“Death is not a gentle falling asleep as I once believed. It’s brutal, hideous, and foul smelling. I wrap my arms around myself and rejoice in my youth and my health. Otherwise my youth is nothing more than a deficiency and a hindrance that I can’t get rid of fast enough.” —Tove Ditlevsen
I believe is not a phrase I use. It’s a guess with heart
but I’ve scooped the meat from mine out, a bell pepper
denuded of seeds. On a plane, the boyfriend gropes
at his girlfriend in such a way. I am seen for what
I haven’t done, a sequence of negatives that make sense
in exposed light. I went a year without starting a poem
with “I” and it was like removing all the forks from my drawer.
The work we do is necessary, I say in a commanding voice.
I am exposed to the light. I scatter and descend. I tell a man
I have lived in the present so long it has scorched me.
This is a lie. Out the window, snow-capped mountains,
hard as a fact. I can hardly make sense of topography,
that is, a positive so real it temporarily dulls me. I think
I could reach down and stroke the mountains like the spine
of a kitten. I think I belong anywhere at all. The boyfriend
in front of me wears a black nail for a thumb, his elbow
greasing his neighbor’s belly. I’m trying to be as alone
as possible. A dark cloud over a peak, a sex toy forgotten
in a drawer. I want to be better than the acid in my throat
but it will eat me when I die, each wretch a threat, a thought
called up. Later, I’ll follow an illegal trail through the dunes,
fox scat and crushed Glaucous egg, a torn seam in the Pacific
where men putter on ATV bikes to dead bonfire sites, a longing as cheap
as a Goo Goo Dolls song. I am willing to call such things belief.