Poetry

Iris

I was told experience mattered.

This is a lie, at least when it comes to light.

I’ve drunk decades of it

and still I cannot describe the taste.

Let’s say the study is drenched in lemonade.

I have lived here for most of a year, writing or more

often not-writing. We have held each other

this room and I, through sweat &

dust, storm & gold, the strange

severance of sleep. My wife,

though she used it less, knew better.

She unrolled a curtain above the window

I had never seen, not the beaded rope near

the open, nor the grey lid waiting

to cover it: that day she added to my world

a new kind of fuzzy shame.

I thought I was present. I thought I knew

how to occupy a space. To understand it

intimately, if not possessively. I fear

to have not known one part is not to have

known it at all. The implications for my life

are too terrible to host given

my fondness for secrets, and forgetting.

We could all be strangers all the time.

My God, the joy of that. The terror.

We’re not ready to love each other that much.

I was told experience mattered, damn it.

How many years of looking do I really own?

How much of what is seen do we retain?

The myth of being observant haunts

the writer as reverence haunts the priest. Truly,

we don’t see more than the next person

or racoon: we invent detail in the face

of a staggering, overwhelming rejection of what is

or was right in front of us. At least I do.

The sun is streaming through this window. An awful line

yet now your gaze is diverted and I can try again

to drown, or hope, or weep. The sun

is 149.6 million kilometres away.

Is the light of the star the same as the star itself?

Put another way: are we what we say,

am I streaming into your skull or is it a clamber?

Imagine taking language as seriously as light:

hunting for speech-soaked apartments,

driving for hours to find a mouth

to lie under & be bronzed by metaphors,

a slick colloquial tongue, or where you knew

if you didn’t protect yourself from it,

it could fucking kill you. Imagine what we say

can travel across worlds to either give

or destroy a life. Here I refuse to provide

details of the slurs I live through

as a burst spleen, a monsoon, a knife in an iris

and so forth. Sometimes choosing not to see

is a survival tactic. Sometimes I am in love

with oblivion, the startlement of world

in the eyes of the rat scooting

across the neighbour’s fence outside,

or the blank circles of unrendered faces

making everyone both guest & ghost

no I won’t put my glasses on this life

all of it is a brilliant distraction

from the wound, O to be the light coming out

to love the room, to make clear what’s beyond it,

to invent a wife kind enough to reveal what I missed.

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