This Is How I Tell You That I Love You
If you shoot at the king and you waver,
no one will blink at the things that come next.
He’ll turn to the crowd like the sun going down,
and together they’ll show you the shield of their backs.
Then come the pincers, the chains and the tower—
even the dogs turn away from your shame
for you opened your mouth like the sight of a gun
and who sees the difference at such close range?
And if the king lives like a bug trapped in amber,
he’s sentenced you both to flyspeck the same stone:
there’s a warm cast to each iron cufflink
and a silence that’s worn like a groove in the floor.
Now all that’s left is a name in your throats
that finds no clear exit and circles your rooms
like a firefly too weak to extinguish a dark
whose shadows are barbed. They stick to your skins.
You mutter past everything ripped from your mouth
and wish that he’d left a clean hole that would heal.
He carries a pink scrap around in a box.
It sings him to sleep past the weight of his crown.
No one mentions Eurydice after Orpheus. She’s presumed
lost forever when he can’t see her face, shuffled
with Hades’ mass of selfless dead. She provides
the hero conflict and is gone.
No one speaks of her driving the chariot that drags the sun
or mentions her name means justice that spreads like a flood.
Some say she died dancing with naiads. Some posit faun rape.
Some say Inanna dressed up in Greek clothes and toned down.
Maybe light tired her. Maybe her eyes needed rest.
I’m saying maybe the snake she ran into wasn’t a viper.
Maybe he whispered of knowledge hid underground
and offered her fruit she declined to share.
Maybe she said goodbye and walked off on her own
for reasons she never divulged to the man with the lyre.
Love’s a wonderful thing, but not the only.
It comes around in time like an orbiting sun.
It’s just a long walk through cold dark.
She could go it alone.
Upon this Beach, I Build my Sandcastle
It’s amazing how these boneless, brainless things
shrug themselves out of their shells and wave
a feathered fan at each backhand ocean slap—
feed off it, even—
grow fat off particulate matter
and debris from Spanish shipwrecks,
sunken towers, dead seaweed,
I could scour these stones every day, every hour if I wanted.
They’ll keep coming. They’ll fasten and feed.
They’ll cling with tenacious devotion. Their microscopic
hordes will find purchase in hair-fine cracks
and they’ll bore their way into my skin,
through my bones. They’ll leave me full
of holes and shell fragments until I crumble,
more host to an ecosystem than woman.
I’ll return to the salt from whence I came.
Put your ear to my mouth, you’ll hear
their choral chant of hungers.
Put your mouth to my ear,
and I’ll only hear tide.
The Magician’s Last Trick
I never disappear completely. Say the magic word,
and, bad penny that I am—I am there!—
just behind your far shoulder.
I’m weary of smoke and spectacle. I’ve spent
years at the bottom of that watery tank,
weighted by rusted chains.
It’s been a long, hard, solitary time.
My lungs ache even though I’ve quit smoking
and my joints don’t want to bend.
All I want is for you to turn and see me here,
call me by my given name, and forget our professions.
To learn how you’ve been all this time I’ve been holding my breath.
I must be crazy to come out of hiding with empty pockets,
to bend your ear without pulling quarters. I know
myself to be easily disposable, light diversion. Once
you walked out mid-matinee. I couldn’t
pick those cuffs for years. To be honest,
they still catch my sleeve.
So here’s your drowned rat come up
from the sewers, your fifth-rate hack
to fill in between acts on the bill.
Here I am, human as I can manage,
hands held up in the air, saying
Abracadabra! How are you? Don’t shoot.
Obligatory Poem About a Tree
The Russian Olive in our backyard
grew from wild seed. It paws the deck,
claws phone wires. Cut to the ground
twice, it endures where peaches withered.
The spotted fruit feeds only birds,
tastes like raw aspirin. I hacked
at its rampant overabundance
with kitchen shears, loppers, a saw.
It’s better at winter than I am.
Gray until frost breaks, it rebounds
from each severance whole,
a thousand buds crowding its stump.
Lea Deschenes is a poet/designer living in Worcester, MA and the current Creative Director of Damfino Press (damfinopress.com). Her first full-length book The Constant Velocity of Trains was published by Write Bloody Publishing. She once found a five-leaf clover during a solar eclipse. She does not personally collect antique shoelaces because she's too busy working on her second book, Crocus.