I Would Use My Hands

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I Would Use My Hands by Marisa de los Santos  

Because I Love You,

I cannot tell you that last night in the exhaust-

fume impatience of nearly-stopped traffic

through which cars crept, linked

with short chains of light,

the driver at my front failed for whole minutes

to follow closely the blue Buick in front of him,

stopped, in fact, entirely, while a thousand

engines idled in molasses-sticky Virginia heat.

I caught the fine, still cut-out of his face

as he leaned a little out the window, looking,

so I turned, too, and saw what I had missed in long

minutes of waiting: a bank of cloud like descending

birds, a great, bright raspberry moon,

and I was surprised into loving this man as I

have loved others — ancient-eyed boys reading on benches,

crossing guards in white gloves,

businessmen sleeping on trains — easily,

as I have never loved you.



©2000 Marisa de los Santos and Nerve Publishing


First Light

I shake the night rains loose from sapling oaks

to catch the water on my face. The smooth

trunks cool my palms. Beneath the morning’s

clear, amazing corals, magnolia

blossoms do their slow unscrolling. Touch,

however light, would scar, and so I keep

myself from handling petals I know would

feel something like my lover’s skin:

his inner wrists, the hollow of his throat.

The woman — thin, dark-haired — who loved him last

spring called at 2 a.m., her time. A whole

year gone and she’s not finished wanting him

to suffer. When he spoke to her, his voice

was not his voice, was pavement cracking in

unseasonable cold, so I got dressed

and walked outside. It’s good to be this way,

alone and thinking, “Vivid, vivid!” I

would use my hands to gather up and knot

the corners of this morning. The screen door

creaks. He says my name three times, the third

time softly, so I turn and walk inside.

When we’re in bed the sun, now up, is white,

the floor, the walls, our bodies bleaching, as

my careful movements rip his breath to rags.




©2000 Marisa de los Santos and Nerve Publishing



Tonight I heat water for tea

to hear the whistle

that comes like the pressing

of a bruise in this dim kitchen.

She’s been two weeks

away, she who’d sit beside me,

her long body bundled in flannel,

her head bent over steaming tea.

I packed a pot and three new cups

into one of her boxes. I imagine

her hair bright brown in the caught

light of a desk lamp as she sips

between pages or equations, but I know

that cups of tea won’t keep her

safe or happy or a child. I know

because eighteen and not long

or far from home, I felt a man

slide his hand down my narrow length

of back, smoothing vertebrae

like river stones. I tried to be lost

in the scent of his hair or the width

of his shoulders, but we stood

beside a window. My cheek against his

neck, I watched the dead leaves

chase like cats on the walk and thought

with the shade down and with a thin

moon, we would be only black, shifting

shapes to the night outside. I learned,

as she will, that the color can seep

from a dream in the space of an hour,

that there are always new ways

of being alone.




©2000 Marisa de los Santos and Nerve Publishing


Women Watching Basketball

For us, five writers, it’s partly

    to do with the language, little spells,

        hyphenated, elegant lingo,

words swirling like whiskey in the mouth:

    pump-fake, post-up, two- guard,

We are casual.

Like Whitman — who’d have been a fan

    for sure, adoring and bearded,

        tossing his hat in the air

for the Knicks — we speak passwords

    primeval, we enter this world

        and belong. With adamant hands,

we argue calls, how best

    to beat the double-team, the beauty

        of an inside-outside game.

And, too, it’s the players themselves

    that attract us, their lives, loose-

        linked fragments of story

each of us seeks and collects:

    the guard’s murdered father, the tranquil

        center’s Muslim faith,

ten thousand winter coats

    the rookie gave to children.

        But, still, it’s more than all

that. Oh, how to explain

    why you love what you love?

        Picture time-lapse photography,

the certain outward opening

    of flowers, one circle of petals

        at a time, a smooth unfisting

called to life by notes sounded

    somewhere in the clenched heart,

        the thirsty root-tips, the body

of the moist earth. Exhalation

    of a long-held breath. Green

        stem, delicate tendon,

twisting toward the sun.

    Because it’s like that,

        a little, the turn-around fade-away

jumper. Though we know the ethereal

    nicknames: Magic, Dream, Air,

        what we want most is pure

corpus, sharp tug of tricep

    and hamstring, five fingers’ grip

        on the ball — hard, perfect star —

back muscles singing, glorious

    climb through the air. We imagine

        it this way: to dunk would be life

from the bones out, would be

    to declare, Divine is the flesh!

        and for once to believe it, believe it.



©2000 Marisa de los Santos and Nerve Publishing