YOU KNOW WHAT READERS LIKE
for Blake Smith
I can see now that I was once quite feral.
Getting older was my education in becoming civilized.
Also, being married to you. That was the decade
of cleaning our things in the nude so as not to ruin
our clothes with all that bleach. We couldn’t replace
anything. When anything broke, it was broken. We were
broke. I bought you a bullwhip and some hot sauce
and some tiny wooden armadillos and some tropical fish
magnets that wiggled when you opened and closed
the door to the fridge. You bought me a space heater.
Like Peter Q’s Mrs. Bailey, I like to think “I had a strong
sense of what my position was and what was proper.”
On two occasions, I shit myself: once when sick and
once when aroused. And here I’m thinking of Tess—
not the cat we sat, but the fictional girl
hanging from the fictional tree. I appreciated it
when you reminded me how easily I can become
bored. It’s true. I do need a challenge.
A teenager is like a scarlet runner bean; it will wind
round whatever trellis you do, or don’t, provide.
Sometimes it is satisfying to make a howling sound
that comes straight from the diaphragm. You know
what the diaphragm is? Ennui. The educated say
ennui. Your father is a machinist—I know what
he does, in theory—and you can build a train wreck,
though why anyone would want to build a train
wreck is unclear to most. I get it. Baby, we’re
so private. And here I’m thinking of my grand-
mother in assisted living in Regina. Her TV
so quiet as to be imperceptible. The ghost
in her china. You are the first person I ever heard
say the word hubris. Your parents are social
democrats, your mother gave me Upton Sinclair’s,
The Jungle, and then I knew what Howlin’
Wolf meant by The Killing Floor. You took me
for sushi. I bought a plastic harmonica
in the shape of an ear of corn. The first time
you licked my pussy, I was sure; the first time
you kissed my mouth, I wasn’t. We did
everything backwards. You didn’t seem to mind.
Often I would come home from my coffee
shop job and just sob. After so much violence,
it has become radical to be a soft critic, to write
poems about horses. I bought some glow-in-the-dark
zombie finger puppets and a plastic paparazzi play set
and an antique marionette in the shape of an ostrich
called My Favorite Pet. I hoped not to suffer from
what, in certain circles, is referred to as a “wet brain.”
From The Hottest Summer in Recorded History (Nightwood, 2013) by Elizabeth Bachinsky.
(Illustration by Jon Krause.)