Jamie Haddox vehemently believes that a little mud isn’t as bad as tea bag full of blood, a bloated politician, a rash you can’t hide, a tooth headache, or unrequited love… better to get a little dirty. She is unsure, when it comes to cranes and herons, what law velcros one or unhinges the other. She prefers café colored walls over corn colored. 100 percent of the time, she will choose a leftover hibachi scallop over beans from the garden. She sometimes inadvertently kicks pigeons from the sidewalk. She hates tourist shorts with socks and sandals, and doesn’t know anything about mulberry or passports.
I’m always wondering how to call up a kiss
like a song I once tasted, requested on the radio.
Was it really as warm as I remember? When my fingers
start to sculpt, they form this milk dud from my memory:
the third time I walked out. I linger, confused,
but I don’t undo it. I repurpose it as a jagged tooth,
running my tongue over the sharp ridges repeatedly.
I was too sure the vision was all I would need. Failure
gets me in a rut, revising the recipe, reciting facts,
the best I can, by rote. I don’t seem to know enough
back to back truths. Even if I heard it on the mountain,
I always turn truth into a maybe. And life without truth
is cold; I need that kiss to warm me. Still, I couldn’t remember
the exact flavor. So much of that is now hidden in a wrinkle
of backwards thinking. One of us is always denying
that this is worn out. I try telling you not to hold my hand,
that I have the kind of fingers that pull hell out of the worry.
I call you over with lips craning out for sureness, but all I get
is a prune of a kiss, a mother-in-law kiss. I turn to dreaming,
singing, hoping it will be just enough to set the mold.
When I finally get that kiss, when I roll it over my lips
it’s colder than the laws of physics should permit.
There’s a hole in the fabric
of my gray sweatpants.
Under the hole, on my knee,
there’s a red raspberry of a scratch.
I don’t remember falling,
so I assume it must be your fault.
Once I was calling you to tell you
I was leaving because our son
had thrown up. I looked around
for you while it rang, and found
you right as you sent me to voicemail,
before you saw me, before you looked up,
or around at all. You pretended
not to know why I was upset, tried to
rewrite what I had seen. I waived it off,
didn’t allow your dishonest response.
That’s how we are now, you lie
and I just don’t listen anymore.
As this hole slowly eats away
through the gray, into my skin,
it burrows down into all those lies
I don’t even remember falling for,
and I assume it must be your fault.
It’s cold out,
maybe 30 degrees,
but we sit on the porch
of this uptown coffee shop
smoking. We sit long enough
that I smoke three. Someone
stops and asks for money.
He forks it over, no bother.
It’s a busy street on a busy night,
we put our heads together
over the ashtray
so that we can hear
one another. I feel old,
like we’re old together,
hard of hearing, smoking,
and drinking coffee at night.
We go inside after a while.
I’m worried it’ll be too
loud with the music and people
talking, but I sit close
and it’s no worse than the cars.
He tells me about a girl
he’s seeing. She doesn’t like his
smoking or drinking. We talk
about addictions and he seems
so disappointed to have them.
I want to assure him
there are worse things
than caffeine, nicotine,
alcohol, and pot. There are worse
things and I’ve seen them.
I want to shake the straight-edge
girlfriend off his shoulder
and make him high as hell.
And I don’t know him
well enough. Maybe
he’s an asshole drunk,
maybe he’s a useless fart
when he’s high, maybe
he buys weed instead of
groceries. We talk
about art and depression
and getting beat
when we were kids.
He is comfortable, like me,
talking about it, doesn’t seem
to need a hug or a therapist.
We’re honest. And he’s probably
more honest than me,
because when we leave the shop
and take a lap around the block,
I’m not telling him
how straight-edge girlfriends
are no good for people like us.
But maybe he’s less honest,
because he hasn’t been able
to tell himself the same thing.