In the Eight

Matt Longabucco

Time I filled so faithfully at the desk
or paying visits, guilt I endured like
a soldier but in what army, hope
I pinned on a flat-leaver, lust I divided
like a bud of weed—leaf from stem—
or consecrated in a succession of
private galleries, empathy I humored
like an out-of-town visitor or worse
a visitor from the tri-state area who as
you once astutely put it comes in search
not of his host but of portable enlivenment,
despair I thrashed beside as if we
were two bedmates who alternatively
sleep, pretend to sleep, dream, pretend
to dream, awaken, pretend to awaken,
vanity I could hardly conceal, but can
any obligation be concealed—no,
there are contracts stating the first party
will incur a penalty only one for whom
the future is without attachments would
dare to incur, fear I meant to outwit
knowing full well it was the flesh of my
wit, and its skeleton as well, the synapse
of my understanding and its divine current,
love I drank like beer in steam, or rum
in fiddling, or vodka in Bushwick,
or coconut water in tardiness, conviction
I coveted, excellence I bookmarked,
success I reframed downward, passion I
had to forget everything to recognize
the way the scanner instantly forgets the identity
of the patient who suffers its verdict,
stillness I couldn’t reconcile in you until I
had to change my mind not about you but
about stillness, righteousness I hid from
beneath a bridge while the royal carriage
clattered past above, mischief a dysbarism followed
as in the wanton melting down of plastic soldiers
at least one of whom executes a perfect forward
fold, ritual I established or violence I finally
gave, in its at least rhythmic turmoil,
the wish I was still protecting in this
way from the more vacant desert—
desert of fishbones and formations
so primal only a pastry chef in a time
of ascendant decadence could mimic
them unconsciously, purpose I guarded,
betrayal I laughed off—but we know
that’s not true, fatherhood I let
bleed into friendships and affairs,
childhood I visited in the descriptions
of those whose preternatural concentration
could restore its sun, wind, rain, snow,
paper, fabric, sickness, sport,
desire I knew was elsewhere, I pretended,
but I knew this, you’d have to be an insect,
you’d have to be inside the walls, you’d
have to see up close into the shit or savor
what it’s of, joy I stumbled under, its web
of clear green mucous frozen like
a spiderweb between skyscrapers
the only foliage in January air, death I let
nibble me, and smile when I think of having
let it, today I’m the idiot, grinning at some
private thought, sitting beside you, or swaying
on a packed with sighs and snorting A.