by Lydia Tomkiw
Correspondence on Too Thin Paper
You wish to make me dinner
Having spent your life in the kitchens:
“Come, woman, we must dance,
But first I have to feed you.”
We were so wicked at the zoo that day,
I imagined you dark and subtle
With eyes so large they seemed tempted to
Drip off your face.
Or perhaps I imagined you washed out and shallow-eyed
With nothing of a chin;
I don’t remember,
Since then I have sent you boxes of inflammable birds
And you have replied with decorative blindfolds
And books that smell of brown paper bags.
Today, while reading them,
I feel too buffered by this house,
Waiting for the postman
Or telephone panic,
Waiting for the doorbell’s novocaine hum
When I could be strapped in yellow satin
Waiting on a hill
For an exiled young actor to offer me refuge
In a taxi that will take me to Coney Island.
Cafes I Have Known
The Café of Mismatched Silverware.
The Small Animal Café.
The Café of Too Many Teas that Taste the Same.
The Revolving Table Café.
The Windowless Café.
The Café of Dead Telephones.
The Fur-lined Cup Café.
The Café of Dwarfish Waiters.
The Café of Voluptuous Salt Shakers.
The Inflammable Café.
Recalling the Last Encounter
There is no anemic embrace on the street;
A kiss is thrown, meets another,
Drops to the sidewalk and goes for a tumble.
You warn of tight clouds that
Wriggle like army worms;
A form of algebra suicide, I guess.
I want to telephone the sailors,
Curse their songs of gasoline,
As the light in the booth turns me hideous.
I want to become hydraulic,
Hit the newsstands—national exposure,
Feel the world crawl into me through the fingertips,
As the traffic locks, stops, goes soft.
I want to talk about milk,
About the invisible bones of the face,
About the brain that sits too close to the skin
While I hear you say that we can be chainsaws
Under the stars.
Under what stars?
My Favorite Dadistic
A delicate young artists stands:
Switchblade at his neck, snakeskin at his feet;
A siren sings, the city turns away,
And all I can hear are the cries of those who are
Being eaten by the music.
I dream I wake in a striped blouse
somewhere in Jamaica.
Each time I blink, a million sounds escape my eyes,
Run out into the waves
And kick themselves to death.
Then I dream the dream called laundry.
But when he comes near, I admire the glimmer
Of doll’s hair,
The muddiness of complexion as
He reassures me through the side of his mouth
“The yellow eyes of fish are not sad,”
And I reply
“Yes, but have you ever caught the whispers of sidewalks
As pale women walk by?”
He shakes his head, sends lucite chips scattering
And keeps repeating
“The moon has no odor,
The moon has no odor……..”
This is To Notify You
Here I am, doubled over,
Dreaming again in Manhattan,
City as dull as
Death by natural causes.
I can not bear the stars anymore;
They just hang there, silly, useless as neckties,
My fingers are stained with newsprint
And my lips are nervous.
Where are all the hungry boys,
Those who will want my shoes after I die,
Those who taxi drivers are afraid to touch,
Those who wear their hair like some
Badge of beauty?
Yes, overproduced things appeal to me.
I crave an ex-husband,
Chilled perfume, a pillow that smells of hairspray
And now you even want to take this from me.
I will take off my arms and go to bed;
I am so sleepy,
I don’t care to hold hands with anyone.
Speed of Light
In previous lives we were born in cities
We really didn’t admire;
We ate atomic breakfasts,
Hid in map factories,
Sang foreign hymns until my brainwater ached.
We were a kind of Siamese twin,
Severed lungs cut at what doctors called
“The Golden Bridge.”
Even then they sensed something uncanny,
Seeing we were somewhat happy on our crutches,
Spread slap against the sky
Which is another man’s floor.
The memory dazzles me.
Now, in the sonic dashboard din,
I can sense the traces of aluminum in my blood
As we begin to breathe in unison
And our fingerprints become
Everyone is so boring:
No cure for colds, no carlot chases,
Nothing to make this a faster asteroid.
Even your fevergiving drone makes me pensive,
Puts me at a melancholy pace, as if embodied in an egg.
I should freeze oxygen at midnight and thaw it at dawn,
Plow fields just to make the earthworms nervous,
But instead, I am ready to throw bricks
(but only something as dull as bricks);
Strip and melt.
A Shot in the Head
I fear science, I fear math,
I fear anything thick and inflexible:
The space between your ribs, too tough
To poke my fingers in.
And you decide to move to Pittsburg
Where men shovel on their knees making
Their stomachs hard enough to dance on.
What is left for me to do?
I have lost my desire to provoke noise;
No longer want to flirt with the enemy or
I’ve stopped stealing books for a living
(that small time crime),
Test driving cars and never coming back.
This is quite serious.
I go to bed, still in parenthesis,
A mere elbow nudge.
It’s things like this that make you find refuge in sleep,
So dreamless, you could slip into death
And never find out about it.
On My 21st Birthday
Like a gesture held back in an elevator,
So is this day.
I strap these hands to my hips
When they should be waving in frenzy,
Dance with the nude bamboo man when
I really should be waltzing.
I know no one who has died in August,
No legal holidays attached to it;
It’s all mine:
Month of eternal redheads.
Look what I’ve created for myself:
A butterfly grows dizzy in heat,
Buzzes into a wall and drops.
A girl, picked at random from the crowd,
Sits on the roof of a decorated Chevy,
And as it pulls away,
Waves to the empty streets.
Published 1980 -1981 in Amanda Blue. Used with permission.
photo by Dan Griffin