Authors: Richard Siken,Louise Gluck
Tags: #Romance, #Non-Fiction, #Gay, #Modern, #Poetry, #Contemporary
The Torn-Up Road
Litany In Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out
A Primer For The Small Weird Loves
I Had A Dream About You
Straw House, Straw Dog
Saying Your Names
Planet of Love
Driving, Not Washing
The Dislocated Room
You Are Jeff
Snow and Dirty Rain
Note: this is compiled for educational purposes only and NOT for resale or profit. Formatting is
as close to the original typeset as possible. Louise Glück's introduction is not included within
this document due to lack of online availability. All poems belong to Richard Siken, © 2005.
Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake
and dress them in warm clothes again.
How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running
until they forget that they are horses.
It's not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,
it's more like a song on a policeman's radio,
how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the days
were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple
to slice into pieces.
Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it's noon, that means
Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we'll never get used to it.
There are so many things I'm not allowed to tell you.
I touch myself, I dream.
Wearing your clothes or standing in the shower for over an hour, pretending
that this skin is your skin, these hands your hands,
these shins, these soapy flanks.
The musicians start the overture while I hide behind the microphone,
trying to match the dubbing
to the big lips shining down from the screen.
We're filming the movie called Planet of Love-
there's sex of course, and ballroom dancing,
fancy clothes and waterlilies in the pond, and half the night you're
a dependable chap, mounting the stairs in lamplight to the bath, but then
the too white teeth all night,
all over the American sky, too much to bear, this constant fingering,
your hands a river gesture, the birds in flight, the birds still singing
outside the greasy window, in the trees.
There's a part in the movie
where you can see right through the acting,
where you can tell that I'm about to burst into tears,
right before I burst into tears
and flee to the slimy moonlit riverbed
canopied with devastated clouds.
We're shooting the scene where I swallow your heart and you make me
spit it up again. I swallow your heart and it crawls
right out of my mouth.
You swallow my heart and flee, but I want it back now, baby. I want it back.
Lying on the sofa with my eyes closed, I didn't want to see it this way,
everything eating everything in the end.
We know how the light works,
we know where the sound is coming from.
Verse. Chorus. Verse.
I'm sorry. We know how it works. The world is no longer mysterious.
An all-night barbeque. A dance on the courthouse lawn.
The radio aches a little tune that tells the story of what the night
is thinking. It's thinking of love.
It's thinking of stabbing us to death
and leaving our bodies in a dumpster.
That's a nice touch, stains in the night, whiskey kisses for everyone.
Tonight, by the freeway, a man eating fruit pie with a buckknife
carves the likeness of his lover's face into the motel wall. I like him
and I want to be like him, my hands no longer an afterthought.
Someone once told me that explaining is an admission of failure.
I'm sure you remember, I was on the phone with you, sweetheart.
History repeats itself. Somebody says this.
History throws its shadow over the beginning, over the desktop,
over the sock drawer with its socks, its hidden letters.
History is a little man in a brown suit
trying to define a room he is outside of.
I know history. There are many names in history
but none of them are ours.
He had green eyes,
so I wanted to sleep with him
green eyes flicked with yellow, dried leaves on the surface of a pool--
You could drown in those eyes, I said.
The fact of his pulse,
the way he pulled his body in, out of shyness or shame or a desire
not to disturb the air around him.
Everyone could see the way his muscles worked,
the way we look like animals,
his skin barely keeping him inside.
I wanted to take him home
and rough him up and get my hands inside him, drive my body into his
like a crash test car.
I wanted to be wanted and he was
very beautiful, kissed with his eyes closed, and only felt good while moving.
You could drown in those eyes, I said,
so it's summer, so it's suicide,
so we're helpless in sleep and struggling at the bottom of the pool.
It wasn't until we were well past the middle of it
that we realized
the old dull pain, whose stitched wrists and clammy fingers,
far from being subverted,
had only slipped underneath us, freshly scrubbed.
Mirrors and shop windows returned our faces to us,
replete with tight lips and the eyes that remained eyes
and not the doorway we had hoped for.
His wounds healed, the skin a bit thicker that before,
scars like train tracks on his arms and on his body underneath his shirt.
We still groped for each other on the backstairs or in parked cars
as the road around us
grew glossy with ice and our breath softened the view through the glass
already laced with frost,
but more frequently I was finding myself sleepless, and he was running out of
But damn if there isn't anything sexier
than a slender boy with a handgun,
a fast car, a bottle of pills.
What would you like? I'd like my money's worth.
