What Am I If Not a Killer?
………………..—After Gaia Rajan´s “Inside Every Poem
………………..You Can Hear Muffled Screams”
Everywhere I turn, something beautiful stares
back at me, writhing, caught in the wires
of my mind. Shrieking to be set loose into
a poem, or from a poem, sacrificed
for the sake of art. The nights I´ve lain awake
listening for noises outside my window, telltale
signs of a rip, a snap, anything mangled enough
to serve as a symbol for the catastrophes
plaguing our world. They hear me, too:
the crunch of my boot, breath tumbling
out of my mouth like pebbles as I search
the land for dying things. Some of them
escape and my scream slashes the sky.
I live in fear of my own twisted desire:
who else but the poet claws and claws
at an innocent creature, drawing blood,
chiseling bone down to its marrow?
What rabbit asked to become the meat
to feed my grief? Am I the demented
hunter, pen drawn, thoughts dressed
in camouflage, prodding images lured
through snares I spent hours looping
or am I the hunted, preyed upon by savage
emotions, defending myself from myself?
Each sheet of paper is a wall decorated
with heads and skins and furs, pieces
I´ve beheld with pride, presented to others
with a flourish. In my bleakest moments
they materialize, all those spirits of past poems
stampeding through my home, encircling me.
Somewhere in the middle of her soliloquy
I found the days that hadn´t been accounted for.
Hunched over the granite countertop, I diced onions,
carrots, sliced sirloin into slabs with the skill of
a serial killer. I had already fished the turntable out
of the cellar, dusted off our old collection of vinyls,
shopped for pearls. I half-listened as her voice spilled
across the surface, lies sparkling like bits of glass,
nicking my fingertips. Don´t bother opening
the champagne, she said. Unless I didn´t mind
whispering sweet nothings into our cottage´s
many ears. Rivulets of laughter swirled around
her eyes, but her charm floundered among
discarded memories, all those quarrels surfacing
in the years floating between us. I held back,
reluctant to cross the divide into peaceful territory.
How many times had my toasts been deprived
of breath, drowning in the chime of an empty flute?
How many excuses had she conjured to sail out
the front door, car keys clattering in her pocket,
gaze set on the horizon of a rendezvous?
Farewells so naked, they took shelter behind leaves,
camouflaged in the colors of butterfly wings.
Pressed for time, she went classic, oblivious
to my phone call, the depth of gossip gurgling
in her colleagues´ throats. I pictured her posed
in a darkened meeting room, presenting slides
to phantoms left sitting in chairs hours after
the executives had gone home, snickered
despite myself. She took it as complaisance
or naïveté, skimmed her lips over mine, vanished.
Knife in hand, I sauntered off to find our song.
© Julie Weiss
Julie Weiss‘s debut chapbook, The Places We Empty, will be published by Kelsay Books in July 2021. In 2020, she was a finalist in Alexandria Quarterly´s first line poetry contest series and a finalist for The Magnolia Review´s Ink Award. In 2019 she was a Best of the Net Nominee. Recent work appears in Montana Mouthful, Kissing Dynamite Poetry, and Better Than Starbucks, among others, and she has poems in many anthologies, as well. Originally from California, she lives in Spain with her wife and two young children. You can find her on Twitter @colourofpoetry or on her website at https://julieweiss2001.wordpress.com/