Spooky River

Tight-lipped tiger named Antigone
got a letter from Daniel,
not an email, a letter
typed out on his red typewriter
(he noted the color at one point),
among beaded sweat of glass,
paper marked with ash
and smears from his damaged ribbon.
It began
“If I were perfect,
I would not be myself.”
He continued, later
“and to my knowledge,
if I were not myself,
I would be broken.”
She thought of him
as a clean messy monster,
Daniel, riding his bicycle shirtless,
a wad of chaw in his lip,
unmarked and careless,
riding through red lights
riding green angels through empty turnstiles
stopping his routine only for liquor
(he was always drinking beer)
or complaining about conceited actors & his boss,
the smell of armpits,
the politics of the 200 he worked with,
lost loves like Antigone, that aren’t lost
nothing is truly lost,
this would be news to Daniel,
that things are only misplaced,
hearts wander
stones burn
songs yield
mites duck
sleeping mice need no lullabies,
not in the dark quiet corners of the infirmary
where his mother worked.
A little breath,
a little loss.
He knew that friends, birds, time
anger, envy, doubt,
guilt, bad paintings
they all fall away.
Jealousy and regret though,
“they’re like tattoos.”
Antigone continued the letter.
“There are two kinds of people in this world.
The ones who thrive on attention and acceptance,
cannot function unless they’re confirmed by others
that what they are doing is “right”,
easily flattered, seduced and convinced.
These people excuse all sorts of shitty behavior,
they see these flaws as manageable, fixable
like navigating some spooky river on a raft
they see these same flaws within themselves
and sadly, wait for another to fix them.
Money, careers, these are their symbols
of success. All words have one meaning to them.
The ocean is one drop of water.
Hurting can only be hurtful.
Platitudes and truisms help them.
Their lives are actually charts and graphs.
They do not know the world of the other kind.
Those who have choked on water.
Felt desert salt in their eyes.
Have thrown up in blood in bed.
Have signed time away
as a contract with a stranger.
Small gloves in a smaller heart,
four AM phone calls,
stone sober, to tell only “I love you”,
They swallow cherry stems.
They have dreams about the bottom of the ocean.
Life is not a ritual.
It is not defined.
They read phone-books and dictionaries,
The Encyclopedia of Death.
It is a life being drawn,
It is not drawn.
They don’t bring blankets and wine
to the park with their husbands.
They swim in distant sounds.

In closing, Antigone,
avoid both of these types at all costs.
Because there aren’t just two types.
That was just a dumb conceit.
signed,
with love,
Daniel.”

The tight-lipped Tiger folds the letter.
She puts it back in the enveloped.
She puts that envelope in another envelope.
Smiles, and writes the home address of Cassandra
from her black contact book.

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