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for my wild mint, my large body of water


IN TERMS OF EVERYTHING giorgia sage


We stood by a pond that winter day, And the sun was white, as though chidden of God, And a few leaves lay on the star ving sod; — They had fallen from an ash, and were gray. Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove Over tedious riddles of years ago; And some words played between us to and fro On which lost the more by our love. The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing Alive enough to have strength to die; And a grin of bitterness swept thereby Like an ominous bird a-wing... Since then keen lessons that love deceives, And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me Your face, and the God curst sun, and a tree And a pond edged with grayish leaves. — “Neutral Tones,” Thomas Hardy


TABLE OF CONTENTS

introduction you are like wreck something lovebites organ - gathering make something everything is a little electric interlude // makeup sex in september a pool of stagnant water ø ghost song simple prologue // in terms of everything appendix i // intro of sorts appendix ii // bloopers acknowledgements notes

11 13 15 17 20 22 26 27 28 29 30 31 34 35 36 40 42


INTRODUCTION

1. this is a stor y about you. about you in your various indefinable forms. you as a concept and you as something vast and trembling in my hands. i remember when i was a colonist and you were an undiscovered continent; when i reached your furthest coast i turned around and started over. this is a stor y about the utility of second person; over-identifying with Prufrock; a bestiar y of cowardices; the shortcomings of simile. about when you fit your fingers into my back dimples and i gasp; self consciousness; denial. about Payne and Susan. Susan and Payne. then just Payne. 2. when i first saw you in your red jeans and gray sweater i was divorced from ever ything i had known before. i was doused in existential confetti. here the word confetti means the astonishing length of your eyelashes. it felt like Januar y first when it was really some time in September. more concise people would call it love at first sight but it was a different creature. amphibious. of two elements. the two elements were COLLISIONS and THE SHAPE OF MY NAME in your mouth. you said it, “PAYNE.” but not like the kind from the wound. the kind like meaning farmer meaning work this soil ‘til it gives you something useful.

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YOU ARE LIKE

my head is swirling, full swirling out my eyes in all the ways i looked at you when you walked in the door of the coffee shop i knocked my soda over. it fizzed into my jeans as you looked at me like my clumsiness was a secret you wanted whispered in your ear. when you slid into the booth beside me pressing your thigh against mine you wiped up the soda with a wad of napkins and ordered a garden burger after all your struggles to climb into the cave of my skull you found yourself already there,
 hanging upside down your skin as translucent as the wing of a bat “life is a lot,” i say that night under your duvet you ask me to explain i can’t because i always say as much as i know
 which isn’t ver y much at all
 i am still tr ying to learn how to ask the questions your scratched legs coming through the blackberr y bushes behind my house through the haze of early morning “you are a lot,”
 i don’t even say it as you gingerly pull my shirt over my head i’m too busy gasping into the space
 between your shoulder and neck as you suck the blackberr y from my fingertips 13


i tr y to inflate you like a helium balloon with words so big you float up and
 bob against my ceiling, glowing and full
 so i can watch you like a constellation
 as i fall asleep

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WRECK SOMETHING

1. you make me want to eat poison dar t frogs when you tell me the exact number of miles between where each of us will be six months from now i file my canine teeth in your bathroom mirror before you wake preparing myself for the fight i know is coming creep back into bed, my cold soles against your warm calves you stir, mouthing at my collarbone with your hands on my skin i quiver like a kicked dog caught between moving closer and away 2. you are—

não tenho fluência suficiente em qualquer linguagem 1 dirti come sento am i frothing at the mouth yet? tie me up outside in your backyard watch me wreck something 3. in my dreams, you lock me, still damp in a blue cupboard i grow moldy, sprout clumps of phosphorescent mushrooms

you go mushroom picking on my body sit at my red kitchen table, i in my wet blue cupboard 1. I do not have fluency in any language to tell you how I feel 15


i watch as you eat and begin to glow you drink tap water and blink. the sound of knives and forks distill themselves in the space in front of you i wake and get out of bed standing in your bathroom i wash my face with cold water i sharpen my canines how hungr y i am.

