Mar 052016
 

Karen Mulhallen

xValete Seu Morimi
Be Strong or Be Extinguished

I

Mad about you, deep in me
everywhere—
Can’t Help It.

§

II

Everything you said
you truly meant
at the moment
I fell into the spaces in between
Il dolce fa niente
Can’t Help It!

§

III

The last words I spoke
imagining we would take one of those trips
only lovers take
two great cities, Paris, Istanbul—
nights by water, walking  in the moonlight
as the nightingale begins to sing
and the dervish whirls and the hookahs are
lit aromatic of apple and tobacco and flame
and then I said  no, I will not
torment myself, drive us both crazy
with imaginary scenarios
Can’t Help It!

§

IV

Well this time I thought I got lucky
(and thought he had too)
I met this person
(a real person)
someone from years ago,
and I thought I’m clear of debris
over the catastrophe,
just a plain old mudslide,
ready for love—
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxCan’t Help It!

§

V

I need to write it out,
hope my words scrawled on paper,
tiny band-aides,
little sutures on the scratches,
the small lines of blood
everywhere on my body­—
Can’t Help It.

§

VI

We’ve had thirty-five years to get this right
and now you’ve bailed
left me with the leaky boat—
Can’t Help It.

§

VII

If you came through the door
like that hawk’s landing
I would just say can’t help it,
Can’t Help It!

§

VIII

Can’t Help It,
I believed everything he said—
he’s an actor—really—
the embodiment of truth
at that moment.

*

You know you can only
lead the horse to water.

*

Nothing ventured, nothing gained:
Hey, just a minute, it was everything ventured,
only wreckage gained

§

IX

It can’t be helped
I wasn’t ready, or maybe I was really ready
ready for love
had no defenses
wasn’t prepared
just jumped in
and now
the undertow is
taking me down.

§

X

Hook up with an actor—
a real true professional—
take the high road to truth,
which of us will take the witness stand now,
speak the truth and nothing but the truth
so help me God.

§

XI

Four months ago I fell in love
and didn’t know whom to tell
and now, now
it’s just old news.

§

XII

It isn’t complicated
I must have lied to myself
saying I don’t want to own you
when I really just wanted
to gobble you up,
and I never thought
after that first night
when you said ‘Who would ever leave you’,
that you really meant to say  no one
but me would ever go away.
Can’t Help It!

§

XIII

That’s the thing about acting,
about actors,— it’s one sincerity after another
—which one is real—
Trust me, Right Now!

§

XIV

I called you rascal, alitros, to my friends
signaling that like Odysseus you were changeable,
mercurial, abandoned Kalypso
after eight years in her arching caverns
and could defeat
even the goddess Kirke herself.

§

XV

I was sitting in the Kensington Market
with my friend Cal
drinking mango margaritas
on the terrace at El Trompo
and I realized that’s precisely
what you have done to me.

§

XVI

I was sitting in the Kensington Market
with my friend Cal, drinking mango margaritas
on the terrace of El Trompo
and I realized that hecho un trompo
is just what I’ve done,
eaten to excess
every bit of you—
Can’t Help  It.

§

XVII

I was sitting in the Kensington Market
with my friend Cal
drinking mango margaritas
on the terrace of El Trompo and
I realized El Trompo is what I’ve become
spinning around like a kid’s top—
you push the spindle
and around I go
over and over and over

§

XVIII

I thought you didn’t like animals—
I don’t, you said, but when they go nuts
around me I have to respond
—just like people—
Can’t Help It.

§

XIX

Only yesterday, Canada Day,
you delivered the death notice,
‘A train wreck’ you called it,
and you were driving the engine,
always in charge,
Raptor Electric coming through, derailed.
.
The news was sudden, abrupt—
nothing convenient in a death—
and now I sit shiva, torn black ribbon
tourniquet for my bleeding heart.
xxxEvery four minutes I weep,
every ten  minutes I wail.
Every hour I slip, sleep, slide
down a bumpy passage.
xxxBrief summer made humid,
xby the tsunami of tears—
Can’t Help It!

§

XX

I called you alitros, rascal,
because like Odysseus you were wily,
shape-shifting, powerful, never contained.
You spent untold hours telling the contours
and crevices of my arching caverns.
xxxWhere are you now, my rascal,
my alitros,
xxxIn whose caves do you now dwell.
Can’t Help It!

§

XXI

And if in a future time perchance
with some girlfriend or other
you should happen on one of my dresses
on display at some museum or other,
you might recall my glance at you
there over my right shoulder,
the black panties draped over the scotch bottle
on the island counter,
and you holding yourself leaning
against the north counter staring at the woman
who glances over at you over her right shoulder,
xxxAnd you can have that secret moment,
xjust for yourself, there in that public place,
with some other woman or other.
Can’t Help It.

—Karen Mulhallen

x
Karen Mulhallen’s latest poetry book is Code Orange Emblazoned Suite, featured here first on Numéro Cinq, published by Black Moss Press (Fall 2015), and translated into French by Nancy Huston. The book launched in Toronto at the Café Pamenar in the Kensington Market and in Paris at Shakespeare and Company in September 2015.

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