for the two of me
the thing that eats the heart is mostly heart and there
I wish, in the burly sun blossom-backwards garden I was hungry,
so damn hungry and afraid again by full open-mouth-desire.
Don’t take this as a garrote good-bye, your airless thrive ride.
I alone, fear being alone, far from the blood vocabulary. I wish
I knew where I put my fear sitting in the childhood past, in
its zoo, sitting on the winding Escher stairs, saying this out loud
to my dead mother, so loud a lion’s head in the mouth loud
it catches audience breath for breath measure, making us go
home to say it to the father, dead and down, holding court with outbreak.
You can’t hear me say this, off as asymmetry cry.
You too are dead in the circus heart alone
because they really are all gone, and can’t feed you anymore.
You can’t sit in the lap, on the headmouth, slow kneel on the floor;
you can’t sit in the cement highchair, sit in this landscape room, this
come to crime test, alive here for feeling, or take me
to nothing sound-past longing with the lion
who won’t eat you, who won’t eat me, facing
the animal garden, shaking his yellow haystack head.
Copyright © 2017 by Elena Karina Byrne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 17, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
“‘No, Don’t,’ beginning with a line by Stanley Kunitz, follows an imperative to mismeasure the speaker’s askew placement in adult loneliness, if there is such a thing, caused by the double bind of fear and desire (the lion), separate from childhood loneliness. One must give an emotional nod to Philip Levine!”
—Elena Karina Byrne