should they may
be could you would
she called me up in
may and thought
she should but I would
not. can I may
could you might
then we fight —
he said should she
would she could but
which they might
and she could see there
only what she looked at
which was not there.
New York based Sophia Le Fraga holds a B.A. in Linguistics and Poetry from New York University. Her poetry has appeared in Lambda Literary Review’s Poetry Spotlight, The Broome Street Review, and Lemon Hound, among other publications. It has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, the Corcoran Gallery, and in 2011, throughout Berlin. Her chapbook I DON’T WANT ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE INTERNET is out now, and her book of Whitman erasures, Song of Me and Myself is forthcoming.
This poem was inspired by The Hanged Man card of the tarot deck.
Perfection is terrible, it cannot have children.
– Sylvia Plath
Mostly it goes and then it goes
further away. The car departing a town
in the islands, dirt road, the thought
of the love you thought would last.
Remainders in the glib afternoon: silm
of wine still in the glass, or
the echoes of summer motion
in curtains you can see through. Motion
brought about by nothing but the wind.
And after months, when the night
rises like a fence in the distance, then
not the distance, then nearer—thoughts
of these oppressive questions come back.
What were you doing with your hands
in the lion’s jaws? What part of yourself
preserved there? Outside some neighbors laugh, some
children laugh, soon they’ll be your neighbors.
Flip over the tarot card that to everyone
looks like some harmony in the animal music:
the fire and the calm suspend in one ecology. Fluttering
lemniscates appear above the brow. Who sees
how self-control is this constant torture?
The body repulsed by its memory
of each fang in the blood-jowls pressing
into the hands over and over—I wake up each day
with a question, I am ripping sinew
with that question, what part of me stays behind
even as I foment to this purpose I can’t know?
There is nothing quite so alien
as being correct. Everything we have
is moving on, the ship passing further
from the cities of their bodies,
the rush of recalled fire
at the back of her neck, glum vision
so close to me, whiskey-sea, on a night
no one expected, and was it
a Tuesday? It is difficult
to love the self because the work
goes on forever, without end. We are holding the lion
before we want to hold the lion, and after, and every
moment in between is unexplained and horrible.
Her body rising from the bed, now
leaving the bed, now far away
in another country. Signs
of a future you grew towards
building up as sunshapes, then swept
under the olive tree in the courtyard.
I grow muscle in my failures
and hate it, constantly. And then
the thought of Miles Davis, the story
I heard as a child: it was the end
of his life, or near it. Each show
he played his new songs, harsh ones
no one wanted. People came only
for the legend. One night
he was sick, real sick, stumbling
onto the stage as an old man.
He counted off and started to play—but not
the odd songs, not the challenges. Instead, he played
“My Funny Valentine.” Then he played
“I Thought About You.” And the audience
was ecstatic: he had given them what they wanted.
After, a young piano player
peered into his dressing room, found him
hunched before the mirror. Miles looked up.
“Kid, you know why I never play those songs
no matter how much anyone asks for them?”
He paused, looking wide at the ceiling
like there was something to prepare for, someone
he might be fighting, if they still were there to hear.
“It’s because I love those songs.”
Jay Deshpande’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Washington Square, La Petite Zine, Narrative, Handsome, Shampoo, Spork, and elsewhere. He is the former poetry editor of AGNI and he curates the Metro Rhythm Reading Series in Brooklyn.
This poem was inspired by the Strength card of the tarot deck.