Behold my barber’s gilded scissors, a gift
from a loyal client. Look at the planning, the economy,
of the razors on hooks the barber’s height,
the best ones worn-handled, their storage trunk
scattered with stickers of old bands resting
in dead iPods in coffee table drawers. Come with me,
to the street. Watch the house painter’s pants
match every few buildings he passes, as if the city
were trying to copy them. Watch your morning barista
pull a rosetta without looking. Peek in the shop windows,
admire every crisp fold the floor staff creased into every
shirt, watch the quick wrist of the window-washer,
witness the wrangling of the dog-walker’s five leashes,
the two-part movement of the city worker sticking litter.
Come into my restaurant! Admire the server
and their patient smile. Plant two knocks on the kitchen door,
shout in, and bear witness: line cooks seasoned
with years of oil and salt, working so smooth
they’ve made it a dance. Clogs two-stepping while sauce
whips the dish, the sous milly-rocking a metal bowl
into the bus bin, the bang of the skillets to clear
the crusted rice in time with the beat from the phone
propped into the metal six-pan on top of the reach-in.
See a hand reach back and be given a spatula
it didn’t ask for. Watch the dishwasher replace the glasses
in the blink of an eye while she FaceTimes her niece.
It looks nothing short of telepathy, the slide
through narrow spaces like wrong sides of magnets,
all of which have a knife. And still conversation flows:
who just sold a sculpture, who has a paper
to write, who’s playing a show later, who was up
until 4 am at their other job, performing a whole
different dance, a symphony of second-nature
movements, muscle-memorized like their country
is a fatigue mat and they have mapped every corner.
I only dream of labor if I can make it beautiful,
so I slice every scallion like a gift-wrap ribbon and roll
my eyes at every customer who taps their foot.
Skill is love. Do you? Love? Show me yours.
Your skill. Walk me through your day and allow me
the scenes I won’t see. I want to see your method
for cleaning a bathroom the quickest. Your filing system.
Your best customer service voice. Or do you go home
to a sparkling kitchen someone else cleans,
eat food someone else cooks, watch shows
someone else writes? Do you use programs
someone else codes, attend meetings someone
else schedules? What do you do? You take.
And you hold what you take. What a skill,
being handed things. Such talent
ode to the mirror
We can see our reflections. Humans just can’t see
what we see. We become insular. The act of lonelying
is to have a myth no one will get close enough to let
you dispel. I don’t want his blood. I want something
in it. But we try so hard to be untragic
we pick the next easiest thing.
A terror in the night.
Reject the old silver and opt for black.
I sit wide & smoke for the rasp
& get too bold to hide. Why do you think
I keep saying I don’t gamble with sunlight.
I keep hearing things.
I take selfies in bathrooms
I could die in and keep doing
my makeup on the train.
I have to limit my futures
based on where the corners
No one can see me because no one is looking.
I want to be that dramatic.
I want to say I inject
a lineage of man into my skin
every week to stop myself
from drinking my own wrist
but I knew I had the choice:
to appear in everyone’s backgrounds
or keep living my own kind of quiet sin
with the rest of my species. But I know
no matter what kind of light I walk into
Even after I die. I live.
The Patron Saint of Retail
I heard you speaking to your knotless and well-therapized
friends about listening to your inner child. I know the child
well. She does not speak, though. She points. At everything
she could not have. She feels the swell of possible worlds
in every book store. Spirits in windows of the mall
whisper, you deserve this. And she does.
And so do you, I think. Any glitter that catches
the corner of the eye, any shirt that announces
who you are and what you like. I like your inner child.
The voices of humans are grating on my ears. But this child
knows when to be quiet. This is the child who hid under a coffee table
for an hour, clutching a Hello Kitty figure with a strawberry
for a head, praying her parents would give up searching and go home.
Leaving you in your classmate’s mansion. Leaving you to keep
the strawberry cat. Thinking, she won’t notice. She already has
all of this. If I had all of this, I would give it out like candy.
When did you connect the dots, I wonder? When did you realize
it was not cool or fun to be afraid of the future? That your friends
lived in an entirely different world? See, here, under this table,
she still thinks she is the protagonist of the young adult novels
she started reading too early, the grown genius orphan,
the poor kid turned Chosen One, waiting to be Chosen.
You had to go through hardship, the books said, before you become
interesting. But the hardship should be over by now, she thinks,
and that’s when she began to point. You are fully grown
and properly gendered and make good money and still
have the five bone-thin fingers when you do not make good money.
The child has learned to reach through you, her digits
splitting yours lengthwise like two bullseye arrows splintering
each other in the fight for highest prize. And you are peeled
and relenting by now, scrupulosity abandoned to the big,
intense eyes of this child, the unnatural fingers, and she takes
the necklace she wanted, she carries the designer shoes,
she enters your credit card number into the little box.
The eyeliners fall in your pocket. The barcodes scan for two.
The sunglasses stay in the shirt collar. She has read every
spy novel and employs their tactics with relish. In a poem
you lied that you were a bad boy once. Badness
is non-applicable in a system that relies on the evil
of currency. I did not ask for capitalism, it just happened
and now the people flock to me like a possession
could hold their grief for them. It cannot.
But you know that. You’re not stupid. The girl,
she is not stupid. You have just run out of alternatives.
Retail therapy is a harm reduction strategy,
you think, but whose harm? Which harm, and where?
There is so much and only two of you. Where
is the strawberry cat now? Did she keep it?
Do you even remember?