|by Marilyn Hacker|
Maybe it was jet lag, maybe not, but I was smoking in the kitchen: six, barely, still dark: beyond the panes, a mix of summer storm and autumn wind. I got back to you; have I got you back? What warmed me wasn't coffee, it was our revivified combustion. In an hour, gray morning, but I'd gone back to my spot beside you, sleeping, where we'd stayed awake past exhaustion, talking, after, through the weeks apart, divergent times and faces. I fell asleep, skin to warm skin, at daybreak. Your breasts, thighs, shoulders, mouth, voice, are the places I live, whether or not I live with you. Fog hid the road. The wipers shoved back torrents across the windshield. You, on knife-edge, kept driving. Iva, in the back seat, wept histrionically. The crosscurrents shivered like heat-lightning into the parent's shotgun seat. I shut up, inadept at deflecting them. A Buick crept ahead at twenty-five an hour. "Why aren't we passing him? My Coke spilled. The seat's wet. You guys keep whispering so I can't hear." "Sit in the front with us, then." "No! I'll get too hot. Is the fan on? What time is it? What time will it be when we get there?" Time to be somewhere else than where we are. "What do we have? I guess we still don't know." I was afraid to say, you made me feel my sectioned heart, quiescent loins, and spill past boundaries the way blackberry-brambles grow up those tenacious hills I left for you. Their gritty fruit's ripe now, but oceans still separate us, waves opaque as oatmeal, miles of fog roiling between your pillow and mine while you say your best: sometimes, she's where your compass points, despite you, though a meal with me, or talk, is good . . . Where our starfire translated depths, low fog won't let you steer by sight. The needle fingers one desire, and no other direction can compel. If no other direction can compel me upward from the dark-before-the-dawn descending spiral, I drop like a stone flung into some scummed-over stagnant well. The same momentum with which once we fell across each other's skies, meteors drawn by lodestones taproots clutched in unmapped ground propels me toward some amphibious hell where kissing's finished, and I tell, tell, tell reasons as thick and sticky as frogspawn: had I done this, that wouldn't have come undone. The wolf of wolf's hour cried at once too often picks out enfeebled stragglers by the smell of pond scum drying on them in the sun. I miss you more than when I was in France and thought I'd soon be done with missing you. I miss what we'd have made past making do, haft meshing weft as autumn days advance, transliterating variegated strands of silk, hemp, ribbon, flax, into some new texture. I missed out on misconstrued misgivings; did I miss my cue; boat? Chanc- es are, the answer's missing too. At risk again, sleep and digestion, while I seize on pricklier strands, crushed to exude the reason I can't expect you'll ring up from your desk, calling me Emer, like Cuchulain's queen, to say, we need bread and some salad greens. On your birthday, I reread Meredith, whose life's mean truths inform, tonight, his text so generously framed. There'll be the next night, and the next, cold gaps. I'd have been with you now, lover and friend, across the width of some candle-lit table as we mixed habit and hope in toasts. Instead, perplexed by separation like a monolith bulked in the rooms and hours I thought would be ours, I practice insensibility. We crossed four miles, three thousand. You diminish now, on a fogged horizon, far away. Your twenty-fifth was our first class Tuesday —will one year bracket us from start to finish? Will one year bracket us from start to finish, who, in an evening's gallant banter, made plans for new voyages to span decades of love and work around a world we'd win? Wish was overgrown with fears; voyages vanish with empty wine bottles and summer's paid bills. Lengthens the legendary blade between us: silence; hope I hope to banish; doubt, till I almost doubt what happened, did. Chicken from Zabar's warms, and frozen spinach simmers, while Iva writes a school essay: "Both Sides: Everything has an opposite . . ." sucking her inky fingers and her braid, and I read Meredith, on your birthday. "Why did Ray leave her pipe tobacco here in the fridge?" Iva asks me while we're rummaging for mustard and soy sauce to mix with wine and baste the lamb. "Because cold keeps it fresh." That isn't what she means, we both know. I've explained, there were no scenes or fights, really. We needed time to clear the air, and think. What she was asking, was, "Why did Ray leave her stuff if she's not coming back?" She leans to extremes, as I might well. String beans to be sautéed with garlic; then I'll toss the salad; then we'll eat. (Like menopause it comes in flashes, more or less severe: why did you leave?) "Now that you know you can, the city's full of girls—just notice them! It's not like pull- ing teeth to flirt," she said, "or make a date." It's quite like pulling teeth to masturbate (I didn't say), and so I don't. My nice dreams are worse than nightmares. As my eyes open, I know I am; that instant, feel you with me, on me, in me, and you're not. Now that you know you don't know, fantasies are more like lies. They don't fit when I try them on for size. I guess I can, but can't imagine what I'd do, with whom, tonight. It's much too late or soon, so what's yours stays yours. It has until now. That, you know. Who would divorce her lover with a phone call? You did. Like that, it's finished, done— or is for you. I'm left with closets of grief (you moved out your things next day). I love you. I want to make the phone call this time, say, pack your axe, cab uptown, kiss me, lots. I'll run a bubble bath; we'll sing in the tub. We worked for love, loved it. Don't sling that out with Friday's beer cans, or file-card it in a drawer of anecdotes: "My Last Six Girlfriends: How a Girl Acquires a Past." I've got "What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted" run on a loop, unwanted leitmotif. Lust, light, love, life all tumbled into grief. You closed us off like a parenthesis and left me knowing just enough to miss. "Anyone who (I did) ran down Broadway screaming, or dropped in Bryant Park in a faint similarly provoked, will sniff a taint of self-aggrandizement in the assured way you say: so be it; then she cut the cord; hey, the young are like that. Put yourself on main- tenance, stoically, without more complaint? Grown-ups, at least, will not rush to applaud. They won't believe you." And he downed his Negroni. Who wants to know how loss and sorrow hit me daily in the chest, how like a stone this bread tastes? Even though lunch is on me, he doesn't. Home alone is home, alone. (I'd reach for Nightwood, but she "borrowed" it.) Did you love well what very soon you left? Come home and take me in your arms and take away this stomach ache, headache, heartache. Never so full, I never was bereft so utterly. The winter evenings drift dark to the window. Not one word will make you, where you are, turn in your day, or wake from your night toward me. The only gift I got to keep or give is what I've cried, floodgates let down to mourning for the dead chances, for the end of being young, for everyone I loved who really died. I drank our one year out in brine instead of honey from the seasons of your tongue.
Dog Star / A Creative Arts Guide
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Image above: Vik Muniz
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère after Édouard Manet, from the Pictures of Magazines 2 series, 2012.
Out of the refuse of modern life—torn scraps of outdated magazines, destined for obscurity—Muniz has assembled an ode to one of the first paintings of modern life. Édouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, painted in 1882, explores the treachery of nineteenth-century Parisian nightlife through the depiction of a bartender attending to a male patron reflected in the mirror behind her. Muniz plays on Manet’s style, replacing Manet’s visible brushstrokes with the frayed edges of torn paper and lending the work immense visual interest.
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DOG STAR is the creation of a high school English teacher in New York City. This blog began in 2008 as an online community for a journalism class and has since evolved into a curated site on the creative arts, arts-related news and a guide to free and low-cost events for teens. Our mission is to offer teens real-life options for enjoying all the creative arts in New York City. May wisdom guide you and hope sustain you. The more you like art, the more art you like!