DeAnne Lyn Smith
Reading Your Diary
It was wrong, but I was fascinated
by the thought of your secret lives, women
you knew before you knew me, ill-fated
love affairs murmuring beneath your skin.
How many times did you hand yourself out
and how many times were you handed back?
Which adjectives did you use? I donít doubt
your love. Still, I wanted to know your track
record. I mean, did anything like us
happen to you before, the sensation
your bodyís holy, hot-wired, outrageous?
Itís no excuse. Itís an explanation.
Curiosityís not really to blame.
Itís this: I was hoping to find my name.
Wind brings the scorpions in,
But no oneís told me why,
Assuming Iíd understand.
For now, I shake out my shoes
And pull my sheets to nun-like tightness.
At night, the geckos chirp
Like baby birds gargling marbles,
Flicking behind the picture frames,
Fast as liarsí tongues,
Small and utterly uncatchable.
Here, my demons are painted,
Dancing, playing improbable drums
With skeletons whose smiles are
Liplessly wide, and I might,
If they stay drunk and distracted
Long enough, slip out of
These are the dailies,
Never remembered in letters,
Which I keep meaning to tell you.
Instead, I seal and stamp
Pages and pages of words and words,
Trying to gather together
Something like an apology,
A belated gift wrapped and bowed.
My mind licked clean by
Failings, soft-footed and feline,
I write, and simple things escape me:
How the mangoes are obscenely
Ripe; I feel guilty eating them.
And did you know it rains nightly,
Clouds draped over the mountains
Like wet laundry over clotheslines?
Even trash lodged in the cobblestones --
Bottle caps, candy wrappers, bits of cardboard --
Washes away with the rainwater,
Winding downhill like a river.
Iím often caught under deep gray skies,
Rain dripping off my skin like words
I donít understand, mumbled and foreign.
Anchor the essentials first:
Letter-Writing Tips for When You're Sailing
Off the End of the Earth
date, time, approximate location.
Say it's genuine octopus,
especially if it's not.
Whatever you do,
don't let blankness
buckle you, even if
your ship's rumbling
like a bone caught
in God's throat
& you've lost
the horizon line.
Chart the stars overhead or
at least allude to them.
In case of clouds, invent.
Bend your knees for balance.
Keep a steady hand.
If you must detail your troubles,
make it fun.
I've run out
of drinking water
but I've got a stack
of fruit cocktail. Now I just
have to remember where
I stashed the can opener.
How have you been?
Are you working?
Are you sleeping?
Are you eating?
Does she love you?
Sign your name,
the one [the recipient]
knew you by.
Resist unnecessary postscripts.
Fold. Stuff. Lick shut. Drop
the entire envelope
picture your words dissolving
well-chosen verbs swelling
beyond context & swirling
down past fish
you never knew existed,
fish so self-sufficient
their insides glow.
Should you feel seasick,
grip the rails.
Study your knuckles.
Count backward from two.
Imagine each molecule of ink
sounding the depths,
buoying you up,
tinting the tap water in foreign lands
you've yet to travel through.
©2004 by DeAnne Lyn Smith
DeAnne Lyn Smith lives right in the heart of Mexico, where she teaches
English and hangs around with her girlfriend, the mime. Her poetry has
appeared in the Baltimore City Paper, the anthology Revolutionary
Voices, and on Dicey Brown. She has poems forthcoming in Stray Dog, Poetry Motel, and Rock Salt Plum. She'll be attending Montreal's Concordia
University to study creative writing this fall, if they'll have her.