Like getting a shrug out of a diamond. Like the dative
of your diamond observed it and could not change his face.
Ready to be through with owning, to phase
giving entirely in, you summoned this stone.
Scorching yourself, the prospect of freshness boiling,
you drew bread from the oven. The house fills and rises
as you press the loaf to your friend until the steam
clears on contact and, open in his flat hands,
the bread chills straight through.
He blinks at the brick he holds, made.
You catch a bird, kill it, carve out its heart, and eat that
whirring to a close like a computer fan.
His tattoo, bird made of angular eye, is the thing
breathing. The body travels, its face’s fine wide eyes
lowering their lids. One hand spread out
to keep his own chest cool, he traipses after it.
Feelings one ‘has;’ love occurs.
—Martin Buber, I and Thou
I have a loose ring to which eleven diamonds cling.
I have that song “Dawn is a Feeling.”
I have malaise, enough energy for repulsion on gray mornings.
I too embody a critical, critically feminine, dissatisfaction.
I have what amounts to a pipe organ’s crop
of fantasies, curves made from a forest of straight lines.
I have weak posture.
I engage where I ought not.
I have no obligation to end what’s between us.
I have the obligation to be kind.
21 fires burn actively today in California.
I soak in them. You have no idea
what I would do to you.
I waited for you all day. Just
waited and waited for you.
Gulls passed. I waited.
Here he comes now,
I held the picture you sent
and gazed at it all day. Just
marveled at the sweetheart
in the mirror.
Your continent undisturbed.
I wanted you
day and night. I was up at dawn
addressing your image
in filtered sunlight.
California was new, a desert again.
I close my eyes. Here you come
crawling over, freestyle,
riving the foam-blistered Atlantic,
the cherry in a Manhattan
candied by bitters, frozen solid.
Night pours down. R restrains me on the steps
of the War Memorial Opera House. Sparks of water
shoot from the tires of cars streaking by, catch
streetlight. Brakes dramatize the thunder.
I wail, trying to tear full into the rain.
Burnt glow from a cluster of storefronts across Van Ness
shows a figure like you, but broader, gazing over. The slacks
match the umbrella. You notice I have seen you. Enraged,
I bluster down the marble stairs. Shining,
we face off in the street. Headlights crash.
You enter traffic, dark green,
teeth tall and carved; we jerk awake.
IS THIS LOVE, NOW THAT THE FIRST LOVE HAS FINALLY DIED…?
You drive and sing. You do it for a kiss. You slice
and salt tomatoes, butter yellow, and are kissed (after
she eats) and stand close by. You push your hair away
to look at her, to make room for a kiss. You boil water
for coffee, alone in the kitchen, thinking about it.
When she’s awake you play the piano and it hurts her
when you stop. Those kisses shrink on contact.
You scorn your strange feet, frowning when she argues.
You believe you are right, then you put on a record,
willing to use dancing to be kissed.
You believe in therapy. You believe
in knowing better, but are hurt: you do it for sympathy
but will take a kiss. You don’t care if it works or not. You
doubt you are ready. You want to be kissed
and she wants to kiss. You will make
breakfast for it. Share your glass of water. Sleep
apart. Your trees bear apricot, halves you offer
for a kiss, mouth full already, talking your way into more kissing.
Kayla Krut is a Zell Fellow at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, where she received an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her work has recently appeared in A Perimeter, the Berkeley Poetry Review, and on Tin House’s Open Bar. She is from California.
Author’s note: The title “Is This Love, Now That the First Love Has Finally Died…?” is a quote from Frank O’Hara.