Because the Poem might be a Nuclear Warhead Barreling toward your Lover on a Smoky, Distant Sea

north-korean-propaganda-posterMichelle, who sold you
those tiny diamonds
bejeweling your left ring finger
like a topper on a cake?
Like any good mystery, this leads only
to another question, which leads to the next, until

we have opened the door behind the door,
which leads to the room no one has ever seen
before which holds the bureau with its drawer
with its false bottom. In the same way,

I cannot be caught
off-guard by the common sunburst miracle
of industrial light on rock without
picturing a mine somewhere
in an Africa I’ll never see
and black hands wrenching carbon
from the earth and passing
that compound lump up a chain of bound and singing men
to a pulley or a bucket or a final set
of white hands which pluck it, palm it, almost want
to taste its scratchy self. Michelle, I am a woman

schooled in words coined or repurposed largely
in the late 1960s by men in France, words my computer,
when I finally go to type this wreck, will refuse
recognition, underline in linked red dots: liminal, differance—

so if I say that the fear that shook
your whole body that day, right after class, when you asked
to speak to me, was both the origin and simalacrum
of fear, understand I’m only seeking desperately to grasp
the nature of the thing itself, and not its trace, which passed
between us, which was a wild poem, wilder than the one
I’m writing now, to you, which was like a wind which broke
itself up into several stern or dancing ghosts: your stepfather,
who disallowed speech by you or your mother or your six
brothers at any family meal; your husband, newly wed and half-
asleep in the berth of a ship docked and rocking in the shallow
seas of some Hawaiian island; and a woman in Pyongyang
separating her daughter’s black hair into twin curtains
of tri-fold order while, in the kitchen, her radio
hums a refusal of the possibility that somewhere
in an America they’ll never see, a young married woman
with a splotch of purple birthmarking her sobbing right eye
like an angry kiss from a bitter guardian angel
just before she fell to earth, her American earth,
has drawn a shaking breath and said,

I need, I can’t—

and fallen into silent, shapeless fear
like something in the movies—

the dim, industrial light,
the hard plastic chairs—
here, in this place, everything
is politics, even the colorless carpet
railroading toward a hallway
we can’t round, even my hands, especially my hands, trying
to still, beseeching her, seeking her out, What, what is it?
What? A script would dictate a super-twist
of her plot, cancer, AIDS, a child to abort, a sort
of life-destroying bend from which to make story, which
can, from time to time, make art, but
no one would ever make this film,
which names the thing itself:

her husband, on a ship, asleep, could even now
be blown to holy bits by a missile launched
by a madman halfway across the world.
And she, Michelle, whose shoulder shakes
beneath my steady hand, who even now is moving,
day by ticking day, closer to the love, it seems to me,
she’s sought her whole short life, and maybe,
now, to her annihilation. (When I left
my husband, I sold my single
stony diamond with its white gold band, the setting
like a doll’s crown, like a hand, like a claw that held my heart
up, stripped, and shining, for all the world
to see. My hard and glittering heart. The woman snatched
it from me, laid a crisp one hundred dollar bill
into my palm, and disappeared behind—I swear!—
velvet curtains not unlike that lovely Korean girl’s hair.
What market did those curtain’s hide?) Michelle, I lied:

It can’t happen, no—

a warm, false-bottomed drawer. Behind it,
one of many girls I’ve been before, 8-years old
awake until the dawn each night
the bomb exploding in my head’s bright light
the fire on a chase, desire, haste, the flames
could sprint, but I could not—

but nothing lies beneath this.

Not even belief. I lack a faith
that anyone could do it, really, my mind removes
the finger from the hand that presses down
on that red button, no, it says, no, it is a glutton
for this mystery, a wild ghost, a host of wicked
things, a market made of otherness, projections
on a walled in screen, a back room filled
with tubs of red-stained jewels.
It swells and shrinks and swells, it is
the bells and whistles of the heart and the heart
itself, the terror of the unread book, opened up
and signified at last, it barrels from the radio,
a broadcast of the state’s most glorious and perpetual
abilities to split one’s daughter’s hair into shining black
twin triplicates and reminds me that there are men
in the world wild enough to not only believe in,
but yield, control so cold and fierce it shapes
itself into the image of a missile that, rather
than blast to smithereens your lover, who could be
reading up on IEDs or tinkering with engine parts
or sleeping with another woman, pierces instead–

Michelle, ma belle–

your warm and raining heart.


About evanduyne

I'm assistant professor of writing at Stockton University, where I'm also affiliated faculty in the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. I work on Sylvia Plath, contingent faculty, and creative writing around trauma and domestic violence.
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