Try explaining a life bundled with episodes of this--
swallowing mud, swallowing glass, the smell of blood
on the first four knuckles.
We pull our boots on with both hands
but we can't punch ourselves awake and all I can do
is stand on the curb and say
about the blood in your mouth. I wish it was mine.
I couldn't get the boy to kill me, but I wore his jacket for the longest time.
I take off my hands and I give them to you but you don't
want them, so I take them back
and put them on the wrong way, the wrong wrists. The yard is dark,
the tomatoes are next to the whitewashed wall,
the book on the table is about Spain,
the windows are painted shut.
Tonight you're thinking of cities under crowns
of snow and I stare at you like I'm looking through a window,
You wanted happiness, I can't blame you for that,
and maybe a mouth sounds idiotic when it blathers on about joy
but tell me
you love this, tell me you're not miserable.
You do the math, you expect the trouble.
The seaside town. The electric fence.
Draw a circle with a piece of chalk. Imagine standing in a constant cone
of light. Imagine surrender. Imagine being useless.
A stone on the path means the tea's not ready,
a stone in the hand means somebody's angry, the stone inside you still
hasn't hit bottom.
The Torn-Up Road
There is no way to make this story interesting.
A pause, a road, the taste of grave in the mouth. The rocks dig into my skin
And then the sense f being smothered underneath a sack of lentils
or potatoes, or of a boat at night slamming into the docks again
without navigation, without consideration,
heedless of the plank of wood that are the dock,
that make up the berth itself.
I want to tell you this story without having to confess anything,
without having to say that I ran out into the street to prove something,
that he didn't love me,
that I wanted to be thrown over, possessed.
I want to tell you this story without having to be in it:
Max in the wrong clothes. Max at the party, drunk again.
Max in the kitchen, in refrigerator light, his hands around the neck of a beer.
Tell me were dead and I'll love you even more.
I'm surprised that I say it with feeling.
There's a thing in my stomach about this. A simple thing. The last rung.
Can you see them there, by the side of the road,
not moving, not wrestling,
making a circle out of the space between the circles? Can you see them
pressed into the gravel, pressed into the dirt, pressing against each other
in an effort to make the minutes stop --
headlights shining in all directions, night spilling over them like
gasoline in all directions, and the dark blue over everything, and them
holding their breath --
I want to tell you this story without having to say that I ran out into the street
to prove something, that he chased after me
and threw me into the gravel.
And he knew it wasn't going to be okay, and he told me
it wasn't going to be okay.
And he wouldn't kiss me, but he covered my body with his body
and held me down until I promised not to run back out into the street again.
But the minutes don't stop. The prayer of going nowhere
His shoulder blots out the starts but the minutes don't stop. He covers my body
with his body but the minutes
don't stop. The smell of him mixed with creosote, exhaust --
There, on the ground, slipping through the minutes,
trying to notch them. Like taking the same picture over and over, the spaces
in between sealed up --
Knocked hard enough to make the record skip
and change its music, setting the melody on its
forward course again, circling and circling the center hole in the flat black disk.
And words, little words,
words too small for any hope or promise, not really soothing
but soothing nonetheless.
Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out
Every morning the maple leaves.
Every morning another chapter where the hero shifts
from one foot to the other. Every morning the same big
and little words all spelling out desire, all spelling out
You will be alone always and then you will die.
So maybe I wanted to give you something more than a catalog
of non-definitive acts,
something other than the desperation.
Dear So-and-So, I'm sorry I couldn't come to your party.
Dear So-and-So, I'm sorry I came to your party
and seduced you
and left you bruised and ruined, you poor sad thing.
Your want a better story. Who wouldn't?
A forest, then. Beautiful trees. And a lady singing.
Love on the water, love underwater, love, love
and so on.
What a sweet lady. Sing lady, sing! Of course, she wakes the dragon.
Love always wakes the dragon and suddenly
I can tell already you think I'm the dragon,
that would be so like me, but I'm not. I'm not the dragon.
I'm not the princess either.
Who am I? I'm just a writer. I write things down.
I walk through your dreams and invent the future. Sure,
I sink the boat of love, but that comes later. And yes, I swallow
glass, but that comes later.
And the part where I push you
flush against the wall and every part of your body rubs against the bricks,
I'm getting to it.
For a while I thought I was the dragon.
I guess I can tell you that now. And, for a while, I thought I was
cotton candy pink, sitting there in my room, in the tower of the castle,
young and beautiful and in love and waiting for you with