Kim Addonizio

March 1998


How images enter you, the shutter of the body
clicking when you’re not even looking:
smooth chill of satin sheets, piano keys, a pastry’s glazy crust
floating up, suddenly, so the hairs along your arm
lift in that current of memory, and your tongue tastes
the sweet salt of a lover as he surges
against you, plunges towards the place you can’t
dive into but which is deepening each moment
you are alive, the black pupil widening,
the man going down and in, the food and
champagne and music and light, there is no bottom to this,
silt and murk of losses that won’t ever settle,
and the huge unsleeping fish, voracious for pleasure,
and the soundless fathoms where nothing
yet exists, this minute, the next, the last
breath let out and not returning, oh hold
on to me as the waters rise, don’t be afraid,
we are going to join the others, we are going
to remember and tell them everything.

From Then to Now
for Dorianne

I’ve been thinking of your father,
who stood over your bed
and casually opened you,
who walked down the hall in his robe and slippers
after lifting the childhood from your body
night after night, the way the knife
lifts the delicate skeleton of the fish
from its flesh, the way the magician
slips the scarlet silk from his black sleeve.
I didn’t know you then. At seven
I was picking out my birthday doll
in a hotel gift shop, and my father
was in that other world, the one where words
and gestures drifted idly down on
threads of smoke from his cigarettes
and the smell of his cologne. I felt alone
but I did not feel that terror
of my father’s step. Whenever I
see you now, I see your father, too,
standing behind your shoulder in his pajamas,
a vague grey shape, oddly humble
in his refusal to vanish. I see his hands like two
hooks descending, and when we hug in greeting
it’s him I take you from,
I put my arms around that sleepy child
and make him give her back.

May 2000


Now that you’re finally happy
you notice how sad your friends are.
One calls you from a pay phone, crying.
Her husband bas cancer; only a few months,
maybe less, before his body gives in.
she’s tired all the time, can barely eat.
What can you say that will help her?
You yourself are ravenous.
You come so intensely with your new lover
you wonder if you’ve turned
into someone else. Maybe an alien
has taken over your body
in order to experience the good life
here on earth: dark rum and grapefruit juice,
fucking on the kitchen floor,
then showering together and going out
to eat and eat. When your friends call—
the woman drinking too much, the one who lost
her brother, the ex-lover whose right ear
went dead and then began buzzing—
the alien doesn’t want to listen.
More food, it whines. Fuck me again,
it whispers, and afterwards we’ll go to the circus.
the phone rings. don’t answer it.
You reach for a fat eclair,
bite into it while the room fils
with aliens—wandering, star-riddled creatures
who vibrate in the rapturous air,
longing to come down and join you,
looking for a place they can rest.


Sometimes, when we’re lying after love,
I look at you and see your body’s future
of lying beneath the earth; putting the heel
of my hand against your rib I feel how faint
and far away the heartbeat is. I rest
my cheek against your left nipple and listen
to the surge of blood, seeing your life splashed out,
filmy water hurled from a pot
onto dry grass. And I want to be pressed
deep into the bed and covered over,
the way a seed is pressed into a hole,
the dirt tamped down with a trowel.
I want to be a failed seed, the kind
that doesn’t grow, that doesn’t know it’s meant to.
I want to lie here without moving, lifeless
as an animal that’s slaughtered, its blood smeared
on a doorpost, I want death to take me if it
has to, to spare you, I want it to pass over.