Friday, February 20, 2009

Avoiding History - Jesse Weiner

avoiding history is a family tradition,
draft dodging, missing wars, as far
back as my fathers go, I find
no soldiers, no warriors and also
no lovers. we don't write
in my family, we withdraw
our stories on objection, stop
telling them. we keep secrets.

I keep my own secrets and rarely
tell them, keep my truth
from coming back to hurt me.
I learn slowly but I learn well,
to keep my secrets, avoid history.
I avoided history by protesting war
and by refusing to marry.
I learned late, but I learned well.
your eyes tell your history, your belly,
in its soft geography, hints at mine.
I don't enlist, I avoid being drafted,
my bridges burn behind me.

I read history in the slope of her breasts,
her silence uses me in my telling.
I have many ways to lie,
using a sharp knife to separate
flesh from nerve, bone from tendon.
how many times have I undressed you,
hearing you tell me that I don't care
about anything, until you turn
away from me, turn on me, turn
to stone. I turn you over, exploring
history in the cleft of your ass,
touching with my hands but never
touching you, feeling alone finally,
shedding uniforms and telling stories.

lies return in the secrets I keep, hints
I cover with long explanations.
you come to me, naked, asking questions
and feel betrayed, telling me finally
that I don't matter and never
was real to you. I tell you
I was a soldier, that I fought,
and you lie to me by undressing yourself,
nakedness concealing your aims.

I read history in the curve of your thighs,
my tongue seeking your skin, seeking
you in your skin, tasting
beneath your skin. I find
your secrets, I tell your history
and turn my back to you. in sleep,
you back away, waking,
you dismiss me and I write a secret
history, full of lies and silences.

First published in Black Bear Review
Collected in OFF THE RECORD, an anthology of poetry by lawyers,
(Special Issue: Legal Studies Forum)

In Harm's Way - Jesse Weiner

"Surely all art is the result of having been in danger, of having gone
through an experience all the way to the end, to where no one can
go any further" -- Rilke

the reason we're together tonight
is that we're both aware of the fragile,
tissue-thin cords which connect
these words. we know how precarious
it is, what stories we listen to
and which ones we believe. some
will take voice and the rest, like flowers, will
tantalize us, tease us, dare us to choose
which among them are more than light
in the sky. the light speaks to us, too,
we know the stars by their light,
we know each other by gentle vibrations
of air, vibrations of other things, like
strings, glasses, throttled together
with the substance we hold on to,
that viscous fluid we share and
believe in. it is a flower, shining, it can
cause us to see past walls and fabric.
it is a gentle flower, casting
a thin light on the fluid of
our stories and the fragile tissue
of these words. this flower, this reason,
brings us together tonight,
and we go out walking,
picking among the stories and the lights.

First published in Zang Spur Review
Collected in IN HARM'S WAY, Linear Arts