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by Jessica Harman

The Language Lovers Use

after "La Vie," a painting by Picasso


I heard
their voices seeping through the night. Just married

and already bickering. I lay awake
awhile. Here I am with my poetics. That's all!

We will not ask what it's like to be
here, to be us, naked

on the sketched grass, black and blue hissing into the green
earth. We are the background, distressed within the archetype.

Earlier that day, we sat near mirrors
and we knew the silver

caught more than wan echoes of the bay
behind us, through the picture

window, so we measured
our words carefully.

In a roomful of honest looks, there is nothing more
than weight.


As night fell, her quietness rivaled the moon.
Who told you that I was from somewhere

but the ugly side
of the moon in a wet city season?

If only a fire hydrant had burst in summer,
we could have pretended we were in the Bronx,

but we were in Hell. We are both from there. Now, we shift
positions, heads in hands, between thoughts leading


and that cannot think us out of love, or back in love.
We pray that the world will not vanish,

that it will go on
dreaming of thrushes

flying in a morning as cool as her
delicate skin as she stands at the ends of words.


The nipple of an apricot,
the milk of the brushstroke

making oil into skin.
The body is inside the circle of his listening.

I curl into a shell inside you, wanting everything
to be understood through the weak grammar of the rocking body.

All birds have vanished from the mournful palette of the room.


He said, to make a space that works,
to choose one rich color and light

it gently or boldly, something
special. He said he could

cut the cost of their renovation
greatly. He loved the space for its low 70's ceilings.

He had recently finished a series
of photographs on random

beauty, seeing grammar in what you'd think was nothing, nowhere.

It is (not) too late to begin again.

Over and over, we have understood nothing
of each other
except touch.


A man takes the form of a bird.
His feet are washed of color
as the invisible erases the ground.
Our thinking has done this. It has made

the ground a hedgy type of flight,
like the absurd nuances on the tips of robin's wings.

The names of birds don't matter now. The lines
between things capture me when I look at things

without names at all. I think of us crying
in the blur. Smudge marks soften

parchment, making it deeper, cooling graphite,
making love to line. I wanted to make myself

into a museum. I thought you would walk through
and think I was a genius, but I could never

admit that, even though you entered, I didn't
feel you there among the arches.

I was numb as light, march-light
over marble, with only

the red arcs of birds getting through, making
the bright air crackle.


Copyright 2008 by Jessica Harman

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