You are here and I am home. Wait to let out light, to swallow. Iris as parted lips. Grab, wild, at shoulders. Trace the lengths of our soft edges to our elbows, to our knees, and back. You kiss my toes and it’s not a cliché. I spider my fingers over the top of your head because I know. As far as I can tell your mouth appeared one evening in front of me at a brewery in Fruitvale. Between train tracks and wailing and beams and breath and breath. As far as you can tell, I grew at your feet. When you are waiting and don’t realize. You turn over wet stones in my palms, capture the writhe underneath. I turned myself into a whisper because I thought I was a ghost. 3am, 4pm, 7:30am. Pacific sunset, stroke of midnight. 11:11. You feel the moon. Tell me I am the tide. We tie our wrists with ribbons; cut them free.
This poem is published in Issue 15 of Unbroken Journal.
Dayshift: we hear spy planes circle low over the bay and see their shadows climb across the tops of the three metal bridges. Dayshift is where limbs turn to pins and needles and eyes nod no. A wet scream from a mouth with no tongue. The spy planes fly through the napes of our necks and emerge through our open teeth.
Dayshift: in the back room, the bass breaks behind the velvet curtain. Nails break and the ice rattles in its glass toward open lips. They warm in cold chairs, in terry robes, and in draped-blankets fuzzy with bright-eyed cartoons. The bass breaks at his voice before she fills with white smoke and purses red lips to grease the mirror. A happy birthday banner, half-fallen, skips further down the wall with each clicked step. Each letter its own page. The bass paints brown eyes black, and winks, and glides back out into the darkness.
In the back room the bass ate a burger with bacon and cheese and a slice of orange tomato. A sheet of lettuce tucked the meat tight into the bun. She discards limp strings of white onion on the side of her plate. She throws up in the black plastic bin by the door and cries that the bacon was raw when she knows it’s the vodka’s fault. In the flickered back room bass spits Listerine. And in the dark boom she confesses her morning bottle to a stranger over Chardonnay, and the bass breaks.
The tapping is enough to drive the spy planes away. We shout at the phone on her desk like it’s a lion. Our ankles twist and crack in unison and the spy planes forget what waves and salt and seals are and dive at their shadows mistaking them for enemies.
Dayshift: She sucks her sixth White Russian through a straw. She curls her feet beneath her body so everyone can fit together on the gray and neon couch. In the dark room the spy cameras train their glassy eyes on hers and she waves, and she breaks, and she breathes the white smoke, and she rises and glides across the soft floor. The bass breaks in the back room and is born in the darkness.
—Josey Rose Duncan
Read for Quiet Lighting at Cafe du Nord (San Francisco), May 2011 and published in sparkle + blink. Watch a recording of the reading here.