Poetry by Chelsea Bunn
When we speak her name, we are
so quiet, the air around us distilled.
He says, It’s worse at night, and I know
that means he wakes up, she’s gone
from the bed they shared for decades,
and he can’t stop sobbing. We are
standing in their kitchen, every-
thing of hers still in its place, even
her cell phone silent on the counter.
What color is this? he asks, and reaches
for my hair. I don’t move, my back
to him, my body tense in its own sorrow,
and I feel his fingers drift over the tangles
hanging down my shoulders. For a moment
I am in some other place, in danger —
of what, I couldn’t say — but I try
his grief therapist’s exercise, repeating
to myself I am here, I am in my body, I am
breathing, and then
I understand that all this is
is just one man
missing one woman, a loss
in which I play an incidental role.
It’s not mine, none of this is,
really, and he says, I’m sorry —
I miss certain things and I say,
I know, although I don’t, and he’s moved
away from me now, rifling through a cabinet
for tea, crossing the room to open
a window. It’s spring: a far cry
from the bitter January morning
when we buried her. The singular fact,
both a shock and a comfort,
that time moves on, that so much
time has moved on, and still so little, rarefies
the air sweeping in to touch our living skin.
I swallow flames.
like an atom, even
at absolute zero. I spin
like a leaf in a wind
tunnel. I deny myself
bread, meat, water.
I have no need.
My body knows
what to do to stay alive.
I soak up poison
until I erupt.
Do you think I care?
Watch me vomit
on a public bathroom floor.
Watch the rage
spill from my mouth
and watch me
turn away. I storm
just to say fuck you. I
thunder I cyclone I
monsoon. I disturb
a gravity wave born
by force. I keep
everything I feel.
I order my world
by sewing quilts
of blackened memories.
What is it
that I want?
Give me sweetness,
a steady hand
across my forehead.
what I deserve.
a dark room,
I will bear it all and then
come back for more.
I begged you not to let me go,
made you weep as if grieving
a loss on just your third day without me.
I sank myself inside
your memory, so that all
the men, all their faces,
the places you’d been, that long hour
in the evening, the prospect of being alone
drowned in me, blurred.
I wasted you. Ruined
dresses, whole mornings, a marriage,
almost. Left you
Wrecked you. Had you
believe you’d never learn to leave.
Turned you sour, an angry bitch at thirty.
Pickled you wicked, fearful. Let you
cheat. Took your balance,
took your time & blotted it out.
A black hunger at the core
of you I filled.
I made you ache
for me. Whispered wishes on your lips,
rippled cool beneath your
fingertips. Made you dirty, got you lost.
Watched you drive with one eye shut
in broad daylight, weaving
down the road that led to me.
When it came time to pay,
you felt ashamed — flushed,
you flickered weak &
trembled, your every nerve lit
by plain, absolute longing.