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From My Knees

Eileen R. Tabios

      “mouths are dangerous and then disappointing”
                                                    –from “Role Models” by Evelyn Lau

It was the right thing to do
when you didn’t laugh, not even smile,
after I whispered over the rim of your wine goblet
My words always become true

You dangled a pretty line
more bright than the sun striking
the green face of a lake
we have never swum together–
the bait of a new vocabulary
irresistible with its fresh blood
but sparkling, shining,
gleaming like broken glass

You taught me
how seduction occurs
by never laughing at someone’s words

My mouth never shifted
from the pose you favored:
open in a silent scream
I once confused with appetite,
lips becoming my thighs.
Someday soon I shall understand
the hate in my eyes
bouncing back from a mirror
it shattered

“The back alley”
“The back staircase”
“The back hallway”
“The back door”
“And always on my knees,
your hands lost in my hair”

Simple words you taught me–
not a single metaphor
as a hiding place
My words always become true

But you wanted me innocent about this one matter

To preserve your control
because desire, as you have taught me,
can forge the strongest handcuffs,
you didn’t wish to teach me what I learned on my own:
your sperm will become addicted
to the back alley curved by my teeth,
the back staircase molded by my tongue,
the back hallway invented by my eyes,
and the back door opened by my throat

All addictions are addictions

My poor darling,
I now realize the difference between
an appetite and a scream.
My words always become true:
I shall transcend your grasp of my hair
to force me to stay on my knees–

The concrete fence you’ve built–
ironically pretty with its embedded slivers
of broken wine bottles
in translucent shades of gold, violet, and burgundy–
protects but also prevents others
from reaching over
to clasp your trembling fingers

When was the last time
someone held your hand
with a warmth as honest
as a prostitute’s grin

Someday soon I shall understand
the hate in my eyes
bouncing back from a mirror
it shattered–
comprehension being the necessary precedent
towards the Transcendence
I long have mistaken for Interpretation

My poor darling,
nowadays I bend my knees only
for the contact of worn velvet pews.
When I bow my head to pray
I see patches of brilliant crimson
along the edges of ancient fabric
surfacing from a cathedral’s gloom–
proof of an earlier beauty
refusing to fade

Fallen angels are bound to the earth–
we shall meet again
in an arena where lions are not
the most dangerous creatures.
If I persevere,
it shall be due to my ability
and your failure
to utter certain words in a particular order:
I Love You

Yes, those ornaments are brittle–
the ballet dancer with a silver tutu and vermilion lips
the angel unbelievable with its brown face
the clear globe with a melted rainbow trapped inside
the bent snowflake dangling from a string

A hanging basket of Golden Dragon impatiens–
yellow-hooded blooms
that birth large hairy spurs in the summer
nestled against kidney-shaped leaves
with red stems–
would have sufficed to fill a void
which can sunder a room unexpectedly
as it did a yardless space in Vancouver
which compelled you to lug home a polyethylene tree
to rationalize boxes wrapped in recycled paper
containing items you wish to forget
so that you will get curious enough to open them

My dear, music exists
beyond the clanging of brass bracelets
circling a stranger’s limb

I believe in these words
I Love You
which you have turned
into a square-shouldered bottle
of thick glass trapping cheap amber liquid
      Nor is Love
      “pills…the colors of spring–
      pastel pink
      orange sherbet
      flaring in the light”*
though I can intellectualize
how Halloween bares its gap-toothed scream
in a tiny room lost in a vast cemented city
where light appears only as filtered
through slatted blinds
whose edges slice

I believe I Love You
means I must lift your photo
crumpled on the floor,
smooth it out
until your eyes open from the paper folds
then tuck your soul away
safely between the pages
of poetry by Odysseus Elytis

      Then we can drink the sun of Corinth together,
      read the marble ruins together
      stride across vineyards and seas, laughing
      with a robustness that shakes your belly and loosens my hair
      and cheering the votive fish that slips away
      from the harpoon, then
      finally to discover the leaves memorized by the sun’s psalm
      so that we can look at land together
      and see a joy opened because and only because of passion

* from “Tambourine Man” by Evelyn Lau
** after “Drinking The Sun of Corinth…” by Odysseus Elytis

Eileen R. Tabios

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