Poetry Set: Psalm 7, Sehnsucht, Honey Moon
Amy Leigh Wicks (International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
Did you know me then, when
I raced on wine bottles to the stars
and purpled my teeth like a squid?
I climbed the metal stairs to every
sooty roof and howled like a jewel
at the clouds. Did you put the fire
inside me that sloshed heavy, lava-like
and rocked me to sleep in the rain? I woke
for food and I talked to you fast and loud until
the bar opened and I could sit high
on the stool, so far from that sticky floor
I still hoped the world held something for me
then. Tonight marks a thousand dry nights and
I want to show you something. It’s a little cave
hollowed out by my thirst, a place for you to live.
I am alone in the corner,
waiting for a shadow
larger than my own, touching
the edge of the table to see
if it’s rounded and smooth.
Cold reuben, no cigarettes–
I expected something, but who can
know how they’ll long to get back
to a place they’ve never been?
Do you know what I mean,
at times touching the rib
at how it got there,
at how I got here?
The ocean from the window is still,
the waves are sparkling photographs.
Something makes me want to cut through
the sun setting on the purple horizon
with a pair of big scissors.
The first time we climbed into bed
it seemed like there was no one
else in the world. Then we left New York
and by the time we reached California
we noticed an army of ghosts floating
like balloons above us each night.
There are different ways of dealing
with ghosts; ignoring them, running
from them, praying. It’s best not to
watch them or speak directly to them.
They aren’t who they say they are, although
they look familiar. The more attention
you give them, the more of a ghost you become.
A few nights in Santa Barbara, up the PCH past
Big Sur we turned inland, and in Redding
we noticed the ghosts were tied to strings
and the strings were anchored by little hooks
to us. I was afraid at first to see a long blade
in my husband’s hand, until I tried to pull a hook
out on my own. The ghosts got loud. They said,
but I’ve always wanted to see California, and who
do you think kept you warm all those nights?
We took turns cutting through rubbery strands
until one at a time the ghosts were gone
and we were left in our pajamas, with tails
of rotting string and a spattering of barbed hooks
in our chests. They came out easily enough
without tension on the other end, but our fingers
bled from the work. A few floated back while
we slept, but it’s easier to make an uninvited
ghost leave. We camped in Las Cruces, I almost
forgot that part, and Phoenix was beautiful, too.
Amy Leigh Wicks is an American poet from New York City. She is the author of Orange Juice and Rooftops. Recent work can be found on The Best American Poetry Blog and DrDoctor’s Podcast Series. She is working on her PhD at the International Institute of Modern Letters and lives with her husband in Wellington, New Zealand.