All American Erotica: A .38 Slug in My Vocal Chords and the One That Got Away
      You say I wear a sleepy-eyed mask  
  
   on my back. There were two shots, one clean 
  
       
out the front; one a slow burn in my open  
   throat. We’ve come 
       
      a long way, learned to arrive  
at airports early, the easiest shirt to wear,  
   the quickest story.  
     
      At home, tonight, the blinds  
cut the light, the amber bottle in your hand.  
  
  
  
You’re in the corner of my eye, proof that it’s not  
   enough to live  
  
      thru long odds. A coastline of perfume  
  
   sidewinds its way off your chest  
  
  
and blooms its fist in the air above my head 
  
  
ii 
  
      Once, we pushed up  
to a bar and you said when you blink,  
   you see me  
    
      dead before we met. I watch you blink 
watch the surface of the world  
   close   the surface close 
  
    
over me. You brush past and out the doorway  
   and I catch a moment’s flood  
       
      of hallway light, and pause  
  
   while the pool of skin-sloped scent  
  
      becomes air. It leaves the shape  
of Istria,  
  
  
      my index finger finds Pula  
  
   but it’s already a crescent moon, windplay  
  
  
on a pond, then Thailand, Chile, the S-curve,  
   northbound  
  
      lane, South Shore Drive.  
The scent between us sheds its skin,  
   its song floods the basement  
  
      of my eye. I see it swirl up  
  
   the heel-scuffed steps. You blink and it takes the light 
  
  
iii 
  
      Every glimpse of you is a gift, flesh-flash  
  
   in deathchance that blew itself  
     
  
out. Straight thru me. I’m alive. This scent  
   from your breast 
  
      stalks itself thru the long odds 
of my body. You  
    
  
blink and I die. Blind tip. Your tongue can’t see  
   the hard-domed  
       
  
  
   entry wound high on my shoulder.  
  
      The one below, you say, looks  
like it’s sleep  
   with a half-open eye. One  
  
  
bullet’s still inside me. Dead metal  
   in my voice. You say that   dead metal   
  
       when I say it,  
  
   you hold the metal in your name  
  
  
like the bullet’s in your mouth, too heavy for its size 
  
  
iv 
  
      You blink and draw back  
like you’ve heard a two-by-four crack.  
   You say, for you,   
       
      it’s a red light boy with his hood up      die bitch 
you saw the kick push back his sleeve. 
  
  
  
His gun, jammed, is always there. Deaf click of an open O 
   in your eye. You blink again, slow and long,  
  
      always   and I stay dead  
  
   for ten seconds. Eyes closed,  
  
  
you say the imagination’s infinite, the chance  
  
  
      of meeting there unthinkable.  
I’m wounded in a way that makes me think  
    I can heal  
  
  
around the metal. You say no matter how  
   much heavier than its size  
  
      allows,  
it’s not enough. No  
   matter the metal, it’s no more than the sound 
  
      of sunlight and the taste of tin caught  
  
   in a bright sheet of water thrown across the grass from a pail 
  
  
v 
  
Like the shape of a scent, a voice with a bullet 
   in its chords will never  
  
      cover its shadow like lace  
  
   thrown over the top of a mirror. As far  
  
      as the mirrors go, you’re right.  
You hold one. I  
   hold the other and light blows pieces  
  
      of us thru the room. I watch you kiss  
the mask on my back. You wink a glow in a stainless 
  
  
      eye and scent shadows splay across the wall.  
You’re in your full-length robe  
   of precision 
  
  
and falling glass. I’m gone in blue light 
   thru a broken window  
  
      in your back, my limbs  
break the beam  
   into spectrums of useless motion. The exit route  
  
       
took a piece of my third rib, you  
   find the bone notch  
  
      with a finger and say this wound’s our fifth
nipple. It points away, rises     always 
   to reach where the heat of your voice comes from 
  
  
vi 
  
      The snare rhythm of Method  
and Mary from a passing car,   —foryourbodyandyourskintone   
   the wrong vowel’s a pain net,  
    
      a stress in a word can turn flock of knives.  
  
      I gauze your face with my hands  
  
   and every night we lost   what we lost   
       
  
while you blink pours its wing-footed weight  
   back over us.  
  
      Eyes open, I see you seeing  
me here. You blink. Pigments collapse   
   into a wound  
  
  
and lighten the skin around it. An orbit  
    
  
      of surf against an atoll the weight of your name  
                
   what we   
       
  
lost   in my voice. The sound of that car rounds   
   the corner, loops the block, 
    
      you’re all, I need—lie  
  
   together cry together—they’re police, you say, they love that song 
  
  
vii 
  
      I push you back, away 
from the light into velvet shadows 
   of the vestibule.  
  
  
Clouded liquids  
   from a bowed sky bent like real trust  
  
      move between our mouths.  
  
   There’s always this 
  
  
  
always between us. This metallic click. Our bodies 
   open and pressed against  
       
      the cold steel  
of the front door, the El train’s tremor, blue  
    
  
      flash, suspends us  
  
   over deaths, we wonder how, were not our own. 
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