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LOVEBITES

i. i was never any good at geography; space or time place or pace You and me ii. your hands on my body are hurricanes i name each touch alphabetically v. at this point even my heart has charley horses lathe it with tiger balm. feel it burn vii. i like thick grass because you never know what is hiding in it watch out for that snake! viii. i graze on thoughts of you as horses do on milkweed toxic and rampant xi. our bodies together feel like snapping twigs off a branch— the short ecstasy of it! xiv. when i’m near you my heart beats how a cat jumps suddenly then not at all xv. the cows are lowing like church bells down by the river will they tell me what time it is?

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xvii. the field is filled with mustard grass its yellow blooms are hundreds of small monks immolating themselves in the sunset could i catch fire too? a fledgling phoenix, a galloping horse— enormous xx. all i can think of is the pink head and belly of a gray bird and the sound of motorcycles on a road. You open your eyes slowly in the morning trees grow in them, and the small sound of laughter. you are my brief forest. xxi. i think, what is it like to be a car going a hundred miles an hour on an empty road? you are already inside me and i think, when will I go home? xxii. as if standing in the middle of a flock of pigeons taking flight i could see heaven xxiii. i don’t want You in a forever way i just want You in a right now way that feels like a tire fire burning for a looong time. xxvii. SPREAD OUT BENEATH ME LIKE SOME KIND OF FLOODPLAIN MURKY WATER FULL OF LEECHES READY TO SUCK YOU DRY SIPHON OFF ALL YOUR RAW POETRY WHEN YOU LOOK AT ME LIKE WHOAH

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I’M BLUE AS A KINGFISHER HAPPY ON ITS BRANCH. YOU WRITHE AGAINST ME LIKE A FISH IN MY BEAK. xxviii. the words i love you sound like a vase to me something to fill with water and put your flowers in

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ORGAN-GATHERING

prologue: walking down a hill, stumbling from the force of gravity i remembered when the world was only as big as what you could carr y and love was only what lived through the winter when writing was just writing and breathing was just breathing and neither held an obligation to the other or even an obligation to the self there was no such thing as plagiarism just living words when you said shall i compare thee to a summer’s day there were an infinite amount of summer days some full of pouring rain and bus rides, and parades and vietnamese food no one owned the way you look lying on your back in the park’s unshorn grass smelling of tecate and old spice we were communist in our use of language

in media res: inconsistent in my affections unable to differentiate the other from the other from the self to render a heartbeat with specificity but you were different you were androgynous in red acid wash jeans with a bad haircut you gave yourself on shrooms and a large vocabular y and always cr ying; ginger with rust-ringed eyes and always smiling in a turquoise snapback with clammy hands and colorado cynicism; up all night with waves on sand and never dressed for the weather; shivering, uneaten food and a bitter stone of pity beneath my tongue; number 3 on an electric clipper, the taste of thunderstorms and a spoonful of organic honey. you were my shadow shaped like a bear trap biting through my achilles tendon so i could not even walk and you would crawl your weight on top of me and kiss your way into my mouth and all the way down past my lar ynx to my heart 20


and i would say my heart is not the location of my love better look somewhere else and you told me that wasn’t a sexy thing to say so i would blush with shame and consume myself with the ouroboros lust i called your name i told you that my heart was an organ for pumping bloodand i told you it did not belong to anyone because it was a scrap of muscle

epilogue: i found myself to be of the water and i called it a friend, a lover, an enemy i told the water we were of a wet smoke i told the water i was a linguist and i knew its language. i called the water you and the water called me me and we knew we had been looking for each other for a long time when i looked up from the transparent layers of the water i could see through ever yone around me. i saw that they too were all transparent layers clustered into an imitation of opacity. the sky was not a canvas of blue, but yet more transparent layers someone long ago had named blue, and named sky at once ever ything became transparent and layers and multitudinous and i was you and you was me and each pronoun contained endless variations of self. in this way we ceased the naming of things and allowed for the living of them and in this way you walked away and i could not tell if you were coming or going and i could not tell the exact location of my heart and if it was a muscle or a symbol.

