4.11 / November 2009

But There is Genius in Their Hatred

The man who killed himself in my bathroom is
no longer in the bathroom, though he is in the dark green
stink-taste of the water faucet, the torn
window screen, the still cracked door.

I can’t stand over my razor without feeling
vertigo. Same with the tub. Through the window, I see
ominous trees, maybe oak. Squirrels grinding
their teeth in the sun, deer licking the knees of fawns
in the wild raspberry patch, chipmunks, foxes, rabbits.

He dropped his one year old daughter off at daycare
and went home. They’re the ones who called his wife. There
were clues, though obviously not obvious enough. He was
sick, which is a way of making mythology; the magnets
in my eyes repel the magnets in his; it’s okay. I can’t help
being born with magnets. Neither can he; it’s mythology.

At night, I imagine the leaves crossing the shadowed windows
are his fingers, the branches are his arms. The thud
of the dehumidifier downstairs is his body, dropping
to the tiled floor, dripping, still half in the tub. The air
conditioners are full of bile.

I lie, waiting for the thrill of fear as the eaves leak his lymph
on stifling nights, but nothing. The moon is still dead; the days
are just names. There is nothing in the library downstairs
but books, and he is just a story with a name no one remembers.

The Boys

tied rebel yells to their truck antennas
when they cruised the loop at Sonic.
They drove up slow and made sure
they weren’t alone before turning in.
Couldn’t be too safe from gangs,
they said. If they caught a black kid alone,
they’d drop off their girlfriends for safety
and follow him, force his car into the parking lot
of the old Jitney-Jungle, two, three trucks
full of grinning, yellow-toothed white boys
with bats, brass knuckles, wrenches. A couple
carried ropes for a joke. Mostly, they’d laugh
while the black kids beat feet.

In the school parking lot, they untied the flags
from their trucks so they wouldn’t be suspended
and stalked the halls bragging about the tooth-necklaces
they were going to collect as soon as somebody
stood his ground. They talked about getting tattoos
but couldn’t decide between crosses
or flags—they needed something to set them apart.
They’d never hide their dignity under hoods
like their daddies, they said, never march
on city hall to be ridiculed. They smoked cigarettes
in the parking lot, picked fights
with the skinny freshmen, but dropped their eyes
when the older black kids strode by.

Differences Between My True face and the Stolen Faces I Encounter Outside

1. A lack of whiskers and yet a general scratchiness.
2. In the place of eyes, teeth.
3. Cream for cheeks. Also, texture.
4. Styling of hair. Cleanliness.
5. A certain Romanness of the nose having never been broken by supposed loved ones.
6. Multiple eyebrows.
7. Zipper lines.
8. The invitation of love.
9. Divisibility by seven.
10. Feathers. Softness. Purity.
11. A belief in hard work and Christian Values.
12. The tiniest of holes around the abnormally puffy lips.
13. The inability to smile or experience joy.
14. Lack of blood beneath the surface.
15. A sense of worth betrayed by price tags stylishly sewn into the back of each head.

They Come Out of the Rain

They have no shoes. Their toes curl like clenched fists. They live on a diet of chocolate and blood and never share. We hand them paper as offering, and they take our fingers. We try to teach them to dance and they drip on our carpets and stare. We try baking, leasing mineral rights quite reasonably. They have no interest in the things of the belly or hands, only what’s beneath each. They smile while they peel our faces, chuckle while they guzzle from our throats, guffaw loudly while pureeing our organs. They sniffle in the heat of our common rooms, leave muddy trails on our stylish white carpets. When there’s nothing left of us, we rise and follow them out into the drizzle, chocolate in our pockets, coldness beneath our skin.

4.11 / November 2009