At Least Part of the Reason
Cameron Paterson

Look, now, this is not my old trick again.

We keep sleeping in our chains.  We can’t mute

our charred appetites.  We ignore the worst.

I’ve thought about what cannot be undone:

a young, three legged cow, shunted, shut

in a pen.  (The only job I ever lost.)

Her mooing was injuring me.  I made time

pass by billowing back to her.  I cut

her ear tags, catheter, whatever wasn’t

flesh.  To touch your legs is to feel her shame.

                Deep feast.


Something more than shame: she was a beacon.

If only I could entirely forget—

for years the only voice was, Where’s your thirst?

Swallow.  Forgive yourself.  The flames are broken.

But this light was like nails that split the feet.

Now I live in this light, which is the stillest

in bed.  Already a worm sweeps our home.

In the rooms it eats the shadows and sets

its cold lips on my arms.  It has mostly

black scales that splinter like shingles on a tomb.

                Come home.


I want to find a tomb to dig in: what can

hold out, what seeds shoot through a skull, what sweet

water cannot break.  I just want to trust

the body, trust that it never shuts out sun.

I mean to be whole.  I am not quiet.

How do I know if you’re sleeping?  I outlast

rejections.  How old are we?  Your hands are warm:

give me them.  It isn’t easy to want.  To get

somewhere, I take everything off, spiders.

Once you said, “I’m not giving up.”  To dream

                a house.


I move above you and then the dream: carnations,

the forks shining on the table, velvet—

it all comes true, the black cord, the taste

of tears in my mouth, the hard cessation.

What you would have given up didn’t amount

to much: pictures of a drowned dog, red glass.

But I wanted to show you how a stream

slips down, bursts the minerals of granite

in blood, turns veins slowly into caves, mist

and dead bats.  That is, I would have become



I see how much like me you have become:

a woman who makes a speechless market

out of half-lit hanging blue locusts.

You wait for me to step up and buy them

and not discuss prices, as if I coveted

burned wings about to open.  Who would contest,

you think, that you sell sweet and precious forms?

We have a deep thirst to bargain, and yet

I do it at my expense: it is lust

that I barter for, my head full of flotsam,

                red gauze.


In sex it’s true there is mostly exhaustion.

My body’s right side hotter than the left,

guilt, double vision.  A travel plan is best:

simple, no clouds of annunciation,

you desolate, me as I am, a wet

lace sheet, old lamp, nothing to fight against.

But I can’t understand anything, our home,

this persisting hollowness, a white slate,

why you are a little cold and so fast

as if you wanted to find rest, be

                left alone.