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MAKE SOMETHING

I write her a letter:

smile today because birds have hatched in this sunlight and they are beautiful in that they are alive as are you on this day, in this sunlight

smile today.

this is what forgiveness means: i cupped a sea urchin in my palms tattooed its shape into my skin what a terrible thing it is with orange insides, something furious i show you mud on the cur ves of my calves caked in the crevices of my joints i am a god. i made this. Look. Look: there is a bird inside this house beating against closed windows it came in with the wind it came in and never left. it split its wishbone on the glass i pulled it out of its chest gave you the bigger half

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I write her a letter:

love me more worship me like you worship the small things in the sunlight

gods pray too; i pray to the sound your breath makes in my mouth otters are water’s shadow twist it here; tie a knot black nose and wide tail what have i made? maybe you are the otter and i am the sea maybe you are the stream and i am the stone see how quickly i sink. beat me smooth; i will not cr y what have you made? She writes me a letter:

you will hold other clay in your palms

but what if i don’t want to? feel this wrath, a patient one knead it like dough into marble; throw it like clay on a wheel; make something. this kiln is cold I write her a letter: no. 23


i want to be all things weak in you i want to be the dirt under your nails scrub it out with coarse bristles all down the drain, in good time make something with our chapped lips and the sound of your breath in my mouth What have you wrought? What good have you made? i see only pain here the only thing beautiful is your shape embedded in the water, a hole in the current watch what i make. i make myself a sea creature for you anchored to a rock my body a hand, clutching the otter bobs its head, swims away where are you going? Can i follow? i see it, a place i want to go i search for it on floors in the trenches of your eyes i find nothing; i find a loosened knot otter and water reunited i find nothing. i make nothing. i make myself. 24


I write her a letter:

don’t go.

I write her a letter:

there are parts of you i will never see it kills me

I write her a letter:

i smiled today because you left and i am still here and things are dying and there is sunlight ever ywhere and it is not beautiful.

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EVERYTHING IS A LITTLE ELECTRIC

i fell for her really hard i guess i fell for her really hard she tasted like a muggy summer in the mountains looking up from between her legs i almost told her “you taste like thunderstorms” but i think i said “i love you” instead. she said i wasn’t allowed to but it was ever ywhere you know how people are ever ywhere sex was like scraping your teeth across a mango skin tr ying to get all the fruit off and almost not worth the effort but still impossible to leave unfinished. she always left me a little unfinished and a little shaken up. i think she tasted less like thunderstorms and more like small tart plums maybe they’re the same thing. i’ve always been good at landing on my feet always climb to the top branch. getting down is the hardest part. but who said you have to? “get down from there” she told me the last time i saw her “make me.” i wanted to jump but it wasn’t high enough to kill me. just would have hurt a lot and it already did. i love a few things: i love ferns. i love mangos. i love mountain storms. i love static shocks when you cross a carpet and touch a doorknob. it almost feels like waking up. i don’t need any more of this to know what pain means: leaving her house at 2am while she is asleep and never looking back. waking up at 5 in my own room at the same time she wakes up in hers and texts me “why” because we’re a faulty circuit and i’m tired of stray sparks because my silence always says more than i mean it to because i wanted her to fuck me and i said “i love you” instead and i hate the sound of thunder and i hate the taste of plums 26


INTERLUDE // MAKEUP SEX IN SEPTEMBER

last night we were a fractal thicket beneath the scrutiny of the moon our bodies entwining as if tr ying to weave baskets with half closed eyes and a gasping mouth honestly, i just thought you looked like a fish: flounder. floundering. “i’m swimming in you” you went skinny dipping in my brain it seemed great but i just ended up drowning you. when we finished a single tear fell from your eye and rolled the length of my collarbone a shuddering breath poised against the jamb it’s the ambiguities that kill me the movement of your hands through the air the silence in our phone calls when we are both thinking about things neither of us would be better off hearing, what we want not what we need and i am so angr y that they can’t be the same thing. maybe i will recognize you in the eyes of a rabbit just before i run it over maybe you will recognize me “i’m sorr y” it was a brave thing to say and neither of us was brave enough.

