When I first met you, you were a waitress at the Red Moon Pizzeria and
Albert Schwartz said you made pizza boxes for $1.50 an hour and
sued the owner while cockroaches/mice scuttled on the floor,
and Maggie Jones bragged you were in her bed watching Pink Flamingos.
I wanted to kiss your cheek, feel your fury for a minute, but
couldn’t drive my bike near your German Shepherd along Sycamore Avenue.
When you and Hank got married I wrote asking how you were,
if you read my poetry and newsletters, but he didn’t answer/I
came across a shorthaired photo of you on Facebook.
was like/“oh my God”/a word/phrase/you always use/
a nymph swimmer/lustrous eyes/a soul not marred by God’s sonorous arias.
In a strike on Bach’s piano, in the midst of St. Augustine’s concerto,
you sent me a message/the thunderbolt font dancing in elliptical illusions until
hours/days/a week passed and you didn’t answer so Mother said “forget her.”
When she lay in the New Brunswick ER, I emailed to see if your ears were open,
if the symphonies you possessed could mix with the intermittent melodies of my
I dreamt your mom hired me but didn’t take the job cause she was
you in a black suit as I flew in your house and you’d be on the bed and disappear.
Then Susan, the former track star/now savant paraplegic, said you’re
in “the program” with boys who drowned me, and maybe you’d get her sober.
Alicia, whom we knew but didn’t know we knew, called to meet in Philly but
I didn’t know her or that you knew her and declined to meet her.
I was angry and deleted you on Facebook until you appeared as a boy
in a plastic bubble redefining his words as he says them.
It took months/weeks after my mom died/for you to write
thought you were nuts/speaking forever on the phone/the jittering sensation of your mind
on the moon/the matters that lilted in your brain on cocaine but were now
quite sober, thank you Jesus and members of AA.
wanted off the fucking phone/but you kept talking/talking/talking
other women I could date didn’t divulge heroin addictions in 30 seconds
could walk in profoundly safe conversations along country roads
why not date normal 50-year-olds with inferior orthodontic work
not adolescent icons that put single bullets through my chest.
you with clacking teeth, unmetered laughter, the way you sometimes
cry on me or breathe in our bed/listen to me snore for ten minutes
this Brooklyn/Perth Amboy/North Carolina chick who couldn’t call but I saw you in my mom’s
sheets, nestled in their dust, you, the sweet girl, waiting for me to touch you, feel your lips and
breasts, smell your skin against mine and stomach like a light bulb underneath so tightly wound
that laughs when I tell crippled men “fuck you”
You made me an hour late for Chanukah and I was like, I’ve had enough of this shit, met Kinder
and Daddy who spoke like an authentic Jew-WASP with a Pulitzer Prize-winning cancer book
on his coffee table/you said “wash your hands in the bathroom”/no one has ever told me to wash
my hands/and your dad got mad/I “made him and his grandchildren eat late”/though I’m a
brilliant conversationalist/he and I have read the entire library of Belleville, New Jersey.
And your momma, shrunk since 5th grade, served us spinach
My green texts were longer than your grays
You felt smothered like a senior citizen in a hand-knitted Terracotta afghan
After you met my cousin, whom you liked/hated/wanted her boots/and Gene/and his gay
friends/and his aneurysm pal in a crowded restaurant/I made you feel like a 6-year-old going for
the cab/demanded you “give the cabbie your credit card!”/shouted: “we’re
LESBIANS! we like poontang!”
thought you’d jump off the Walt Whitman Bridge or throw me
/I left you stranded in the bus station, you and van Gogh, which got me jealous, like when I
envisioned you were having an affair with the aneurysm lady.
So here we are in a pause again, and I’m the pizzeria waitress making boxes with a crush on you.
Photo credit: Sigfrid Lundberg