Paranoia

Maybe picking a shard of glass out of my hair is the closest he’ll ever get to me.

I say this even though I’ve spent time in his bed.

The other night, in a moment of stoned lucidity, 

he recounted the exact moment of our meeting.

For a second it felt as though he cared about the me beyond the body,

like when he pushed my hair back, saved my skull from something sharp.

Did the curtain slip, revealing sweetness?

Or did he just want me to lie down? 

 

I got high, watched Rosemary’s Baby,

spooked myself while we were fucking. The bell around my neck

turned sinister. He asked me to take it off

not because I was afraid, but because it was in his way.

 

***

 

Nothing can hurt me more than the good things because

I know the bad things to be true.

Sometimes I take walks here, spook myself

with the realization that I am barely getting anywhere.

Safety shocks, so I weave nightmares,

scan storefronts for secret messages. 

If God is changing these leaves I want to thank Him. If God

is sending the evil voices in the news to painful frequencies,

I want to slap Him. It is He, after all, who bleeds my afternoons to migraines.

I wish my brain had belt loops.

 

“Come over.”

“Well what if I don’t want to, fucker?”

The defendant will admit, though, that she brushed her teeth for him? 

 

It is a spooky thing sometimes, to be alone. Sometimes I talk to myself 

as though, with a single finger, I could slice the past in half.

***

The man in the park holds birds between his fingers.

Someone is chasing him;

he is in disguise. The subtle scent

of marijuana. The past selves

playing chess at tables all around him. The birds

pecking at the folds of his brain. The touchy flutter of their wings,

his heart’s response. Blackened lungs. The old days crouching

in the shadow of the trees.

***

 

In my profile

resides an unknown version of myself,

the dark stranger with a nose

that makes me question my identity. 

I take pains to avoid her.

I hide all the pictures in which she appears. 

I know now why they say

I look like my father and why I used to cower

between my parents’ legs.

When I turn my head I am

the playground man waiting at the bottom of the slide. 

The old terror rises from the sandbox. The violence of his breath

in my throat. 

 

***

The one with whom I once got lost

is hiking now, into the coming darkness.

He would not hear me

if I said his name. What if he sandpapers me away

and finds a smoother self, in the face of the rock, in the stark beauty

of the sun beyond the trees? (I, too, see this sun and recall my sprained ankle,

mended sweetly as we walked together.) What if with my words I am

slamming his head against a mountain of my own design?

Unyielding, this love, or its imagined contours. 

He and the Toontown hills of Disneyland, 

outlines in a purpling sky, crouch

together in my mind’s pleasuremost pockets. How can the feeling die

if I, with kindling, am always kneeling just beside to feed it?

 

***

Last night, a dream: he was on a tirade due to an imagined flirtation 

between me and my worst enemy.

He said that dating me meant he had to close

me up in a crate like a dog every two minutes. My dad

raised his eyebrows but allowed the lock to click. I cowered

in the corner of my crate, closed my eyes and saw

the fields I’d always dreamed of. A breeze

made my fur stand on end. My paws itched

for grass beneath them.

 

***

There exists a world in which I never loved anyone

enough to fear their leaving. 

No clenched teeth, no tic of the eye or lisp, no frantic calls. 

In this world I tell my friends everything

because the fear I am certain hovers only over me

has never entered my mind. 

In this world the belt fits the loops and my brain

is a symphony. At the end 

the audience stands. I close my eyes

and take it in but I do not cry. My chills don’t visit me.

To them, my body is a ghost town. In this world

there was no playground man, I never ran wildly 

for the comfort of my father’s arms.

I never ran wildly for anything.

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