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A POOL OF STAGNANT WATER

i’m so tired of arguing with you about which is the lesser of two heartbreaks that adolescent question of tr ying and not tr ying lately i am just using you for poetr y. in the microscope slide of your bed we are two amoebas i had a dream we performed reverse mitosis became a shimmering giant in ever yone’s eyeglass lenses when i told you i loved you you only said “okay” and i wondered if it was. i jumped into a pond with my clothes on came out covered in algae and tr ying to unwrite ever ything i ever wrote about you

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ø

that first day in the old armchair, eating avocados and tabasco you couldn’t stop smiling your eyes were forests your gaze took root and grew in me things erupted, root systems and foliage, abundances of vegetation that last time we were together, months later, i was in your bed you couldn’t stop cr ying inside i felt a tree come crashing down i turned but you had fallen asleep we woke, we went through the motions: sex, breakfast, affection a stranger complimented our love on the bus we began screaming at each other without opening our mouths. we screamed until finally, you left i gave you ever ything and you gave me nothing. you gave me a rusty spigot a legion of felled trees a swathe of broken earth you sowed my fields with salt. i am waiting for something to grow; my body has been so many things except my body

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GHOST SONG

there’s a difference between knowing what you have to do and wanting to do it 
 when you looked at me in the coffee shop the day i met you your brown-green eyes saying “i love you” and “it’s over”
 at the same time i heard the warning call like a dog barking somewhere far off in the night i felt the moment i became a fox in the beginning of a hunt i do not know who is chasing me, you or my own feet either way, there will surely be a massacre loving you was earthquakes. the aftershocks are busy with their destruction. and all those anxious night sounds
 pour in through my open window, my sheer curtain billowing like someone running away.

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SIMPLE

i smiled today because you left and i am still here and birds are hatching and things are dying and there is sunlight ever ywhere and it is so beautiful. • i have loved you with wild mint and large bodies of water with growing thick and purple-flowered on river banks with all of the matter of lakes and rivers and oceans with the pollen clumped around the legs of bees with the small, fast things in the sunlight rushing by • there is nothing quite like our short destructive ecstasy twigs ripping off birch branches in a BIG WIND the leftover leaves quiver, waving goodbye • my memories of us are elephantine: they refuse to forget themselves they stampede when i am least expecting it they trample me and each footstep is the feeling of your body on top of my body your body enveloping my body we contain multitudes so many bodies your bed is beginning to feel crowded each collision of our skin yields new multitudes to crowd your sheets • 31


i read once that it takes 7 years for your body to replace all of its skin cells in 7 years i will be a person you’ve never touched but until then i will find things you forgot to take back all over my body • when i boil away all the spit the mouths of people i have loved produced saying sweet things to me, i will only find a saline powder residing in the bottom of the pot • i’m sorr y “i’m sorr y” I’M SO SORRY there is so much to be sorr y about. • there is no short ecstasy though my ner ve endings do grasp for it. there is only an ax being lobbed at the trunk of a tree. • i see it: a place i want to go. Take me there. sometimes i still wake to the sound of your breath in my mouth. i pray often now, and i make my prayers come true by myself you are the one thing prayers can’t bring me, so i pray for ever ything else: wild mint and large bodies of water

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the simplicity of a hydrogen atom and its single parts visible to my naked eye and resting in my open palm like a kind of miracle and all things come from that explosion of matter in outer space yes— even us.

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PROLOGUE // IN TERMS OF EVERYTHING

this is what really happens you are stuck with the things that you know exactly the opposite of what you mean a whole galaxy burning up just to say something to you as they were going through the orange groves —oh lord, how lovely! the wanting coming from outside, “we have come to bring metaphors for your poetr y!”; 17 or 18 different things: a nice thing, a ver y difficult thing a beautiful thing a beautiful machine, a perpetual motion machine something about your beloved’s eyebrows something from a great galactic distance out there clear your mind away from yourself night will be a sort of autopsy at any rate, the first step is reached

(say i’m in love)

// AFTER JACK SPICER’S VANCOUVER LECTURES 34


APPENDIX I // INTRODUCTION OF SORTS

3. COFFEE SHOP: SUSAN in a gray sweater and red jeans. her innumerable freckles and flat brow. HI I’M SUSAN. how the body transforms into a precipice that day you said I HAVE FEELINGS AND THEY JUST FUCKING FUCK MY LUNGS UP you are a law of motion. this is how i feel in terms of— in terms of what? in terms of ever ything. my biggest turn-on is how ardent you are. i am a fly affixed to a piece of flypaper in the most desolate room of your house. there was PAYNE and there was SUSAN. there was SUSAN AND PAYNE. and then there was just PAYNE.

