Daphne asks Marcus to quantify loneliness,
and without looking, he points towards
the sound of a plane. She doesn't understand,
so he suspends her from his kitchen ceiling
with copper wires—a bird's eye view
of every tangerine he peels, each article
he reads in the Sunday news.
Sometimes she sleeps, drifts
under the waning fluorescent bulb
that stays on above the sink.
Other times, she tracks the movements
of confused spiders around the whisper-quiet fan.
She begins to notice the inconsistencies
in the floor tiles—the uneven filler in the grooves.
Then the pale dome of skin crowning
on the top of Marcus' head.
I could reach out and touch you,
if you had better posture,
she says when he sits beneath her.
I could help you if you'd let me, those nights
he runs the faucet and barely moves.
Despite her best efforts, he doesn't hear her,
and the rafters have begun blending with her bones.
Each day, she thinks less and less of asking
to be taken down.
You wanted to name our beach house Carthage,
so at least we'd know what to fight over
when we fell apart. That was you: a forward thinker.
The kind of man who could drag me anywhere
and get me to stay.
Ocean grit in everything: the cracks in the sinks, the bread—
It takes a special kind of person to live out here,
you whispered, pipe in hand, a caricatured sea captain
with your arm loose around my shoulders,
and for a minute, I thought we could make this a life.
Eight hundred days later though,
I still can't find the sun buried under New England clouds,
and your work keeps you away more than you'd planned.
I mostly sit and watch the wind carry off the tops of sand dunes,
whisk away brightly colored blankets.
Three Ways of Breaking Apart
I couldn't do anything, so I wrote a poem
about a girl who tied the ends of her fingers
with strings fastened to a brick.
How the wet, zipped sound of twine through skin
stuck in my ears long after she dropped
the block from the roof.
The piece was for you, splayed out
like children's chalk drawings:
ugly-obvious and trite.
It's a flash summer in November
where you are, eight hundred miles away,
and I imagine you surrounded by women
in dresses, thin straps against their shoulders.
Someone I know once said, Writers give readings
to meet people who want to fuck writers.
Without reason, I think this is not far off
from what you do.
I read tarot cards on my floor,
buy a new shade of pink for my lips.
I press them again and again against
the beveled mirror that reminds me each morning:
ten pounds lost is five years gained
if you can make him love you
I lit six candles to make my barren apartment
feel more like a home. In the dark, they glow
like torches in a film, a bundle of thick brush
the leading man carries steadily
from room to hidden room.
The girl I wrote about in the poem is standing in her kitchen,
her mutilated hands in thick gloves.
She checks, over and over, the tea leaves in a pot,
staring at something that isn't there.
RC Gray is currently a lecturer at University of California-Irvine, where she received her MFA in English from the Programs in Writing.