So once again you begin here at the beginning, near the end, as the human language you lost you now regain. In the doorway a woman loitered, imagined or real, it doesn’t matter. She wore a name like a white dress and smiled slightly, as if to offer you advice, if only you knew then just what she meant. In a hospital bed your friend said “The advantage of a premature death? You give success the slip.” You slipped a note into her clammy hand because you’re accustomed to failure, you like its scent. And since all the good Catholics are dead, the waiter with champagne propped on a tray didn’t offer you any, not one glass. It must be your clothes, the month old smoke stench, dead skin, and your only friend burned to ashes. Who will you call now when the visions kick in, when the film ends and the hotel— vacant, the front desk receptionist has left. Put simply, your friend ended one pain in the name of another. In a dirt lot two men fought behind a funeral parlor, one for attention, the other for honor. You were as high as you’ve ever been, wasting time. You thought if the future is the entire sum of the past and present, you count it vanishing in smoke rings. And if a man stands at a balcony’s edge as his hands sweat, nothing will happen. Your blue haired lover stands confident, the white dress in a circle around her feet, begging you to grow wings as she speaks. In bed her legs shake uncontrollably. And later, she showers as you sit smoking a cigarette, as you dream of a future not too far off when at last you’ll come to take your solitude back. Towel around her chest, your shirt ripped, who said it’s too late for second chances? Revealing less than a nakedness, she dances like a dancer, she gazes but never blinks. Gorgeous, you think, her hair longer than yours, and wet, two earrings glinting in half light almost brighter than pearls— life would be a lie if not for desire. If not for desire, your dead friend might still be alive and the new lover you met at his funeral, a stranger. “Isn’t the morning dew beautiful?” she asks, as your fists grip the railing and you stare out to the horizon, frozen in pink, as the fresh world thaws and spins and your breath vanishes, as the melted snow strums the gutter, and your head rings.
Max Lasky‘s poems are published or forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Frontier Poetry, the Academy of American Poets Anaïs Nin Poetry Prize, The Indianapolis Review, and elsewhere. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Leavings (https://www.leavingslitmag.com), and he is an assistant poetry editor for Narrative Magazine.