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APPENDIX II // BLOOPERS

1. did i tell you i loved you? no, but it means the same thing when we both say “you’re not allowed to finish that sentence” 2. the way i laugh when you bite the paler skin of my breasts. if i could always laugh like that— 3. stop, it’s embarrassing. 4. you once told me, straddling my hips in my bed that you’d steal all my organs and save my heart for last 5. the motion of your shirt going over your head 6. when i think of collisions i think of how i felt when i saw you walking your bike up the hill by my house and how my blood became a meteor shower, zipping through my veins 7. the smell of meyer lemons 8. the two of us standing at your kitchen counter eating microwaved indian food and feeding your dog frozen raspberries. you laugh at my incompatibility with the world say, “you’re dumb. not in a bad way just in an i love you way.” 9. you sitting at the foot of my bed reading the poems i’ve taped to my wall you smile when you get to the last word. ever y time.

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10. when i think of you i think of tunnels and how they scare me. and you in your gray sweater and red jeans sitting in a plastic chair tr ying not to stare at her, wishing to be anywhere else i knew that all i ever wanted was to make sure you never looked like that again 11. i keep yelling EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY into your ear, because brains are a lonely place to be 12. once, you traced a line from my hips to my ribcage while i was lying on my side across from you in my bed “you’re like a rollercoaster” that was the cutest thing anyone had ever said about my body ever it almost made me like it 13. GET OUT OF MY HEAD GET OUT OF MY CHEST GET OUT OF MY LUNGS GET OUT OF MY BLOOD I HATE WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO ME MORE THAN I HATE YOU. 14. drinking lapsang souchong in my best friend’s kitchen the night after he tried to kill himself we reduced life to simply the act of drinking tea with a loved one we put ever ything painful and complicated into a kettle and boiled it away i would give anything to be that full of hope again.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

My thanks and my hear t to the following people: First and foremost, my parents, Julie Glantz and Glenn Peckman, for the obvious and the less obvious; the unwavering love, suppor t, and acceptance you have provided me without hesitation throughout all of my various and harebrained endeavors. Asawa SotA Creative Writing: the students, who have been my par tners in crime throughout my harebrained endeavors, and my rock and inspiration over the past four years; my teachers, Heather Woodward, Maia Ipp, and Isaiah Dufor t, for their tutelage and guidance in my pursuit of writing. Going way back, I must give long overdue credit to my first grade teacher, Susanne Peters, who unwittingly gifted me with my two greatest loves: science and writing. 826 Valencia for providing me with my first writing community, who encouraged and assisted me with my application to SotA, and most importantly, introduced me to Aidan O’Flynn, the “thesis advisor of my heart,” as I have called him. Thank you, Aidan— friend, mentor, and thought-provoker for the past eight years, for the time, wisdom, and thoughtfulness you have given me, and for asking the questions no one else asks of my writing. Sarah Fontaine, my thesis advisor in actuality; thank you for your generosity and genuineness of time and spirit, and for asking the weird questions of my writing. Imin Yeh, Out of Site Youth Ar ts Center, and Mission Grafica for providing the screen-printing classes and facilities that made the production of this book’s cover possible. And thank you to you, and them, and ever yone else— to the world and its open palms. Thank you in terms of the stuff of love: community, family, faith, suppor t, care, camaraderie; the stuff of work: knowledge, intellect, discourse, inspiration, sweat, blisters; and the stuff of wonder. Thank you in terms of ever ything. 40


NOTES

MAKE SOMETHING has been previously published in Your Impossible Voice, Issue #3. ORGAN-GATHERING has been previously published in the waterthemed fourth volume of the MOTIF anthology series, Seeking Its Own Level .

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In Terms of Everything  

This book seeks to examine the arc of a relationship between two characters— Payne and Susan —in relation to each other and to the world aro...

In Terms of Everything  

This book seeks to examine the arc of a relationship between two characters— Payne and Susan —in relation to each other and to the world aro...

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