Monday Jun 24

VanLandinghamCorey Corey Van Landingham is a Wallace C. Stegner Poetry Fellow at Stanford University, and the author of Antidote (Ohio State UP). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, The Best American Poetry 2014, Best New Poets 2012, Kenyon Review, Narrative, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.

Love: A Relocation

X, before you, I carried boulders up mountains
then back down again. To my keep my hands

from hurting anyone. I didn’t sleep for a year
and considered myself a martyr. There wasn’t

a voice close enough to touch, only empty rooms
and fields I couldn’t help but with large rocks.

I chose months to stay silent for each
dead man I loved. I rarely spoke. The gutters

filled and broke; it all went under. I made up
funeral games for the spiders I killed with my palm.

There is a point, X, during a long winter,
when it gets hard to imagine yourself tomorrow.

A time when holding a lighter to the skin
makes no one a saint. Nights with only wild dogs

snuffling under the window, and the mornings
no sun could touch. So I moved in with a lawyer.

Then I lived with a scientist. Then I lived
with a woman who wouldn’t stop looking at me.

That’s you. When we moved, we chose a place
where if we screamed someone might hear us.

A city that exposes itself like a wolf not used to
being hunted. We burned our down blankets.

We were warm enough from touching
then stopped touching. Here, let’s be better

than we are. Let’s sing loudly in the market, paint
nudes of ourselves underneath the overpasses

like we don’t care who sees us. Sweet X, we care
too much who sees. Now you’ve gone quiet.

And all I can think to tell you is that
the room we are staying in was once vacant.

Love: An Intoxication

In the loosening light of a bar
where the couples will be immutable,
wound into a public jumble
by dark liquors, by dusty ridges untouched
and clocks that may have never worked,
a fake plant dies every night unnoticed
in the corner. X, I am your patient.
I am your lady of misrule.
I keep asking strangers
if they like the taste of their own blood,
and, when I get lonely, I try to remember
the shapes of countries and their
resemblance to clouds. I try to remember
that Voltaire’s heart and brain
were embalmed separately. I’m always
creating shapes a person might fit into,
but all my people keep breaking.
The women in the bar wear their clothes
without knowing all the fabric shops
I haunt, fingering the silk like I, too,
could be a thing of grace. Someday
I won’t shatter watching other people touch.
I won’t bring you melancholy objects
and think of that as being your dog of love.
I’m absolutely modern in my being alive,
though may have never worked quite right.
Twice I’ve woken up and forgotten my name.
Once I laughed when a man said making love
and he called me a mean drunk.
The only flowers I’ve received
came with a note that said you’ll be sorry.
So I keep apologizing to the couples
for my face. The men reward my modesty,
the women blush into their highballs.
I want to buy a prison
for all these sleek people and be
their hardworking guard. I want to be
captured for an eternity
in the gold-framed mirror of a dive,
to own something everyone else
has touched. Call me greedy, X,
reserve a seat for me, but I’m galloping
up to strangers and telling them
that Homer means hostage,
that the photographs behind the bar
are just a duplicate world, and couldn’t we
be sweet in that alternative,
light the bar on fire, shimmy ourselves,
brûléed, into a stained hotel room,
a cloak room, a vacuum store.
We could be anywhere and nameless.
X, see how the world opens up
when it’s on fire. See how
love makes me, alone, your arsonist.
The highway we take to get out of this place,
all the counties touching but divided
by names. X, cut me off. Sing
a song to bring me down.
See this door that leads up to the roof?
We could gather all the couples
grazing at their drinks, stand elbow
to elbow underneath the fog and make
ourselves into the night mercurial and endless.
People could write books about us,
a fleet of names divided by touch.

Love: An Interrogation

This would be the time to ask X if love was the means
or the end   Beside the fire she built herself   what exactly
did she desire   The embrace   or the display of embracing
A man behind the towel to be wrapped around her body
stepping naked out of the lake   or the acknowledgement
of future dryness   Did the cormorants merge to catch
the fish   or was it just a nice surprise   wings touching
And   when she dreamed about them later   how water
rolled from their necks to distinguish them creatures
not of the water   but for the water   was she the fish
or the fisherman   The droplets   or the dark feathers
that threw them off   Waking   hair still damp   fire
barely warm   what did she first crave   A man’s touch
Or that   if she were to drown   someone might see her