Love in the Time of Apocalypse
It’s winter of the year I paid $1.95 for a paperback copy of Lear1.
The boys go to jail, their mothers go to church, the library burns
in January and we take for granted its eventual rebirth.
I never imagined that our future
would be like this. Had I known,
I would have bought the whole bookstore, I would have carried
its weight on my back — each night taking one book in my hands
and always one more waiting. But this is the vocabulary I saved
instead, these four thousand eighty one words:
The __ gone by __, the __ out that __.
The __ black, the water __ groans, I become
__ for the last of the light. Stay with me. __ this __
with the sound of your __ on mine.
[ when what I mean is ]
The highway’s gone by February, the electricity’s out that week.
The refrigerator’s black, the water heater groans, I become
greedy for the last of the light. Stay with me. Fill this library
with the sound of your thighs on mine.
In the end our throats go hungry
and we ration speech how we ration food — there is no story
but this one and we forget the language of worship. We follow
the wreckage to the edge of the town and commit one another
to memory — nothing remains but we fall to our knees, we speak
the only lines that we know:
“My master calls me, I must not say no.”
(King Lear, 5.3.323.)
1 Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Ed. Alfred Harbage. New York: Penguin Books, 1970. Print.
Vital Organs Missing, 11 p.m.
[ Serious side effects may include trouble breathing. ]
I called because I can’t come to your bed tonight. No, I’m afraid not. I don’t have any lungs, you see, and my chest will collapse if you touch it. Yes, I know I seemed fine this morning, but it’s easier, before dark, to make do with such bodily absence. To gather the grass and leaves from the ground and mold them in my hands like a bird’s nest. Yes, of course I do it when you’re not around — you shouldn’t see that breakable latticework, the way my ribs reach out for something to hold and are given instead a prosthesis made of that which was once alive. Yes, I remember. I remember how we slotted together last night, how we survived on the fat of love. But it doesn’t work that way — your mouth can’t do what lungs should do, you can’t filter the air as it enters me. Wrap your lips around me and I am still negative space. Fill my body with yours and I am still empty
in all the ways that matter. Of course I’ve tried breathing. Do you think that’s something I might have forgotten? After years
of living like this?