Imagine. The gods built a watchtower on top of Sisyphus’ mountain & they best him by shrinking his shoulders while he sleeps. Do the gods make you watch when they fatten me on honey between the wastings-away? Maybe, self-harm is a starvation—I smell bread & make my own door to the bakery. Could there be a trilogy of men in my head, one with flint, one steel, one tinder—all frosty with reptile blood? Every night, they have this dream: make their world’s first fire, curl into each other when they sleep. Each man envisions himself closest to the coal; they smell each other’s ambrosia on the air & make their way. I suppose—if they do start the fire—I’ll die. Do the gods make you watch when they slather me in honey & summon the bees? Maybe, self-harm is a survival—I try to starve out one man so the remaining wander in vain. When you tell me why your life’s been easier, all I hear is rain. Why is it you were born with such a temperate head, its unsurprised temple of water?
Why don’t I need you enough? I have been tasked with reconciling a map of twisting sand dunes every morning. There is one oasis in this formation of mirages & I lose so much time choosing to drink. Is it worthwhile to explain the fear I get from whistling? From hearing you hum among the pots & pans? To undo the past is to pluck every grain of salt from the ocean. For you, love solves; for me, it offers a second pair of tin tweezers. San Diego tars coins into the street where it exhumed the graves. You unbutton my shirt & every preceding hand tars my skin’s corroded nickels. Do I only think I have seen the outside because I live in some twisting hall of mirrors? On the other coast, every other block is a graveyard. There is so much conventional haunting to travel through before reaching where we are meant to lie & rest. You say you’ll pick everything wrong from my shore; could you even distinguish its bone & stone, or what of the ocean went through the gutter to get there?
Do you remember the blue-costumed performer who demonstrated the water cycle & tsk-tsked acid rain? Did he teach you do-it-yourself holes, to leave rubber bands in the smog? The disorder is an acid cycle. You tell me you only see me in what I eat away & ask if you will lose your reflection. The problem: I have all this thirst to attend to. I survey the ocean; even that ends. If you really mourn the dry riverbed, shouldn’t you put a picture of rapids on the store windows & cartons of milk? The problem: I have all these mournings & mornings to attend to. Nimbus clouds attend to the rivers & you buy a flat of pop-top green beans before winter. Survival is too much pantry for all your hands & a survey of the bathtubs & doorways. The disorder cycles like a heart, or an immune system of careless macrophages. Did you know, asks the blue-blue performer, that we have to drink the stuff the dinosaurs drank, the stuff Einstein used to unkempt his hair? By the definition of your existence, you can’t give me what I want: water untouched. Let me die with it still in the body.
Nicole Connolly lives and works in Orange County, CA, which she promises is mostly unlike what you see on TV. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University, and her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in such journals as Assaracus, The Rush, Poetry City, USA, and Five 2 One. She currently serves as Managing Editor for the poetry-centric Black Napkin Press.