Two for Tuesday: Richard Siken
I lost power yesterday during the storm, and didn’t realize until now that this did not post. Sorry.
I wanted to include one of my favorite Siken poems, “Scheherazade,” but I cannot get the spacing to format correctly, so I am using an image of the poem instead. (Sorry about the site comments images in top right.) Enjoy.
A Primer For Small Weird Loves
The blond boy in the red trunks is holding your head underwater
because he is trying to kill you,
and you deserve it, you do, and you know this,
and you are ready to die in this swimming pool
because you wanted to touch his hands and lips and this means
your life is over anyway.
You’re in the eighth grade. You know these things.
You know how to ride a dirt bike, and you know how to do
and you know that a boy who likes boys is a dead boy, unless
he keeps his mouth shut, which is what you
because you are weak and hollow and it doesn’t matter anymore.
A dark-haired man in a rented bungalow is licking the whiskey
from the back of your wrist.
He feels nothing,
keeps a knife in his pocket,
peels an apple right in front of you
while you tramp around a mustard-colored room
in your underwear
drinking Dutch beer from a green bottle.
After everything that was going to happen has happened
you ask only for the cab fare home
and realize you should have asked for more
because he couldn’t care less, either way.
The man on top of you is teaching you how to hate, sees you
as a piece of real estate,
just another fallow field lying underneath him
like a sacrifice.
He’s turning your back into a table so he doesn’t have to
eat off the floor, so he can get comfortable,
pressing against you until he fits, until he’s made a place for himself
The clock ticks from five to six. Kissing degenerates into biting.
So you get a kidney punch, a little blood in your urine.
It isn’t over yet, it’s just begun.
Says to himself
The boy’s no good. The boy is just no good.
but he takes you in his arms and pushes your flesh around
to see if you could ever be ugly to him.
You, the now familiar whipping boy, but you’re beautiful,
he can feel the dogs licking his heart.
Who gets the whip and who gets the hoops of flame?
He hits you and he hits you and he hits you.
Desire driving his hands right into your body.
Hush, my sweet. These tornadoes are for you.
You wanted to think of yourself as someone who did these kinds of things.
You wanted to be in love
and he happened to get in the way.
The green-eyed boy in the powder-blue t-shirt standing
next to you in the supermarket recoils as if hit,
repeatedly, by a lot of men, as if he has a history of it.
This is not your problem.
You have your own body to deal with.
The lamp by the bed is broken.
You are feeling things he’s no longer in touch with.
And everyone is speaking softly,
so as not to wake one another.
The wind knocks the heads of the flowers together.
Steam rises from every cup at every table at once.
Things happen all the time, things happen every minute
that have nothing to do with us.
So you say you want a deathbed scene, the knowledge that comes
and you want it dirty.
And no one can ever figure out what you want,
and you won’t tell them,
and you realize the one person in the world who loves you
isn’t the one you thought it would be,
and you don’t trust him to love you in a way
you would enjoy.
And the boy who loves you the wrong way is filthy.
And the boy who loves you the wrong way keeps weakening.
You thought if you handed over your body
he’d do something interesting.
The stranger says there are no more couches and he will have to
sleep in your bed. You try to warn him, you tell him
you will want to get inside him, and ruin him,
but he doesn’t listen.
You do this, you do. You take the things you love
and tear them apart
or you pin them down with your body and pretend they’re yours.
So, you kiss him, and he doesn’t move, he doesn’t
pull away, and you keep on kissing him. And he hasn’t moved,
he’s frozen, and you’ve kissed him, and he’ll never
forgive you, and maybe now he’ll leave you alone
All images are by Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte.
Music by Birdy, “All You Never Say”