THE LAST THING I WANT TO DO by Elizabeth Colen


I did that thing where I wouldn’t put anything in my mouth for the longest time. So I wouldn’t lose what was left of you. Even after taste fades, and the feeling. Even after thirst makes everything dry. I parch, I desiccate, die; you replace me.

I rebuild the house from memory all the way home. The fireplace that holds no fire, the broken TV, that lamp everyone has. Stains on the carpet; stains on linoleum. Terra cotta tiles in the foyer, miniature terra cotta animals hunting pale yellow shelves. Stone walls, orange low sun, and you standing in the yard, red face, flushed and mud on your arms, your worn through shoe with its sliver of duct tape crowning the toe.

The arborist had taken the tops off all the trees in the front yard. So they wouldn’t crowd the wires. But I kept thinking: decapitation. Where my head is. Where is my head? The green, another straight line, another horizon. How to get to you. What I want is messier than fire. What I want is soot-black in the keel, a balance wheel back on its heels. Hairspring and oscillation, a regulating beat.

You said the clothing got lonely, waiting for me. Shirts separated by sheets on the line. Thread counts like miles. Dead weight of my bag in the backseat. I felt imperfect again moving away from you, listening as another bee troubled the window like some runner in a suicide squeeze.

Image by: Carl Jones