When an elephant comes across abandoned skeletons, she will nudge the scattered bones and tusks, build a grave of branches, stay silent for days. She will know her way back to them. When the needle first drilled into the skin taut across my rib cage and tender breast tissue, then deeper, the tattoo artist told me I was a bleeder. You, a few days dead as grief seeped from me in the shape of your name. A burial ground of black ink and dead skin down the side of my body. When a spotted dolphin’s companion dies it swims around for days with its eyes refusing to open and years ago scientists in Tanzania saw a chimpanzee die of a broken heart and sometimes I can’t help but believe some god plucks loved ones from our hands like dandelions. Maybe elephants return to the gravesite because they cannot forget how to get there. For weeks I carried around a teddy bear, your picture hung from its neck by a blue shoelace. *
Self-Portrait in Unfinished Letters
Dear — The gulf is bleeding black again. They say they’ll fix it. They say Claude Chabrol is dead for the first time today—September 12th and church bells through the courtyard window. I meant to see more of his films while he was alive. Barreling down Pacific Coast Highway, what was that song? Do you remember what Allison sounds like sitting shotgun? + Dear — I quit vegetarianism last month. Remember when the teacher said, I’m too old to protest? The largest picture on the front page of the paper is a man crossing Bryant Park with a mannequin underarm. They said they’d fix it. A city of moths to the tent-white sheen of celebrity. I try to leave her out of this one: Allison, a choir of whispers in the dark. + Dear — They decided not to burn the Quran yesterday. You’ve always liked it better when there’s a they in the story. I’ve lost faith in my own impact. The Nile is drowning in one hundred tons of gasoline and Allison is dead for the one thousand seven hundred seventeenth time when I wake. There’s a fire under the earth they can’t fix. + Dear — La fille cupée en deux in a near-empty theater, my appendages overflowing with the ghost of almost. I’ve forgotten her face for the third time today. A sunken-in man on the subway plays a song about a city built entirely of instruments that make no sound. I’ll go anywhere the sirens can’t find me.
I was sure I'd die like her as I watched the world upturn. My scream— a single, almost indistinguishable word— sluicing through the windshield's cracks. The sky for a moment at my feet and then just sky again. The car roof bowed beneath the tree. Two arms in the morning light tore me from the wreckage of splintered glass, branches, her name, her name, her name. I was sure I'd die like her that day and what I remember most clearly as the highway kaleidoscoped before me was screaming her name, begging not to live, but to find her in the after, waiting.