I used to think love was two people suckingon the same straw to see whose thirst was stronger,but then I whiffed the crushed walnuts of your nape,traced jackals in the snow-covered tombstones of your teeth.I used to think love was a non-stop saxophone soloin the lungs, till I hung with you like a pair of sneakersfrom a phone line and you promised to always smellthe rose in my kerosene. I used to think love was terminalpelvic ballet, till you let me jog beside while you pedaledall over hell on the menstrual bicycle, your tongueripping through my prairie like a tornado of paper cuts.I used to think love was an old man smashing a mirrorover his knee, till you helped me carry the barbellof my spirit back up the stairs after my car pirouettedin the desert. You are my history book. I used to not believein fairy tales till I played the dunce in sheep’s clothingand felt how perfectly your foot fit in the glass slipperof my ass. But then duty wrapped its phone cordaround my ankle and yanked me across the continent.And now there are three thousand miles between the uand s in esophagus. And being without you is like standingat a cement-filled wall with a roll of Yugoslavian nickelsand making a wish. Some days I miss you so muchI’d jump off the roof of your office buildingjust to catch a glimpse of you on the way down. I wishwe could trade left eyeballs, so we could always seewhat the other sees. But you’re here, I’m there,and we have only words, a nightly phone call - one chanceto mix feelings into syllables and pour into the receiver,hope they don’t disassemble in that calculus of wire.And lately - with this whole war thing - the language machinesupporting it - I feel betrayed by the alphabet, like they’reinjecting strychnine into my vowels, infecting my consonants,naming attack helicopters after shattered Indian tribes:Apache, Blackhawk; and West Bank colonizers are settlers,so Sharon is Davey Crockett and Arafat: Geronimo,and it’s the Wild West all over again. And I imagine Picassolooking in a mirror, decorating his face in war paint,washing his brushes in venom. And I think of Jeninin all that rubble and I feel like a Cyclops with two eyes,like an anorexic with three mouths, like a scuba diverin quicksand, like a shark with plastic vampire teeth,like I’m the executioner’s fingernail trying to reasonwith the hand. And I don’t know how to speak lovewhen the heart is a busted cup filling with spit and paste,and the only sexual fantasy I have is bustinginto the Pentagon with a bazooka-sized pen and blowingopen the minds of generals. And I comfort myselfwith the thought that we’ll name our first child Jenin,and her middle name will be Terezin and we’ll teach herhow to glow in the dark and how to swallow firecrackers,and to never neglect the first straw; because no oneever talks about the first straw, it’s always the last strawthat gets all the attention, but by then it’s way too late.
Jeffrey McDaniel
What would you like for your own life, Kate, if you could choose?Anything?Of course anything.That’s really easy, Aunty Ivy.Go on then.A straw hat...with a bright scarlet ribbon tied around the top and a bow at the back. A tea-dress like girls used to wear, with big red poppies all over the fabric. A pair of flat, white pumps, comfortable but really pretty. A bicycle with a basket on the front. In the basket is a loaf of fresh bread, cheese, fruit oh...and a bottle of sparkly wine, you know, like posh people drink. I’m cycling down a lane. There are no lorries or cars or bicycles. No people – just me. The sun is shining through the trees, making patterns on the ground. At the end of the lane is a gate, sort of hidden between the bushes and trees. I stop at the gate, get off the bike and wheel it into the garden.In the garden there are flowers of all kinds, especially roses. They’re my favourite. I walk down the little path to a cottage. It’s not big, just big enough. The front door needs painting and has a little stained glass window at the top. I take the food out of the basket and go through the door. Inside, everything is clean, pretty and bright. There are vases of flowers on every surface and it smells sweet, like lemon cake. At the end of the room are French windows. They need painting too, but it doesn’t matter. I go through the French windows into a beautiful garden. Even more flowers there...and a veranda. On the veranda is an old rocking chair with patchwork cushions and next to it a little table that has an oriental tablecloth with gold tassels. I put the food on the table and pour the wine into a glass. I’d sit in the rocking chair and close my eyes and think to myself... this is my place.From A DISH OF STONES
Valentina Hepburn