ARS POETICA

It’s not the smoking I miss
but his mouth reciting

verses in between taking

deep swigs. The water bottle
might have tipped me off

to his neediness. Who

needs to drink that much
throughout the day? Not even

a horse, and yes, some said

he was hung. Only thing worse
than a cobalt polystyrene

bottle ordered off Amazon

might be a flask of generic
vodka, the cheapest shit

sold at the nearest bodega

past midnight. Might want to
call it more than an oral

fixation sleeved in anonymous

paper wrap. Ever wonder
how many who manage

to finish a marathon

also happen to be in AA?
Nothing against rehab

but why is it so many

relapse? At ten grand a pop,
you might want to take it

more seriously. My godfather

who turned eighty finally
decided to get both of his

knees replaced. My brother

at fifty decided to get both
of his tubes untied, wanting to

start up another family.

How many times did I have to
watch someone breathing

through a hole in their throat

and speak to me directly
in that dehumanizing electric

voice during a commercial

break before I decided
I just had to disconnect

my cable, completely unplug

from the world grid? I’m not
better than any of you

but I do know one thing: a man

without a Soul Friend is like
a body without a head,

is like a polluted lake no good

for drinking. Darling, has it
come to this? Not that I want to

say goodbye to all the addicts

in my life, some of them wearing
masks that closely resemble

my own face. Camus said

you get to own your own face
around the age of thirty-five

and I remember finding that

a little upsetting. That was
more than fifteen years ago

and at fifty plus, I can tell you

what no one wants to hear:
that it’s even more lonely

to be a head without a body

rolling around in a basket
at the height of the Revolution—

everyone else with heads on

shouting Viva la France!
I am still looking hard

for a Soul Friend, New York City

notwithstanding. Is it wrong
to want to believe in

Celtic wisdom handed down

through the centuries when I
identify as a gay ex-Mormon

Chinese-American swinger?

The Irish woman named Mary
who turned my cards over

wore a green polka dot cloak

and asked me what kind
of poetry I write, and when I

returned her volley with, well,

what kind do you read?, she
handed me a copy of O’Donohue’s

Anam Cara. Today just happens

to be my Soul Friend’s birthday.
Once again, we are the same

age, though he lives in Chicago

and no longer speaks to me.
He is like a body without a head,

I think, but what does he think,

our bodies still “commingled
in the well of dreams,” not knowing

how we really lost our minds.

 

 

Timothy Liu‘s Luminous Debris: New & Selected Legerdemain 1992-2017​ will be published in 2018. He lives in Manhattan and Woodstock, NY. www.timothyliu.net

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