Sometimes intimacy only means no elsewhere:
that June I dutifully read The Golden Bowl,
swaying to & from the job on the crowded
Lake Street el, at first bored then repelled
by Adam Verver’s incestuous clinging.
Every night I’d tear fifteen pages more,
staple them into a throwaway daily reading
of love’s duplicities. Days, I wrapped toys
at Goldblatt’s, my touch sticky
where I’d glued shut paper cuts or thumbed
snakes of tape around gift toys
while Chicago’s impatient moms or dads elbowed
each other into frenzy. On the el-ride
home, Verver bought his daughter an Italian
prince or the shopman wrapped
our novelist’s flawed golden bowl into
a symbol, sure to break later.
All around me cramped passengers shook
in & out of pairs; basted with one another’s
sweats, they tried not to look at faces,
but I read faces while I used James
to fend off a heavy woman in stiletto
heels as she wobbled in & out of libidinal
balance. Someone behind me wanted to tear
off my shirt. A man cursed in two languages.
some of us just smolder, some burn.
Intimacy makes its heat by friction—
The wolf from an adjacent story
would pursue him if the dwarf didn’t,
but at last the feverish child
is asleep, & as you inadvertently open
your mouth against the animal
& flower pattern on the child’s bed-sheet
against which you too lie, but inaccurate
& too big, you too begin to breathe your way
into sleep. Fever is switchbacks
& sweaty going, uphill—even a cough
loosens the leaves on the trees
until you must redo the dream for which
awake-life is only a displacement.
Breathe deeper into the sheet—in your sweat
& spit, the laundered-out animals come
back wet but vivid as you restlessly turn
to print your eye into the foliage.
blackened with sleep, the woods.
This way is the trail—that way,
Your own children bite your hands
to get at any fruit you pick, Farney’s mother,
our guide, warned about families, her voice
out of cadence with her hands, more knowing
than ours, quicker children’s hands.
Mother, we thought, nodded as she picked.
Later, Mother sent us into deeper
thickets from which the three of us never
looked back to the crawl-holes.
Our shredded clothes were spotted with
juice or bleeding, our voices unhappily
plasmic with berry-pulp as we screamed
to each other the insults jays utter,
mistaking other species for their own.
How clever jays seem, how like humans.
in bugs, the jays feed, heads tilted, alert.
Washed down with a sunlight tangled
Copyright c 2014 by Dennis Schmitz. May
not be reproduced without permission.