[Salvage / selvage]
Selfie Series (American Midlife Crisis)
Anne Carson says,
“It pains me to record this,
I am not a melodramatic person.”
But I am. I say, Let the ghost lights blink out our names
across the desert sky, let this be the last thing—
Cried every day, logged it:
Here, in the grocery store checkout line.
Here, driving past the fire station.
Here, in my office parking lot.
The year was unkind, but you:
the map, the territory, the coastline.
Surrender is a stupid word.
I drive past the roadside stand
where we used to stop for maps and coffee
almost thought I saw you sitting there
your wide stupid grin.
What did you want to say that night
The boardwalk is oversaturated
and blasted out.
I rubbed my eyes raw,
every figure was yours, every low voice.
My jaw ached,
my bones felt compressed.
I tried to work you off
like a stuck zipper.
Keening keeps me awake.
In the mornings, stiff-necked and tender-hearted
I use my own hands.
I cannot remember.
Coffee tastes like ash.
Water tastes like ash.
I dream you are burning.
I bury you then bring you back.
I keep repeating the word “stupid” like I just learned
how to use it, e.g.: I would burn your whole stupid house down.
Winter comes. Doldrums of ice.
Had the dream again. Dug long trenches in the snow,
dragged the bodies in, set them all on fire.
Soaked my sandwich in gasoline then ate it.
Tasted like gorgonzola dolce.
Let me be the last thing.
The palm of your hand pressed flat against my white throat.
Let’s rinse ourselves numb
in whatever cold grace is left rattling through these hotel pipes.
I don’t remember my father but sometimes I miss him.
Here, in front of the cardboard box into which I emptied the last of his papers.
Here, at the curb, with the trash.
Mary-Kim Arnold is the author of Litany for the Long Moment (Essay Press, 2018) and the forthcoming The Fish & The Dove (Noemi Press, 2020). Her work has appeared in Conjunctions, Hyperallergic, Poem-a-Day, The Georgia Review, The Rumpus, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. She teaches in the Nonfiction Writing Program at Brown University.