Today, a big new poem by Deborah Landau!
All Else Fails
Days, weeks, months,
why not use them for something?
I’m heading for a head on.
I’m revving up my so-called self.
I know my life is meaning
less. Strutting around
for awhile until poof.
Everything gets more and more absurd.
The office and deskchair, the skin on the neck
eye cream, love, the handholding and bungled
attempts, watching the clock all night 2 am, 4,
then daylight, sitting in my dress again
with cup and plate.
To work to work then back again
to bed, another night.
I read Pessoa and he confirms
my worst suspicions.
I read the entertaining novels
and they make me happy.
I sleep beside the river.
The river often sleeps when I’m awake.
Sky, water, I have not had enough of you.
Better be shoving off again and into the night.
More and more it’s deliciousness I want
but all the time there’s less and less of it.
What the hell do you think you are doing?
You should find something definite to subscribe to
so as not to keep drifting tossed aimless through the world like this.
At the party Stanley said for now factor in
gratitude, narrow the zone and see your life
which is what we call it as if it were a real thing.
I wear my street clothes. I accept the parameters.
Don’t shout drink some wine at night
work is what is offered and sometimes love.
Another time there was ecstasy,
though many things went laughably wrong.
Those who don’t feel are happy, says Pessoa.
Those who don’t think.
The night has advanced. We figure in it so slightly.
Down the ice chute we go.
Say goodbye to your eyes in real time.
Get ready, get set. Say goodbye
to your synovial fluid. Your knees
will wear out in no time
won’t hoist you nowhere.
And now our luck has changed.
There are a lot of hells in this room
but I put on my girlface
and we go to a café we have dinner
we creep into the night and hide
such a slight place we find
we can duck into it and not worry
it isn’t yesterday or tomorrow
it is only for a time.
We plan to meet again later but.
He keeps me waiting
and I start hysteria a little bit.
I start hysteria against everyone’s advice.
I go into the street to drink air.
I’ve never been so thirsty in my life.
Another mouth, some fresh minted lips.
See, I can feel blue on half a bottle of jewels.
Sleep then wake then this then that day
and another night back on the bed
lying in an eros dumb and slackjawed.
The sound of hustling advances and retreats
as if someone were shuffling money
or unbuttoning a blouse.
Can you put that taffeta away now, please?
Please put it away.
As soon as he sits down I can tell I want to.
How long can I sit here not doing the thing
I want to do. All the youngish men all the etceteras
of desire etcetera.
There’s a little hole in my boot.
Could you put your finger in it.
There is power in breathing.
There is power in a silent beat
before answering a question, in a leaning in.
But puts down her foot
every time (monogamy) you mustn’t be
strident cheri stop that.
Across the table his mind right there
behind his talking face.
We are in a dirty place now when we get together.
We made a nasty city and have to walk in it.
Before we were wider wilder avenues but we made it too cramped and ugly.
Nowhere to go to tea. Only gin here, damn it this cramped and narrow
space and no god at any gate and no goodness.
Now our bed is not ample not fair. Now
we don’t have a bed
only this corner blackred and backlit.
Something of me is a blind point, something of him too.
There’s a little edge of pain here and we walk along it.
Don’t cry don’t kiss me either and also don’t stop.
That’s the way he looks when he wants to watch.
Why don’t you go swoon yourself again into some fantastic
mood music. I am a small cup with a twist and you are liquid. A drink.
I’d rather watch you doing it than do it myself,
I’d rather hear about it, I want to be told,
I’d rather read about it, I’d rather just sit here.
Hold the mask over my face
while you do it to me.
I’ll put on some music.
Now see how we grow aglow
so young and beautiful
all our capillaries lit up.
Deborah Landau is the author of Orchidelirium, which won the Anhinga Prize for Poetry, and The Last Usable Hour (forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press). Her poems have appeared recently in The Paris Review, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, TriQuarterly, The Best American Erotic Poems, and elsewhere. She directs the creative writing program at NYU.
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