by J.W. Baz
There is an old mayonnaise jar hiding under my bed,
every day I shove bad memories down its throat
like my own personal museum of things I can't
bring myself to forget yet.
It is brimming with words I wish I could force
back into my mouth, the taste of playground gravel,
the smell of police station coffee
the ride from the hospital
the lens flare a gun barrel casts in the sun
dodgeballs (lots of dodgeballs)
and of course, romance gone the way of the goldfish
I like to keep ex-lovers toward the outisde
of the jar. I watch them as they press their faces
against the glass and beat their tiny fists upon the wall.
Sometimes when I'm sure no one is looking,
I roll the jar inside my palm and play a game I like to call
If you didn't know better, you'd have thought I took out a personal ad:
Single white male, 21, relatively attractive, enjoys poetry; seeks female
willing to treat him like shit within the confines of a terminal, largely
sexless relationship built on grain alcohol and guilt.
I had to stop and ask myself: Is it a bad sign
when you visit her apartment for the first time
and there is a pregnancy test on the top of the trash?
Dear Number 8,
I went looking for your passport
Found another man's underwear
I hope your baby gets lupus.
Number 7 showed me that when I put her on a pedestal,
it was really easy for her to kick me in the face
When she said, "Remember when I slept with your best friend?"
I wish I had something more witty to say than,
I'm sorry you did what?
Number 6 had a problem with silence, so she talked
the way she smoked, end-to-end, rambling
for hours about absolutely nothing, stopping
only to light another cigarette. When she ran
out of cigarettes he'd turn the stereo up or burst
into tears while we kissed. it was here I learned
that I do not have a thing for crazy girls,
crazy girls have a thing for me.
Her stomach was as smooth as apple skin.
Just before dawn I would graze it with the back of my hand
and roll from her tiny bed. I'd get dressed hastily in the dark,
desperate not to rouse her though I knew she was not sleeping
I wonder now what might have been if I had stayed
until the sun wedged its way past the drapes;
would we have found our silence then?
Just before I gave my virginity to the first
available bidder, Number 5 put on a Rusted Root album.
We writhed together like two savage, suburban warriors
in the dense thicket of the school parking lot
I gather Number 4 mistook me for some sort of superhero,
the machine she employed to grind out this town, steal her
from a fire escape and fly away.
She had a habit of tossing her problems out the window
presuming I'd swoop down and catch them. She soon had a pile
in the alley; the neighbors had begun to notice.
I must have been afraid of heights back then.
[with a bullet]
I had a premonition about her once; I've been gun-shot
and I'm bleeding, crimson staining white sheets, spreading
the way afternoon sun soaks the bedroom. She's trembling,
but accomplished. She looks forward to missing me.
The end is nigh and I'm staring at the ceiling, counting
flecks of nicotine embroidered in the paint, the same crack
I gazed into when we pretended f*cking
was more than just a virus befalling us.
Number 2, I'm sorry.
Number 1, for a record 86 straight weeks,
is you, curator of this museum.
Do you remember when we were in love?
Does the thought of it still glare at you
from across the room, tapping its foot impatiently?
Do you remember kitchens at dawn, running
from exploding cabs, diving teeth-first into frost-bitten sheets
because the heat never worked?
We were some kind of adventure.
All of this has been for you.
I've seen under the marquee where we used to meet
on Saturdays; the same pink scarf knotted around your neck
same valances of midnight strewn about your face.
Still a quiet exuberance in the way you lean in,
arms and elbows, with a new lover
kissing like the war just ended.
I'm glad you found your sailor while I was lost
at sea, how appealing memory lane can be
when you never look down.