--THE BOOK OF LOVE IS LONG AND BORING. IT’S FULL OF CHARTS AND FACTS AND FIGURES, AND INSTRUCTIONS FOR DANCING.
THE BOOK OF LOVE HAS MUSIC IN IT. IN FACT, THAT’S WHERE MUSIC COMES FROM.
Talking To Animals
Growing up on our makeshift farmoften became a calamity,
like those times Cathy and Irene,
our Guernsey milk cows,
somehow escaped the barbed wire fence
and made it all the way to 8th street,
hooves clattering on the pavement
like someone thrashing pots and pans together.
I had two pet calves then,
Go Go and Thunder.
They were exceptional listeners and
for a long time, my only true friends.
I fed them candied oats out of my palm,
milk from a plastic bottle tipped with a rubber nipple.
As they tugged and sucked away,
foam bubbles gathering on their lengthy jaws,
I told them all of my horrible secrets,
how I thought life was playing
cruel tricks on me and my siblings.
I took their wide-eyed stares to mean
I’d shocked them with such confessions,
only to realize later that they were always wide-eyed.
By the time the calves turned two
and were no longer calves,
they became someone’s dinner,
leaving me dejected but grateful that they weren’t ours.
I have a dog now.
She’s a great listener as well,
her eyes shiny and alert as I speak,
sharp ears always upturned at the ready.
Still, I keep my secrets mostly hidden.
She’s a cute little thing,
barely six pounds soaking wet,
unable to bear too much weight
or learning that her owner might not be
the man she assumes he is.
In our camper,which was my room one summer,
I found the photos by accident--
a stack of Polaroids stuffed in the back of a cupboard,
cinched tight, covered by a velvet Crown Royal satchel
with script scrolled in navy and gold.
She was topless in everyone,her bare, swollen breasts oddly lifted upward,
as if they were inflated,
which of course they were,
inflated like the floaties I used to fasten my arms to
while learning how to swim.
It was daytime in all the pictures,
abundant sunshine screeching around each shot
in sprays of pale yellow piss or bright bland ochre,
and so she squinted back at the photographer,
always smiling though,
offering the same beaming grin that had won her
first place in a number of beauty pageants
when she was younger and
maybe not as wicked as I knew her now.
In some she blew a flirtatious kiss.In others, she cupped the denim shorts
that tightly hugged her ass,
her head cocked back as if giving herself up as a sacrificial offering,
her neck a crowbar of rippled, white metal,
wearing a blonde wig,
a brunette wig,
a strawberry-blonde wig,
a _______ wig,
a _______ wig.
a _______ wig.
If it were anyone else,anyone but me and her,
it might have felt or meant something different,
might have even seemed admirable--
an older, married couple shaking things up like that,
injecting innovation and spice,
new breasts and new kinky exploits,
a little fun in the sun,
pose-and-click boob job pictures
taken just for them.
But again, this was now about me and her,about me, and her, and him,
whoever he was.
And so I studied the photographer’s shadow,
the flattened length of his body
angled on the ground in silhouette.
I searched for a flattop haircut,
for any clue or reassurance.
I bent down and peered as closely as I could,
inspecting grain and shadow,
yet it was impossible to say one way or the other.
Stumped, I burned them one at a time in the sink.I watched the gnarled hunks of ash
skate around the water-filled basin
before finally succumbing to the drain.
When the last charred piece slipped down,
I gripped the counter, squeezing the fake wood
so hard it seemed to excrete moisture back into my hands.
I knew there’d be all kinds of hell to pay when
Mother found the photos missing,
but it was suppertime and she was calling for me,
yelling that my food was getting cold.