When I was young I used to sit and write my name over and over.
More often I would trace the names of enemies and their histories.
Their names always seemed much more interesting, more beautiful,
than mine and with only twenty-six letters to play with I forgave them
their fallacies, that my letters were dull, lacking in exotica, that this reflected
something about myself. It was so simple, the act of writing, yet
the repercussions linger. I have scrawled this name thousands of times,
on checks, birthday cards, love letters, and it has taken years for my name
to become my identity, each letter irrevocably mine but also part of something
larger, unnamed, unwieldy, like a forged and forgotten sword
that cuts to the truth: history is composed of letters like mine.
History is proud and permanent, unable to transcend itself
and become more than words on a page. History is the high school jock
who concerns himself only with practical jokes and petite blondes
all his life, and one day finds himself forty years old, still
living in his parents’ basement, no relationship lasting longer
than a six pack or a football game, his purpose lost in the past.
History is like that: devolved from a true story into memory,
sagging and tired, but history allows astute lovers to search out
the foreign. Fingers trace a different alphabet, Cyrillic or Arabic or
Greek, an exchange between two lovers who communicate only by touch;
fingers say the unsayable, run across skin, support the arch
of the spine, dance over the flat perfection between breasts, and the gentle slope
of stomach. I can touch every desire and its corresponding part. Hold me
closer than you think you should. Let me in to the lowest register,
dip your pen below the blue line, deep enough that we know this is real,
but not painful to the point of childhood. I used to sit alone
and write my name, my future unmet but anticipated. If I would have known
that all things come to this, I would not have wasted so much time
tracing patterns that mean nothing. I will keep you and hide letters in pockets.
Sam and I wrote this poem line-by-line, in American Sentences. It was an interesting experience because we both came in to the project with our own ideas, and writing one line at a time forced each of us to work with the other’s ideas as well as our own. It was frustrating at times because when I would hand her the notebook, I would have no idea where her line would take the poem. By the end, we had worked in ideas from both of us. I did a first revision, and chose not to keep the poem in seventeen syllable lines. She supported that decision, and we then did a second revision together, and realized we both liked where the poem had gone.