Kinds of Light
Let me begin with the glittering stars.
Outside an abandoned garage in Whitehall, NY,
the moon saws the windshield,
catching the pine-scented air freshener
trembling from the mirror
as I dial the radio to a station
where all night lovers in the Midwest
phone in dedications,
their voices thick with longing.
Last night, I lifted my hands
off the wheel, closed my eyes & sped downhill,
the road rushing up to meet me.
I imagined you were there,
watching the white lines tick down.
Now, I lever the seat back until I am
watching the lonely
late-night shoppers trigger the sliding doors
of a low-rent supermarket
across the street. A blinking sign,
a deserted lot.
I wonder if states away
your heart contracts & quickens
like the wings
of a hummingbird,
arrhythmia fluttering until dawn
as you chase whatever dark
swims in you.
Last winter, you leaned against the bridge
above the river’s vein carving the city
in two, as close to me as that
thrifted faux fur coat
I breathed in—
the trapped stench of Olay & hair spray—
as you told me your wife was in love
with someone else
& I wanted to hold you all night
until you disappeared,
light enough to float like pine ash
to the rocks below.
My voice slid sh sh sh over the icy pavement
as sleet began to blind the passing cars.
As if holding on were an art,
a chorus of yes & yes & yes,
then no, no, no, no.
We cling to what we need until we don’t.
When we jump
dirt cracks underfoot. Even the grass cries
as it’s trampled.
If there were a way to step
inside your mind,
I’d cast for ghosts.
I think there must be two kinds of light:
one that glows inside an empty room
left ajar at the end of a jet-black hallway
& one that sputters, naked,
out in the open
like a bare bulb
buzzing over a cement floor.
Here, there is little light & along the shoulder,
a lone hitchhiker glides,
nearly invisible. In this remote town
the gas tanks are blank & empty.
Somewhere in the woods, an owl.
When the program ends, the news comes on.
I turn the key. Tell me I’m going home.
When I sharpen a blade, drawing it through
a diamond-edged V,
metal grates like new love against an old marriage
& I remember that once you lived with a woman
who I do not know
& though you wish your past were unmarked,
a field without fences,
I know her face flips through your mind
sometimes like a coin, two-sided.
She breathes between us, proof that matter,
what has been lost,
never disappears but finds another home,
that sorrow & joy,
like the twin stems of chromosomes,
can rise up through my skin like black-eyed
poppies—stubborn, perilous, & beguiling
in their red petticoats—& flutter at the mercy
of what binds us.
Don't think I don’t see her
when you hold me.
Don’t think we’re totally free.
When my grandfather died, my mother hid his ashes
in a hummus container and carried him
around in her purse.
The truth is you will always hold her against you
like this, as if she had died.
Tell me that the vowels of your name
have a half-life, time to dissolve
into another element.
The night swallows itself in the hips
of a wine glass. I pull my shawl
across my face, blinded in the kitchen lights,
& your figure, airbrushed,
almost disappears. The blade gleams silver-sharp.
We split ourselves apart & cleave
that half in half & then that half & the next.
Be cobalt for me. Be uranium. Be the body
kept until it’s after-flame.
Let our feet stamp the dirt
& our mouths make the air.
JOEY KINGSLEY earned a BA in English from the College of the Holy Cross and an MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is currently a PhD student in English literature and lives in Rochester, NY.