About the Writer
Marie-Elizabeth Mali is the author of Steady, My Gaze (Tebot Bach, 2011) and co-editor with Annie Finch of the anthology, Villanelles (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets, 2012). She formerly co-curated louderARTS: the Reading Series and the Page Meets Stage reading series, both in New York City. Her work has appeared in Calyx, Poet Lore, and RATTLE, among others. She can be found online at www.memali.com
Timing is everything, as they say,
though who they is I don’t know,
but the fact that you didn’t see me
the first five times I sat at your bar,
nor I you, until a month ago—once
our eyes lifted from the books of grief
we’d both been busy writing—when
we saw each other as if for the first time,
tells me they may be right, for that night
we danced, discovered our shared rhythm,
a sign that the rest could flow, as it has,
entrepiernas tan rico through the whole
blessed morning deep into afternoon,
salt and funk rising from sheets you say
smell better than roses, the tattoos
on arms I’ve come to crave, your body
that listens to my body and brings
me to the third, fourth, fifth orgasm
of the day—I lose count—the curve
of my hips you can’t stop touching,
the way thinking about me makes you
hard, again and again, best lover
I’ve ever had, we both say, so today
I give thanks for right timing, here
in April frost, windows steamed
and shaded as we find new ways
to curl into one another and release,
in darkness and in light,
I’ve never understood the crazy shit
people do after a breakup, like hang out
near the ex’s car parked outside
the coffee shop, waiting for a glimpse,
or to find out who the ex is with,
or the way people text and text and text,
or check Facebook a hundred times a day
for clues. Until you. I now know
I could turn into one of those women
the whole town shakes its head at
while drawing circles in the air
by one ear with a forefinger.
My first thought on waking today
was to drive by your house, knowing you
would still be asleep, to see if her car
was parked next to your truck. Trouble is,
I don’t know what she drives, nor did I ever
notice your roommate and neighbor’s rides,
and I’m not willing to knife my heart
over the wrong car. That must mean
someone sane is still in here, though she
and crazy are duking it out pretty hard.
I want to show up at your work tonight
because you haven’t responded to my three
texts from 24 hours ago, but the sane one
doesn’t want a scene, or to see your eyes
narrow and jaw tighten at the sight of me,
the one who made you shine so bright
friends and strangers would comment
on your unusual happiness, so I won’t.
Would it be so bad to happen to be shopping
at the store across the street around the time
you go in to work, to wait there so I can
watch through the window as you park
your hog in the illegal spot you use on the corner,
to hope you’d see my face behind the glass
and come toward me instead of turning away?
While we’re fucking I place his hand on my throat
to see if it feels right there, like yours did.
He says, What great sex, unaware that I’m floating
above the bed waiting for it to end so I can return
to remembering you with my whole self, something
I do more often than I should. Did you hear
last year almost 200 dolphins were stranded
on Cape Cod in one month, no explanation?
Over 1000 cetaceans stranded in the Gulf since the BP oil spill.
Every month you drift further away from me on a tide
that defies the moon’s demands for it to turn back.
Hit by a boat, a fin whale was stranded two months ago
and lived for a few hours on a beach near San Francisco,
a hematoma blossom over its heart, a heart the size
of a small child. As the scientists performed the necropsy,
one said, This is our first live whale, cutting out an eyeball
bigger than a grapefruit. Others extracted intestines thick
as an arm and snapped baleen with a branch cutter.
I can barely feel your body’s weight anymore,
barely hear your voice calling me, Mi ninfa. Mi cielo.
Today in class we read a poem about a girl who tattooed
Make of my life a few wild stanzas on her back, a poem
written by a girl who loved her. The tattooed girl
swam away too fast for the words to be read as she left.
As we discussed the poem, my words hung over the table,
unsaid, the lines of mine you tattooed on your thigh,
the lines you said you’d carry with you into the ground,
on the thigh I will not again touch, the thigh hidden
under your jeans, the thigh your girlfriend sees
when you make love, your hand most likely on her throat.