Do tell me, Anaïs—
Does love’s indiscreet hungering ever wane?
Will lust’s obscene loitering ever cease?
Should it feel as anything less
Than siphoned lightening?
How does one appease the devils who dance
In the rafters of recanted memories?
Do beds have ghosts?
Do eyes have ciphers?
Do hearts have cards?
Do tell me, Dame de érotique—
How to be like La Belle Dame sans Merci
Little birds, faery’s song, et-al
Teach me to be a hedonist
To bequeath my animus to absence
As the shaft of the quill relinquishes the ink
Help me unlearn the words that stir
The reveries in my anatomy
The attractions the size of galaxies
The names embroidered in the veins
It still burns on the tip of my tongue
It still runs like venom in my vertebrae
Why must it haunt me so?
Even in the throes
Of a utopian placebo?
Within me, without me
The framework of extravagant tragedies
Do tell me, Ms. Nin—
When does the torture end?
How much company, exactly,
Does abject misery entertain?
Is love not but a gossamer moth
Drawn irrevocably to flame?
Is it not but a dragonfly
Hypnotized by its life’s own cruel brevity?
Is it not but a honey bee
Who expires dutifully with a sting?
Is it anything more than a peony
Having begun as just a bud
When tended to courageously blooms
I’ve grown quietly accustomed to deluge, too
I am a girl
On the verge of submersion
Dovetailed in undertows
That beckon me like molten gold
Naked and willingly dazed
My spine raised like a draw bridge
Above the feathered mattress
I have contorted in the penumbra
Of billowing drapes
In the strange shape of unanswered longings
Anything to ease that ache
But the pulpit of flesh finds no respite
In the empty hours
I have memorized the anemones and stilted heron
The weeping wisteria trellis affixed
The goldfinch poised on juniper berries
The resin as it drains from the wild ginseng
I have counted the snags in my stockings
An accounting kept for every tear
Where the primal telegrams of his hands were declared
I have monogrammed every stifled whimper
Each a scarlet thread
Tethered in the space between
My heart and my head
a. duncan, 2019