I can’t decide anything these days: sonnet or free verse;
to read on the couch or spend my son’s brief nap putting
away dishes as if dishes could ever stay clean; hope or
despair. Once, before our lives became a chore punctuated
by slivers of respite, before quarantine and insurrection
sprang from dusty textbook to the evening news, I asked
if my poems could make your heart sing, and you said yes,
but my heart has been numbed by time. Not long after,
I had an infected wisdom tooth pulled; refusing anesthesia
–in truth, I feared not waking–I was given laughing gas
and Novocain, and the doctor went to work with his drill.
I must have clenched my jaw, torn the muscle: back home,
after the medicine had worn off, pain shot from my ear to my
neck like a line of fire ants chewing through nerves, the worst
pain of my life, days of ice and opioids and crying for it to stop.
I think of that now, how badly I wanted not to hurt, how sweet
the relief, how no matter what we choose to numb it, agony waits
like a coiled snake in the heart’s tall grasses, how our feet bleed
on the flaming sands as we run to the sea. My dear, I worry if you
do not hold me against the salt’s incessant sting, we’ll drown.
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