You are pure of foot because your mother
is a Pisces, ruler of feet. There are so many
dead people roaming this earth, how can we
wonder at gait? How can we not?
Today was a mall day. The goth boy selling
darkly sweet doodles at his kiosk
says he’s a living protest, hawking wares
to unaware shoppers. He’s wearing sunglasses
& knee-high boots, has an answer
for everything. I remind him
that he’s selling his art at the mall. I buy one anyway:
a man with a big nose who grows sadder
& wiser with age. Oh, but you, my love,
the who to whom I’m writing this poem, the sure-
footed one in the painting of feet, translucent one,
you wouldn’t dare take your oils to the mall.
What do you say about detachment? Zen does not
deal in disconnects but oppositions. It slakes
& conjures multitudes. My true love’s in the rafters,
according to the old master. A preening cat.
But I’m my own master,
& here are the shoes you asked me for.
On the wrong side of the Bay a bed
of Spanish moss. You can’t hide like that.
Ghosts wear sleep-cardigans. In the mind
of the thinker a man pedals his truckload
of scrapmetal. Dear friend, I’m okay.
I didn’t know it, but every day for 15 years
I learned to throw my voice.
Just log me out of this bloodclot.
So are we little, so are full.
Everyone gets the number wrong.
We’re born so much. The act is threatened,
a visual reconstruction of the audible experience.
You hear things hiding out. Plants are dying.
The water’s going down
by millimeters. I’m finally done moving.
When the world wants you, pinheads
for eyeballs, your name in the ground, the way
your mouth works, swallow whole
the mismatched heads, smash
their accents in half—who decides
permanence in art as in the sky,
as in bed? It’s enough to die once:
the first time we made love, I was still
as stone. Let me savor my last chances.
At 36, still the good girl, I looked outside
the window, sang outside the window,
an insanity of field-work. Once I realized
x doesn’t exist, I had a stake in all of this.
What book am I in, what book are you in
that on the surface there’s joy, polished
theories of time-and-space, as if in dreams,
in dreams we waste energy on swimming
long loops against the current. I’m traffic-jammed
in the swim lane by a scuba diver, his oxygen
tank breathing like a dying whale. I know very little
about murder. I know very little about guns:
the rifle in my attic, the broken
revolver from my father’s junk stash. The bb gun
that shot my car window into a million possible suns.
My friend keeps one under his bed at night,
where I keep a Maasai dagger beside me instead.
Outside is green as it’ll ever be, dead beetles
line the driveway. I lie in bed wanting to fuck
someone, but no one’s home. Mockingbirds call each other
for a fight. Tufted animosities on the branches of an oak.
There are ways to discover, & then
there are ways to uncover what was always there:
the book you’re in, the one I wrote.
THE WOMAN IN THE MIRROR
Since the funeral, I’m neither woman
nor lovely but zonked. In my bones, the secret
heart of cartilage, the mandible density
of fact. My limbs are headlamps. A superstition
about life sprouting from death accounts
for counting my cycle obsessively.
Father, don’t return just yet I think.
I worry about my moods, unable to get
at my sadness like a dreamer who can’t
materialize the dream. Winding wire taps
of evening, I’m cursing the woman in the mirror,
so much older now. Chuang-tzu explains
that the mind’s mirror refuses
nothing, keeping nothing. Such detachment
is itself a sad sack of wet sand. My mirror holds
me in variable stasis, a day’s worth of moving
in the casual world, picking up a candle,
putting it down, holding a pencil
at arm’s length, frying up a few happy
shards of kale—all of it tumults me into heavy
darkness, like the weighted boredom in the famous
deadman’s poem. Forbidden into being.
Alexis Orgera is the author of How Like Foreign Objects (H_ngm_n Bks 2011) and Dust Jacket (Coconut Books 2013), a forthcoming full-length collaboration with Abraham Smith (Coconut Books 2016), and three chapbooks: Illuminatrix (Forklift Books 2009), Dear Friends, The Birds Were Wonderful! (Blue Hour Press 2009), and Man O’ War, B-Sides (H_ngm_n Books 2012). She lives in Portland, OR and at alexisorgera.com.