YOU WILL BE SEEING UNIQUE ACCOMPLISHMENT
Around the turn of the century, a man named Ed Leedskanlin fell in love with Agnes Scuffs, a 16-year-old girl, in their home country of Latvia. They soon got engaged, but on the day before they were to be married, she left him, citing their ten-year age difference as the prime reason. He then moved to the United States, where in 1920, he began building what is now known as the Coral Castle: a massive structure including two obelisks, a tower complete with furniture, and even a perfectly-balanced swinging gate entrance – all made entirely of limestone and constructed solely on his own. Rare pieces of photographic evidence suggest that the five-foot-tall, hundred-pound man used practical methods, such as simple machines, to build the structures, but others assert that he must have harnessed secret or perhaps even supernatural energies in order to do so. Though Ed published many writings claiming that he discovered the secrets of the universe, he never divulged exactly how the Coral Castle was built, and his so-called “Sweet Sixteen” never saw what her scorned lover constructed in her honor.
it finally occurs to him,
as he leans on the wall of his finished monument
to love, that the girl ten years his junior never asked for
an obelisk, that those heavy stones he moved had done nothing
to move her, and she shouldn’t be blamed for the ache
that settles now in his bones.
but he’ll go on like being lovelorn is his only sin,
charging tourists ten cents to roam the tomb
of his heart, take pictures of the crude limestone slab
he called “bed” and cut to the length of
her unfinished body. and they will call it beautiful:
his love alone enough to lift those hunks of earth
into meaning; some strange, ancient magic.
ARS POETICA II
after a long night of crying,
you wake up with an entire durian in your throat
and retch it onto the empty half of your bed.
it won’t open, no matter how much you squeeze, and your life
becomes a blur of cold ramen and calling in sick
to spend the whole day icing your purpled knuckles alone.
so when you feel that first warm trickle down your wrist
it almost doesn’t matter that what you’re feeling is blood
or that it’s your own or that the fruit is still closed
and mocking you from on top of your desk,
only that it makes those friends who have never seen fruit
stop sighing like that, confuse pride with relief.
before you know it, there’s this boy begging
to lap what he thinks is wet sugar from your wrists
and you let him, pray to yourself it’s not poison,
then pray to yourself he never finds out that it is.
you fall asleep on a still-empty stomach googling
how to bleach that red ring around his mouth.
you blink, and now you’re stowing vials in your bra
at parties, selling shots to people with durians
tattooed on their ribs. you watch them weep
and dance on each other and then slip out
before anyone gets sober. at home, you kick
a sack of durians from your front door and admire
how the TV’s blue backlight makes your thin skin shine
like a Ziploc you can stare right through to your bones.
there is no empty side of your bed anymore,
just a torso of durians in various states of decay.
it makes you miss the boy enough to drive to his house
but find only the news
that he died of some slow-growing cancer,
and a goodbye note singing your praises.
that night you take off with nothing
but three dozen rotting durians on your back,
making one stop across town to pitch them into the bay.
it’s holy fuck and hell yeah and your legs
hanging over the dock and pitch-black water.
you’re going to change your name and move
someplace warm. you’re going to dry up
and learn, like you should have, to swallow.
two months later, in plano, your stomach engorged,
you wake up with this thing knocking
on the back end of your tongue
with nowhere left to go. you cough
and try to forget why it matters.
It’s hard to tell if I’m the aching or the ache
sometimes. I don’t always know
if I’m the guy or the empty fridge
he keeps opening, trying to materialize a snack.
I once found a chicken foot in a chicken finger
and tweeted a photo to the company.
Their response was a coupon for more chicken
like I’d still want it after that.
I once had a poet I admired tell me I would never be great
without him, just some girl with a boyfriend.
I told him off and then won a prize
for a poem I wrote about it. I once did some drugs
to forget about the drugs I’d already done, like you might
take another lover, hope they shake you with enough force
to dislodge the old one from your bones
like a gut punch to a popcorn kernel, and by that I mean
that even if you can breathe again,
there’d be a brand new bruise to deal with. I am
also the bruise. The doctor. The patient. The arm
he holds up every minute to see if it still hurts
I have lost track of the narrative,
the past and present just two buckets
dumping into each other at once. A pair
of hands attached I won’t look at
for fear I might see something I recognize,
somebody should have told me
you’re just supposed to sort of throw a rug on top of all of this
instead of trying to look at it closer
that was my mistake
just throw a rug on top of it
and build a really nice statement piece of furniture over it
and invite people over to admire your interior design skills
and call it a fucking day
it’s true: if you see one cockroach,
there are definitely more behind the walls
but you’re never going to kill all of the cockroaches
so you should just dispose of the ones you do find
and stop pulling up the floorboards