I got dizzy on the soft. And then, a dream my legs were lightning rods. The city burned when I walked electric bridges in the Bronx. This is not a studio apartment, and I am confused to find a woman's heart beating in a man. His hands are a soft blue, safe as the skin of tangerines. And in these moments, I am remembering her. It has been six years since my last confession. I am brittle, but it's all of you I worry for. In a dream I saw what you look like, all ripple, a stone in water, pressing time away from your skin. I wonder how you look, aging, when it's taking me so hard. In a dream, the divine finger moves along your light-washed backbone, parting the stones of vertebrae. Elsewhere, I own dirt roads, Adirondack mountains, silence in the way my torso blooms when I'm alone, the shoulders, how they fold in on each other when there is this gnawing. I don't know what tenderness is, but you know how to raise it from my palms like exorcisms. In the face of a Rockaway tide, I want to grow small. I sometimes wish to grow in reverse. No one is alone. You have nets. Drop them. I cannot understand how I've arrived here. Underneath the water, here. A woman in a world of bodies, souls like the babies I'm afraid to hold, what if their songs shatter. What if I shatter another's song. I count my breaths so I don't take too many. I wrap the clocks in newspaper and place them in a safe. I name my body wrong so you'll name it wrong, too. Everyone's calm. Everyone's a believer. There is glass. A sheet. A hand. Some glass, the radiator's cold. Home. I don't know how to get there.
Looking Back on Sodom
You are my first, second, and final resignation. I was born. This means I die all the time when we meet. We do not meet. I die. My name turns to salt. We melt. I died. It fell through your mouth. You leaned for a kiss and you vomit my prayer. A residual ghost may appear as an apparition or it may simply be the repeated sounds of a door opening and closing, footsteps, or even voices. I am eight years old and asking God to give mom's legs back. He forgets. I turn into some kind of forest and I can't find my way out of her face. Before I died, I became obsessed with birdcalls and flowers. I spent hours thinking about the weight of air. We are light and variable winds. Grandma and grandpa are fighting again. I am hiding in the bathroom. If you pull yourself real small, you can stay warm and leave. We are walking to the stars. I want to fly south for winter. I don't go anywhere. We are walking to the Price Chopper. I am residual energy of waiting on the corner for the Binghamton Transit Buses of Eternity. We can't get back to where we started from. Your blue eyes walk me home. I lost the four digit passcode for home. We are the spring of angel-lipped little boys, waving and dropping from a pummel horse and into a pit of foam. I'd like to put it on credit, but I can't repay my debt of gratitude. We are twelve o'clock and sinking. Your hands pass me through, a phantom ship. Six o'clock is my final resignation. We are sloped downward into hills primed for the runoff. Everyone is everywhere green, so it is safe to cry where it is brown. We are not touching. Bird song, my feral resignation. We are everything happening outside the window. You are you, on an airplane to San Diego. I am me, wondering why I wake with cuts and bruises. I just need to keep it beige, boring as polyester curtains that tell the neighbors, "don't mind me, I'm in control, I swear, everything in this house is under control and no, that is not a fire." How are you doing? I am fine, thank you. We're not burning down, we're burning up. I'm not burning down. I'm burning up. I didn't want the world to end without you and it's not. You open to the world, your lives, the word. Water, be kind to me.
Leigh Phillips is an Assistant Professor of English at Hostos Community College with the City University of New York. She is currently writing an epistolary novel in verse, generously funded by a grant from the City University of New York Research Foundation.