blackbirdonline journalSpring 2009  Vol. 8  No. 1
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Self-Portrait with an Ice Pick

Imagine the impact—wrecking ball, welcome
     injury or collision, like some secret screamed
          in a late-night taxi. And while it was happening,

bile rising and the blind urge of its happening—
     the ice pick striking the white wall of the freezer,
          the neon sign glowing through the window

like a red undertow, a sliver of the street corner
     where Essex looked like Sex Street and a low
          winter sun vignetted the room, the wedding band

left on the nightstand because betrayal was a tender
     industry then; siempre its one urgent slogan.
          There was the mind’s syncopation—fractured,

freezer-burnt, mesmerized by the shards of ice
     that ricocheted across the floor; cuts covering
          the knuckles and a hole finally carved out,

big enough for the bottle of vodka where
     Van Gogh’s wheat fields trembled. What the body
          wanted was its penance; scar, reminder that I

could love anyone, gnash my teeth on their
     shoulder, then forget them in the subway car,
          the stale air and grime of it, metal bar still

warm from a stranger’s hand and the shock, almost
     erotic, of being jostled by so many limbs.
          Follow it back to that bar where the drinks

had lovely Storyville names—Chloe, Justine,
     Simone; names like a girl on a swing with her hair
          blown back; espresso, nutmeg, chambord,

grenadine; flower petals ground down to powder;
     names I stumbled through that year when
          my one job in the world was to smile in a way

that meant, Say something interesting and I might stay
     for five minutes. I remember Alex, the Bellini-eyed
          waiter lighting a match, flicking his wrist

like a gambler drawing fate closer. I remember walking
     home past empty fruit crates and the truncated
          frames of bikes still locked to street signs. Helicopters

circling the East River, like a repeated phrase. There was
     no aubade, just sunlight breaking the bones behind
          my eyes. What the body wanted was a blank room:

its own pain, untranslated, self-contained. If I can see
     myself there, it’s my eye in the windowpane, hazel
          speck reflected back against a daze of sirens.  end

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