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Negatives

Ilana Feldman

As my ex once told me, Baby, I don't think there are many, if any,
other people who can pull me up on my feet, all while putting me
down. He intended it lovingly, Im sure. Like the crescent scar left by
his teeth on the fleshy mound
of my inner thigh.

There are two


possible
scenarios;
either we spend
two years,
upwards of
seventeen
movie stubs,
a cat,
trips to your mother,
God-bless her,
or
you learn
despise me
down to
every secret
freckle
and curve.
My grandmother by marriage
grinds coffee by hand
in a great wooden
and cast iron cog
beneath the double-reinforced
New England storm window.
Skin like rice paper
folded over Irish bones,
Northeastern patience
and steadfast
disinterest
in progress.
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This is the house,


she has said repeatedly
into the rotary telephone,
she will die in. Alone.
This is assured
by the jar
of bacon grease
and pack of cigarettes.
Steak and potato people.
Marlboros and exclamations
of merdre and Sacre bleu.
Seasons break themselves
this rock, this house
without a patriarch.
I can only assume,
as she always has,
that she is right.

This is not a bedtime story.


It starts slow
with
mild symptoms, may experience minimal
discomfort similar to the adjustment
to
altitude sickness, occasional nausea, headache
and compression of that part of the
brain
that lets me see you as if it is always the
first time, that prevents me from being resentful
of the length of your eyelashes, and then one
day you wake up and discover
you
have
adapted
to
breathe
through
the
atmosphere underwater
strange
terrarium
experiment
this.
You learn its a much more
expedient
process
toward
intoxication
at
this
altitude.
This is not a bedtime story.
This is some shit.
Your hair grows long. Stop speaking
at
the
dinner
table. I lose my ass.
We mourn its
absence by fucking like animals. I wake up on
the edge of the
negative
space
between
your
arm
and
my
back. I begin asking permission to eat at the
dinner table. I begin to feel domesticated.
I
host a small rebellion. We pass each other in
hallways.
I am still naked every single time you look at
me.

feed me like a child does


play make believe
china doll
put me up and take me
down to
you like
low music like
hushed
nothings make me
want
make me require
more
than just the
I am
forbidden
thing

walking blindly begging our futures to forgive our present selves I say
better that than permission

Night II.
Seven summers ago in Paris
a friend and I, over a late dinner
of pain et fromage,
du vin et baisais,
agreed wed visit one
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of those places
near les Deux Moulins
and the Sacred Heart
of the old hillock,
fluorescent, naked women
against sheets
black plastic,
burly Malians spit dip
on streets already
lined with dog shit.
Inside find something
cherry coloured and secret,
except, of course,
we never did,
never graced the threshold,
just bumped against
the others hip girlishly,
recalled works by
Gertrude Stein consumed
at the bottom
of my back garden,
our forearms pressed
hotly together
on a shared hammock.
On the way back said nothing,
just adjusted
our summer scarves
so that the old women
drinking absinthe
at three oclock in the afternoon,
pearls in ropes
wouldnt know
we werent fit
to kiss their shoes.
I lay awake that
night,
listening to drunks
shouting dirty things
on cars
and garbage piles
in a language
that was poetry
devoid of meaning,
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wanting desperately
to possess
the words
to respond.

Hysteria
The first answer
to the open question
of the female libido was
weakness of the mind and
inherent medical mystery
that was the fairer sex.
Fathers bound
their daughters feet
to prevent them fleeing
their husbands
or pursuing lovers,
chattel, blood price,
the intellect
of children dangerous
in creatures
so secret,
so obviously intended
to be the demise
of man.

If youve ever seen the Venus de Milo then you know two things.
The first is that all mysteries eventually lose their attraction.
The second is that you still desperately want to tug the sheet loose
from around her hips. Historians believe that her left hand, had she
one, is grasping
the golden apple that incited the wroth of the gods
and the war for the most beautiful woman in the world.

We ignored
it. We fed it like a cat from our
hands till it bit savage.
Call me a bitch
one more time
Till it broke open and spilled
out echoes of love words, sinew
between
bone and
nothing
better to do now
but think
thoughts. We planted it
like a
tree and stoked roots
covered them with
mulch and prayed
that was all we
could do. We played it
like a whore. You
make me want to
crawl
up
inside it
become skin swaddle
cold no
more
faceless
no more I
borrow
yours
and wear it to town wear it
to
fuck someone else
in

Night III.
If I could Idve done it
different.
Gone out past nine,
past dark broke
open with
temporal vignettes
scenes of her pulling
down her
short skirt,
lifted off
porch roof
to sip beer cans,
disposed over shoulders
pitched
toward the steeple,
singing Mary. Maybe
Idve loved
a little more
the gospels
according to my mother;
the wisdom in the
warning I choked
with drags of smoke and
dregs of cock and
not a single thing
to brag about
but that the sound
of my own heart
seemed loudest
in the dark.

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