In one story you wash up
on a cold shore, your blue lips parted
around hidden pleasures-
and even sodden, scrubbed by salt, cocooned in thick plastic,
you blonde and you starlet;
it’s my hope that a handsome
agent of the FBI
will investigate your death,
determine its mystical origin,
but until then, the real story:
you just didn’t wake up.
There are many ways to die
but I thought yours would be in a Daimler,
practicing an aria
just before your cream cashmere scarf
spooled around a tire, winching you into the sunset.
Or maybe you are covered in gold leaf
your bottom shining like a good idea,
because we breathe
through our skin, or no,
we live because our skin
might one day be accessed
by a spy’s methodical hand.
No amount of excess beauty
can make up for that hand’s withdrawal.
Let us be naked in every way,
absent of adornment,
and when the story’s end asks for you
let’s say you were only kidding,
part your mouth again and let a measure slip
like a kimono off your shoulder,
cross and uncross your heart
with plain speech integrity,
and hope not to die.
ELISE IS NOT ATLANTA OR ATALANTA
She’s not a gate left unlatched.
The garden is not one
where the tree branches brush the ground
because the fruit is so heavy,
and she’s not that rotting sweetness
or that fermented juice,
she’s not the monkeys
pawing it to their mouths
or their drunken stumbling after.
She is not a golden apple
or the lust for possession.
She’s not the foot race that ends with her married off,
and she’s not the lion skin she wears
because proper thanks were forgotten.
She thanks the wedding guests
who brought so many presents.
The vacuum that never loses suction.
The immersion blender.
The golden apple rolling down the aisle.
that crowd the shore.
who tear her away
and the man who tosses her over one broad shoulder.
She is not the beauty this implies.
She’s not a face that slips
the ships from dock.
She doesn’t race after an apple
for knowledge but would to forget.
She does not apple, ever.
She’s not Peachtree Street or Peachtree Street or Peachtree Street.
She’s not the Majestic
serving food that pleases.
She does not please.
ON SLEEPING WITH ELISE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE EX-HUSBAND
Consider the imperatives.
Drape the leg. Fan the golden
hair up a freckled flank, the taut
belly, calculate through juniper, through sloe
and the faraway chime
of ice and highball
how high to sprawl
up the bed to show reticence but not so far
as to avoid touch. In the next room
the party has deteriorated,
there is a penchant
for ironic porn
on the television, for wistful techno
swayed to by stragglers,
the dregs swilling the dregs.
Here there is a locked door.
Here there is a man
standing with full
awareness, in his hands
trained on the two women
who have the look of desire
if not the exact color of it,
who are aware of his eyes and their own,
and once so observed
are no longer pure
in their actions,
and who proceed
with a procedural thoroughness
and little pleasure,
although there is some pleasure