American Culture · American Literature · Classic · Collection · Contemporary · Poetry

Richard Siken

Dirty Valentine

There are so many things I’m not allowed to tell you.
                  I touch myself, I dream.
Wearing your clothes or standing in the shower for over an hour, pretending
             that this skin is your skin, these hands your hands,
                                                        these shins, these soapy flanks.
          The musicians start the overture while I hide behind the microphone,
trying to match the dubbing
                                             to the big lips shining down from the screen.
                     We’re filming the movie called Planet of Love-
there’s sex of course, and ballroom dancing,
             fancy clothes and waterlilies in the pond, and half the night you’re
a dependable chap, mounting the stairs in lamplight to the bath, but then
                          the too white teeth all night,
         all over the American sky, too much to bear, this constant fingering,
                your hands a river gesture, the birds in flight, the birds still singing
outside the greasy window, in the trees.
                                                                 There’s a part in the movie
where you can see right through the acting,
                          where you can tell that I’m about to burst into tears,
            right before I burst into tears
                                           and flee to the slimy moonlit riverbed
                                                             canopied with devastated clouds.
We’re shouting the scene where I swallow your heart and you make me
              spit it up again. I swallow your heart and it crawls
                                                                               right out of my mouth.
You swallow my heart and flee, but I want it back now, baby. I want it back.
            Lying on the sofa with my eyes closed, I didn’t want to see it this way,
everything eating everything in the end.
                               We know how the light works,
                                                     we know where the sound is coming from.
            Verse. Chorus. Verse.
I’m sorry. We know how it works. The world is no longer mysterious.

Richard Siken, Crush. (Yale University Press April 11, 2005)

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