Heart Inventory

What’s in my heart?
Searching for the right
place in the blanket, for the inside
of my knee, little dogs
shaking it off and making themselves
upright after almost doing the splits
while being walked on a leash,
ornaments from trees,
shivering, splintering promise
kept like crazy.
The patience it takes.
The ease down the lane.
These lists to say: beauty.
Soft yellows.
Sometimes ‘down the line’
means after death.
Sometimes the only thing
that makes a poem a poem
is its corniness, literally
that’s the only thing.
That’s not in my heart.
It’s a bunch of boys
in bands, it’s a lawn of
bocce ball, spaghetti,
handmade, string of lights
draped outside, it’s a baguette,
never eaten, always fresh,
it’s ice cream covered by
espresso, it’s three more
things that I’m holding in
my hands, it’s being in there
afraid of the dark, clutching
ibuprofen, quotes by Rilke,
and Kahlil Gibran.
Books half-read, underlined,
and many sides of people when
eye contact was avoided.
It’s a heart full of fear,
and a long train track,
and a single match,
cigarettes, pumpkin pie,
dandelions, meditations
on furniture design, and
Carl Jung. It’s picture after
picture and my face looking
progressively better. Full of
instructions for not being
a creep. It’s a canny choice,
a done deal, flawless comic
timing, ah, haha! Huzzah,
the clattering of a tray
of silver to polish, a jigsaw
puzzle to recreate. It’s the cool
light of a monster truck show.
It’s the underneath feeling
that lives like lining among
everything sensitive. Would it
be mean to water plants
with ice, or just flirty?
Pastels begetting pastels.
A rambling scam that amounts
to love repeated in various
forms. Sign here. Freud’s death drive,
driving in the slow lane behind
someone without insurance
going forty. And a language
that breaks itself to keep going.

The Type of Woman Men Befriend

Some men want a woman like a ghostly
reflection over a lake. I’ve tried this.
That’s not a woman, that’s a wraith.
Other men think I have something
and they worry they won’t get it.

To them I am some secret found
on an obscure branch.
Around them I can say roll up the window,
I’m cold
and they are astonished
by what I say about music.
My hands are beautiful.
They think about my exes, my feet.
They ponder a chance to break my heart.

When I wake with smeared chocolate candy
on my pajama pants and the sheets, they laugh.
They draw pictures, cook from scratch.
And when they go, it’s me I miss.

The Night We Sat at the Pinecrest Diner

Even writing this feels like a future jinx, but this week
I dreamt of this friend gone, who is not gone,
but we don’t speak or see much of each other
except in internet worlds that may be fancied
extensions of even more strained realities.
Why is he making his house look like an old Italian restaurant?
I am not long for these long sentences, but I want to explain.
Eight years later it seems that by confessing my feelings,
he was gone because I broke the unspoken ease
with which we had been hanging loose as close friends do.
Readers, just because you’re in love, don’t say it.
Even now when he comes around in memory, he is brighter,
bigger. He has perfect posture. Memory lets go of little things like voice
but keeps the widow’s peak, the books he recommended
that I recommend to other men now, and what was said,
word for word. Can you blame me if I catalogue what is lost
and found imprinted on me? Some sense of Boston
because he has an ex from there. A Bernese Mountain Dog
because his mom had one. His last name written in pencil
on a Neil Young & Crazy Horse record he loaned me.
I took it in my hands and found out it was his dad’s.
The era he harkened back to made him unlike people his age.
The seventies he knew well. It made him dreamy,
and his quietness made being tall and handsome
calm for everyone to see. What was lost by saying I liked him?
Everything then—and a hundred dollars
because I bet against him liking me back;
but he said he liked me too, and couldn’t be with me.
I’m still waiting, if this week’s dream says so.
Though he sometimes made fun of poetry
and years have killed other hopes, I still feel the same
as I did the night we sat at the Pinecrest Diner.
He walked in holding a baseball and a mitt.
I keep writing poetry and it never gets better.
When the ticket taker at the movies asked him
what movie star he looked like I was proud.
And when I paraded him in front of the prettiest,
wittiest blonde I knew, he wouldn’t talk to anyone at dinner but me.
Everything reminds me of that type of external beauty power.
The last time we wrote he said he quit smoking out of spite.
His word, not mine.