Marty McConnell

treatise on the nature of non-abandonment

 

Anything can happen next. Tea, or gunshots, or the streetlights
coming on outside this room, and the other, where you
are, with your body so like my body but with its own
particulars, the breasts I have called perfect
and the waist I tug toward me all day, listening for the one
note we produce when the city night slants across us
because someone forgot to pull the curtain
entirely shut. I admit

 

I imagined you. Despite this, your knees
are real, and your face that I say I love
because I do, and the sound of you turning the pages
of some large magazine full of art displayed in rooms
in countries you visited before I knew you, before
I even imagined you. Now

 

the question is: How do we go on? And even
more difficultly: What do you want? I’ve kissed women
in cities to which I want never to return, but I would go there
with you. I take too long to unpack my suitcase
every time I come home, until I need
those socks again, until you can’t stand

 

the sight of it, orange, leaning
against the wall, full of patient fabric
and a foldable toothbrush. What do you want?
How do you want me to give it to you?
The internet is full of stories today about boys
playing Knockout, where they in passing

 

a complete stranger on the sidewalk, suddenly
lash out with a blow to the back or front
of the head. To enact upon the world
such a specific report of the violence with which
it regularly seeks to kill you seems to me the opposite
of senseless. Maybe it is time to eat
the dictionary. All the newspapers

 

moldering, unread. What do we mean
when we talk about perfection?
If I’d been better at life would we never
have met? Here is the inventory. Here
is the old lexicon, here all the things
you left behind: Sorrow. Nevermind. Cardinal
sleeping in throat chakra. Meditation cushion. One
espresso maker, barely used. All the pots

 

and pans. We can go get them. We can bring
them here and eat in our pajamas and kiss in the kitchen
and someday you will tell me the name you called yourself
when you decided to leave that place. You will tell me
what the moon said, and the mirror
the night you decided to come home. Let’s think
about escalators now, and their cousins
the moving walkways in airports. Something

 

about the woman’s voice that says Caution. The moving
walkway is ending makes me sad, and a little
hysterical, and I love it. Anything can happen next.
It’s been a long century so far, full of clocks and obituaries
and the law. The sight of your leather jacket
emptied over the back of the rocking chair, how hot
this tea is, the books in their authorial order –
comforts. If Camus was right, if speaking

 

always involves a treason, every promise
I can make you is less than this touch. Still, I think
our speaking redoes the world. So bring me
your philosophies, the car radio, an extra
set of house keys and the toy arrow
deconstructed on your studio floor.
Let’s not leave this world in ruins.

 

 

 
Thing is,

 

you can be a good father and a terrible person.
You can be a terrible person and a terrible father.
You can be a good person to some people and a terrible person
to other people.
You can be a person who does terrible things.
You can be a person who does good things.
You can be a terrible artist and a good person.
You can be a great artist and a terrible person.
You can be a terrible artist and a terrible person.
It’s hard to photograph the moon through a window.
You can be a terrible person and have great sex.
You can have great sex and be a good person.
You can be a terrible person and have terrible sex.
It’s hard to photograph the moon through a window
even when it’s brighter than the Christmas lights.
You can be a terrible person and have people love you.
You can have people love you and be a good person.
You can do terrible things to some people and good things
to other people.
You can be a person who’s done terrible things.
You can be a person who’s done terrible things and buried them
under the evergreens.
You can be a person who’s done terrible things and unburied them,
lifting them up to the light.
It’s hard to photograph the moon through a window
even when it’s brighter than the Christmas lights
strung on the tree whose branches partly occlude it.
You can make terrible decisions and be a good person.
You can be a good person and make terrible decisions.
You can offer good wine and save the misery for later.
You can offer terrible wine to beloveds and save the good stuff
for strangers.
It’s hard to photograph the moon through a window
even when it’s brighter than the Christmas lights
strung on the tree whose branches partly occlude it
across the street from the house you grew up in.
You can be a person who does terrible things to good people.
You can be a person who does terrible things to terrible people.
You can be a mule to memory or dig up that tree and burn it.
You can be a person who draws the moon with your own face
as its face.
You can be a person who draws the moon as it wants
to be drawn, in the likeness of a thirteen-year-old
who hasn’t lost anyone.
You can be a person.
You can be a person.
You can be a person who burned it all down
in the sight of the moon and be
a good father
and this will not save you either.

Marty McConnell lives in Chicago, Illinois, where she coaches individuals and groups toward building thriving, sustainable lives and organizations. An MFA graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, her work has recently appeared in "Best American Poetry 2014," "Southern Humanities Review," "Gulf Coast," and "Indiana Review." Her first full-length collection, “wine for a shotgun,” was published by EM Press.

 

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