Your ankles make me want to party,
want to sit and beg and roll over
under a pair of riding boots with your ankles
hidden inside, sweating beneath the black tooled leather;
they make me wish it was my birthday
so I could blow out their candles, have them hung
over my shoulders like two bags
full of money. Your ankles are two monster-truck engines
but smaller and lighter and sexier
than a saucer with warm milk licking the outside edge;
they make me want to sing, make me
want to take them home and feed them pasta,
I want to punish them for being bad
and then hold them all night long and say I’m sorry, sugar, darling,
it will never happen again, not
in a million years. Your thighs make me quiet. Make me want to be
hurled into the air like a cannonball
and pulled down again like someone being pulled into a van.
Your thighs are two boats burned out
of redwood trees. I want to go sailing. Your thighs, the long breath of
under the blue denim of your high-end jeans,
could starve me to death, could make me cry and cry.
Your ass is a shopping mall at Christmas,
a holy place, a hill I fell in love with once
when I was falling in love with hills.
Your ass is a string quartet,
the northern lights tucked tightly into bed
between a high-count-of-cotton sheets.
Your back is the back of a river full of fish;
I have my tackle and tackle box. You only have to say the word.
Your back, a letter I have been writing for fifteen years, a smooth stone,
a moan someone makes when his hair is pulled, your back
like a warm tongue at rest, a tongue with a tab of acid on top; your spine
is an alphabet, a ladder of celestial proportions.
When I place my fingers along it there isn’t an instrument in the world
I’d rather be playing. It’s a map of the world, a time line,
I am navigating the North and South of it.
Your armpits are beehives, they make me want
to spin wool, want to pour a glass of whiskey, your armpits dripping their
their heat, their inexhaustible love-making dark.
Your arms are the arms of nations, they hail me like a cab.
I am bright yellow for them.
I am always thinking about them,
resting at your side or high in the air when I’m pulling off your shirt. Your
of blue and ice with the blood running
through them. Close enough to your shoulders
to make them believe in God. Your shoulders
make me want to raise an arm and burn down the Capitol. They sing
to each other underneath your turquoise slope-neck blouse.
Each is a separate bowl of rice
steaming and covered in soy sauce. Your neck
is a skyscraper of erotic adult videos, a swan and a ballet
and a throaty elevator
made of light. Your neck
is a scrim of wet silk that guides the dead into the hours of Heaven.
It makes me want to die, your mouth, which is the mouth of everything
worth saying. It’s abalone and coral reef. Your mouth,
which opens like the legs of astronauts
who disconnect their safety lines and ride their stars into the billion and
voting districts of the Milky Way.
Darling, you’re my President; I want to get this right!
It’s no secret, if we are friends or if you follow my personal blog, that my life has been pretty awful lately. But today, after I had a long cry in my teaching supervisor’s office, my friend Liz handed me this poem. And whether she handed me this poem because she knew I needed it or because she had an extra copy of it to give away, I appreciate it. Some of these lines are absurd (e.g. “Your ass is a shopping mall at Christmas”), and some of them are erotic and subtle, and I blush thinking about them (e.g. “Your back is the back of a river full of fish;/I have my tackle and tackle box. You only have to say the word”). In any case, I’m so thankful for this poem today. Happy Valentine’s Day to all; you’ll get no e.e. cummings today (and instead hopefully when you least expect it).
This poem appeared in the August 29, 2011 edition of The New Yorker. Bless them for publishing it.