THE LETTERS WE'LL WRITE WHEN WE'RE DEAD
Dear Portsmouth, washing machine, unused postcard -
dear chain gangs and turning the volume up instead
of down -
the weather is here, wish you were ugly. Wish
you were four-laned. The weather is brakeless and
careening. The weather has mouths to feed and
Food Stamps to use and bodies to use
as crop dusters. And the winning lottery ticket tonight
is thinning mist, right before you hit a tree. Right before
you sober and sob,
ATMs flying everywhere and forgetting your pin number.
The weather is throwing out your envelopes, your
stationary, leaving you with just tiny spaces to write
the apologies. Of course,
we are left with edges of receipts to explain
ourselves, with lumps in our throats and
breasts and colons. We are left with spaces
on our shoulders with tattoos of birds
that never meant anything, we just wanted you to
love us, love their purple heads and
I wish you were in Taos when I was in Taos, we
could have broke bread or heads or fingers together.
I wish you were in Cripple Creek when I was, petting
burros and playing blackjack. Picking up donkeys,
bringing them back to my hotel room, waking up alone.
I wish you heard the sounds of Belen, whooping cranes.
I wish you had asked me what the loudest bird in
North America was. I wish you were in Red River,
touching snow, sighing, saying male photographers
are the same as male birds. I wish you were ugly,
had a longer lens that caught it all.
Dear strut and flap of Colorado, dear and darling
nests, dear fence we missed, hit the flagpole instead,
tires squealing God Bless America!
Deer from five minutes ago, in our headlights,
but smart enough to run.
I love calling the 1-800 numbers on the back of
big rig trucks. "Hello, I just wanted to say this
driver just pulled over & came up to my window
& tried to take me hostage." I love a good hostage
negotiation involving automated message systems.
I love the day you called me, said you were in
Missouri & you were never coming back. That
day, I left feedback to five online questionnaires
&I told everyone their products were useless &
a disgrace to my living room. The day you called
me from Missouri, I asked, "When you say ever
is that your half-assed way of saying forever? You
hung up on me & within the next week I had left an
inquiry with a clothing shop to tell them their buttons
do not button correctly, it was heartless. I started
calling news stations, letting them know that
Lebanon will always be forgetful with anniversaries,
birthdays, the first day you held hands with it.
Within a couple of months I robbed a bank just
to lay down next to all of the frightened people, tell
them that McDonald's isn't all that bad if you like
bad food & customer service as pleasant as Iraq.
It's years later & I still love
calling those 1-800 numbers,
but now I can never seem to
say anything beyond sobbing.
I love the way the robot voices tell
me to have a nice day, please call
back for updates on their products,
please call back.
POEM SHAPED LIKE A LIFE STORY
i. On encountering "love" in the Bible for the first time:
I spent the rest of the afternoon
rearranging the cupboards &
drowning houseflies in vinegar.
I thought the sunlight looked
mean so I hid under the kitchen
table. You came home at two AM
& I spit in your face, bit your wrist,
& asked for forgiveness. Later we
tried to kill ourselves & ate mangoes
on the back porch. We kept saying
I forgive you I forgive you I forgive
you. You asked me what the moral
of the story was & I still don't know.
I guess if you do whatever you want,
but touch people like they are bathrobes,
really soft bathrobes, they won't be so
mad anymore. You always agree with
Me. Let's put our heads in the oven
& bake. Test what is & isn't forgivable.
ii. On losing my apartment keys in New York:
True grief twists us this way. Our neighbors
do not care, our screwdrivers hide themselves,
our windows refuse to open. The last time I
saw you, you were sneaking things into my
mailbox & the letters smelled like root beer.
Maybe this is why I dream nightly of killing
plants & people, geraniums & Mexicans,
maple trees & you. The door lock is a war
story all on its own & the spare set of keys
is missing from the bombed welcome mat.
People are roars & keening & wildlife,
tearing ourselves up. We kill the windows
& doors, the mouths & arms. You begin
locking your television in a safe. You
consider leaving your organs there & your
heart in a box.
iii. On the mattress, the sheets are new:
National Geographic shows photos
of cannibals, every photo a cannibal,
I have had enough of cannibals.
From one carcass to another, I
want to tell someone I love him,
but how do you speak when rhetoric
is all that comes out? I used to
believe in God. Maybe I will believe
in God again, just as I believe in toilets,
blood & ripping out the dead flesh &
bones. Sometimes that is all we have
left. Use your skull as jailbait, find
a new body. If I can believe in Lazarus
then so can you.
apocryphaltext Vol. 3
Heather Bell graduated in 2005 from Oswego State University. Since, she has been published in Mannequin Envy, From East To West: Bicoastal Verse, ReadThisMagazine, among others. She enjoys kayaking, catching insects in an old bean jar and writing about it all. She dedicates all her work to JNB. Without him, she never would have written any of it down.
3 poems by heather bell