Patrick Somerville

from the April 2011 issue

Dear Beloved Other,

Demoralized on Friday and still in bed,
fruit flies in the oatmeal, and my head aches.
Dehydrated, quiet, each mood presents itself
formally. Welcome:
Lord Inappropriate Circumstances.
Lady Flea Circus.
These hours of visitation frighten me,
as if I were a traveling nursing home
and at every stop the children cry.
In the archives, the one weeps
over old footage of Freddie Mercury,
the other, a bit of lace wrapped
around a tea spoon and
I swear to you those pink lights
winking in another room are just that,
ephemeral doodads from a novelty store.
They are not signaling my departure.
When we wake up and the kitchen smells
like a grease fire, I know my place in it.
There is no evolved
from a seafarer’s temperament.
The sand itching in my shoes
is a permanent condition, as are you.


Dear Beloved Other,

I had a good cry yesterday after our little chat.
Good in the sense that it felt like a bribe. You locked up
Your smart look and I let the cat out and then we sat sideways
Like two dolls in the dream house, twist tied, not a fear
Out of place. Later, I ate a big slice of yellow box cake standing up
And pretended in my head to be both Hansel and Gretel. Guess
That makes you the mouse in livery. The one in the corner
Of the illustration. The one pointing his humane paw at the ugliness
Of women. Suppose I was relieved to find you in the margins of the image?
Would that make me fair by comparison?

You are so Lovely and Just. Like a narrow bench. Like a crime
Scene photograph. We both know I am rococo, ridiculous,
But that I have a tensile strength I barely know how to use.
Canned peaches in a spinster’s kitchen and all that floral
Wall paper; these things are inflammable.
These things resemble me.


Dear Beloved Other,

I can’t escape the food chain but maybe I can numb desire.
Watch you with clinician’s eyes. Learn how to drink in the evenings.
Keep the dog in the kennel, if you know what I mean.
I don’t like describing what goes on between my legs as anything
Having to do with fire. Burning is for houses. Love is tired.

And I just might be capable of anything after the nightlight goes out.
The picture of dark eyed sweethearts is lost behind the couch.

Appalling. I turn to face the stand up mirror and spread my knees—
Please tell me, am I vulgar enough yet? The dim
Manner in which I undress, on autopilot, on Percocet,
The blank look of a worshipped cow, those mild
Brown eyes foreshorten all shame, bear everything,
Give nothing a name because everything begins
And ends with this want that is nothing, personal.

Wendy Bourgeois lives, writes, and teaches in Portland, Oregon, with her small dogs and big kids.