Peter Leight ~ Four Poems

Reciprocal

We stay in the same room togeth­er, Vivien and I, even though the oth­er rooms are emp­ty.  I sit at the table, and she sits across from me, we change places when we feel like it—we don’t need to turn on the lights in order to see each oth­er.  Sometimes I agree, oth­er times Vivien does.  If one of us turns away the oth­er has already turned away.  When one of us drops some­thing one of us picks it up, if we have dif­fer­ent needs, Vivien and I, it doesn’t mean we don’t need the same things.  We do every­thing togeth­er, Vivien puts her hand on my waist and I put my hand on her waist, form­ing a cir­cle with noth­ing inside it—the place where she holds onto me is where I want her hand to be, the place I stick my fin­gers into is the space she reserves for them.  Neither of us fin­ish­es before the oth­er.  When there’s some­thing I don’t know Vivien knows every­thing about it, if I can’t for­get some­thing she for­gets for me—we make all our deci­sions togeth­er, Vivien and I, some­times we hide behind each oth­er, then we have to find each oth­er.  We even share our tissues—she uses one side and I use the oth­er.  Every after­noon we go out togeth­er, tak­ing sep­a­rate routes or going down dif­fer­ent streets and meet­ing unex­pect­ed­ly, when we come home I’m here before Vivien, and she’s here before me.  Sometimes we look at each oth­er as if we don’t even know what we’re going to see.  We sleep in each other’s arms, hold­ing onto each oth­er in our sleep, when we call out in the night each of us cov­ers the other’s mouth with a cupped hand.

~

Reasons

Because we’re in the same boat togeth­er  Because the ropes looped and knot­ted togeth­er  Because of the ropes twist­ed around each oth­er  Because of the chest burn  Because of the rope burn  Because of the guyed mast  Because of the mast embed­ded in the keel  Because of the loos­en­ing mast lean­ing to one side or the oth­er  Because of the dent in the mast  Because of the keel pulling apart in the mid­dle as if it doesn’t get along with itself  Because of the split keel  Because of the false keel  Because of the keel slid­ing through the water like the blade of a knife  Because the hull scooped out like a but­ter­nut squash suck­ing invis­i­bly at the bot­tom  Because of the bunkbeds and bulk­heads  Because of the waves soft­en­ing from not hard­en­ing  Because of the deck slip­ping off or keel­ing over  Because it’s about time  Because by then it’s too late  Because the boat turns into a piece of fur­ni­ture

~

Self-Defense

 

When you defend your­self that’s when they think you need to be accused,

of what,

of every­thing you have done,

togeth­er with every­thing you haven’t done

and were sup­posed to do,

of course you know

bet­ter than any­one.

I don’t think I’m a lia­bil­i­ty, not at all,

if they think I’m a lia­bil­i­ty that’s not the way I think about it,

if they think I’m dan­ger­ous I don’t mind,

it’s prob­a­bly because they feel uncom­fort­able

or con­fused

and need to find

some­body to blame

for the way they feel.

Sometimes I think I guess I am.

People often need to defend them­selves I’m not the only one,

and there are oth­ers who won’t let you

have some­thing you need because they want you to keep ask­ing for it,

this is the truth.

The truth is a defense.

It has my fin­ger­prints

all over it,

I’m keep­ing my tongue on the inside of my teeth,

where it belongs when it’s the truth—

if they think it’s not I’m going to tell

them you don’t know any­thing about it,

and find some­thing else to know.  I mean

the law is the law,

every­body has weak­ness­es,

it’s point­less

not to accept them.  I don’t think they’re look­ing more close­ly than they need to,

as if they’re sit­ting in the par­tial view

seats with their eyes part­ly closed—

they don’t even know

what they haven’t seen.

They don’t even know what they haven’t even thought of.  Not lis­ten­ing to my con­fes­sion,

which is con­ve­nient above all

because I don’t have any­thing to con­fess,

noth­ing at all:

there’s no need to con­ceal what isn’t exposed.

~

I’m Right Here

 

When my skin is dry I take a long bath

and a hot bath

to moist­en the sur­face,

the beau­ty of the sur­face is that every­body knows who you are,

but nobody real­ly knows who you are.

I don’t even have time to look in the mir­ror,

not per­son­al­ly.

I don’t want to spoil any­thing,

I mean there are so many things to look at,

every­thing real­ly—

of course, the way you look at things often deter­mines what you see, although there are times when some­thing you see com­plete­ly changes the way you look at things.

Right now my mouth is open on one side,

run­ning a lit­tle like a soft-cooked egg,

I’m try­ing to be care­ful,

if you’re not care­ful

you end up being care­less.

Sometimes I say I’m afraid so

I’m not afraid to show I care.

I’m brush­ing on some slate grey or for­est green enam­el in order to remind myself

there’s noth­ing wrong with the way I look,

I often hold onto myself,

hold­ing onto the curve of the ribcage,

which is start­ing to slip away,

which is the rea­son I’m hold­ing onto it.

It’s true absten­tion is eas­i­er when you don’t feel like it,

but I want you to know I’m still here,

right here,

I’m not going any­where,

around the same time I start­ed par­tic­i­pat­ing in the shar­ing econ­o­my—

it makes me feel young,

young enough not to be here,

can I get any­thing for you?

Is there some­thing you’d like to share?

If you don’t want to

I under­stand if you don’t want to,

it’s bet­ter to be hon­est with each oth­er—

I don’t want you to think I’m not pay­ing atten­tion,

I believe a person’s atten­tion is a shov­el and also a rake,

dig­ging out and smooth­ing over at the same time.

Sometimes I have to go inside and say some­thing to myself that nobody else needs to hear.

~

Peter Leight lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.  He has pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished poems in Paris Review, AGNI, Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, FIELD, Raritan, and oth­er mag­a­zines.