It all happened so quickly:
what I said, his fist,
my sprawling, his drunken kicks,
the bartender gripping my face in
his huge hand once I
struggled to my feet.
it took forever, it seemed,
like the irreversible lifetime
between slammed-on brakes
and impact. For years I recalled
only the figure I cut
as I shrieked, flat on my back,
and later groped along
the floor for my glasses.
now how overdressed
for that bar she was
in her peasant skirt, richly
embroidered, the black leotard top,
the turquoise necklace.
a bar where the drinking
was serious and steady, the silence
behind the backbeat sullen,
stiff with craving. More
of her then unscarred body
comes into view,
a girl's really, unfinished,
all I knew.
I hadn't noticed
him then, but I do now — gaunt,
tattooed, with hard blue eyes,
a Vet, recently returned,
bellied-up, putting back
shots of bourbon before lurching over.
Who the hell do you think
you are coming in here
dressed like that, tits
sticking out, mocking us.
Someone ought to teach you
a lesson, girlie. And me, approaching,
the lady doesn't want to be
bothered, can't you see that, friend?
a line right out of the movies.
I went reeling across the floor,
though, was a moment I owe
to his hurt, vengeful eyes.
Stepping between them I forgot
where I was, caught in the thrilling
scent of perfume and sweat,
the flush of her throat,
just as he must have been too.
It stunned me.
All I'd wished for until then
had been beyond reach,
unattainably elevated and glorious,
that pure curse of adolescence
which goes wry or bitter in us.
My God, I thought, she's mine
and meant: I am crossing over.
It stretched away before me
like the land of milk and honey.
When he turned me toward him
I had no idea why.
I didn't feel
that first punch; his fist kissed
my chin like a blessing, stamping
the instant indelibly with his vision
of it as well — it was this:
love is something I'll never have.
Months later her death was
She died en route,
narrowing the distance between us,
a collision so powerful
it snapped her heart off
its stem and disfigured her terribly;
they sealed the coffin
No distance between us
I can take her
into more than my arms
wishing still for that life
which no one could grant us —
not ourselves then,
not myself now.
it’s more than a daydream,
more even than a memory:
I let her take my hand,
I let her lead me out.
I can be the fool now
I could never let myself be.
I can give myself up
to her greater envisionings.
Things I Can't Begin to Describe
When I was little
my father unscrewed his left arm from its socket
and hung a red dress in its place
a dress that had drifted down from a Ferris wheel
Later my heart put that dress on
and did things I can't begin to describe
Some of us want only what we want
Others know the future spilled the beans long ago
What we do doesn't bear scrutiny
What we mutter doesn't bear repeating
Who's to say the infant in tomorrow's arms
will know what to do with yesterday's paring knife
You wouldn't think you could cook fish cold in lemon juice
You wouldn't think you could be comfortable in your skin
Say it like you mean it is not the same as meaning it
The Committee of the Whole
We were bitter united and sang an In Nomine
that ran the gamut from P53 to Dear John
as though never mind meant mindful of
as though accidents were systematic
and the wheel were a wind instrument
We shared an understanding of up a creek without and do the math
We took all we knew about the wilderness
and all we knew about embarrassment
and ran them through the secret language of
the experience we call the experience of others
Someone is counting
Someone is struggling
Someone is mapping her pillow
Someone is pulverizing not so simple to fill the hourglass
Someone is on the far side of in-between
Someone is and then someone else is and heaving into view is
yet another someone
There is a factory somewhere in tarnation
that makes one item one unit one thing at a time
and that one thing is no thing at all
David Weiss coedits Seneca Review. His last two books of poems are Perfect Crime (Nine Mile Books, 2017) and Per Diem (Tiger Bark Press, 2019).