Today I call my representative.
I call the one who represents
floating somewhere over my shoulder, crow
on the telephone line, squat black span
of my hand in the polis,
what little mark
do I make on the white
landscape of this world that
asks for my blood
and asks and asks as the bandage
asks the wound
till the wound is gone—
it is not through my
that the world is healed.
The guard in the library
looked sad. That day it rained.
Won’t you be glad
when the election is over?
At least it’ll be quiet,
an old man said. I walked out,
a paper stuck flag on my raincoat,
in my pocket the strobe of a state
switching blue to red. No,
we’re fucked either way,
she looked down. I didn’t know what
our name for dread became.
I had pressed down my black pen
over the empty dot like an eclipse
of the moon, like my friend
pressed her hand over heart
and stood in the doorway of the TV room,
and we cried out to each other’s
pockets and palms.
In my rented house, rain gutters are drumming, and the lawn
equates the rain: every droplet, every seed has its mirror
and knows itself by what it results in. Talking in your brain
must result in you. And I know your looking
does result in me. Results in my own focus
in the mirror. The me we mention unlike
the me we do not mention, which seems
to stammer, to shrink under your lack
of look. Like water on a leaf’s back, your attention
stays and magnifies only the inches it touches.
Now I am alone at my screen watching the only video
of you I’ve found. Each time I look you seem littler.
Now I try to watch the video as someone else.
As an anthropologist, an audience seeing your goofiness,
your grinning, the glint of your hands on your hips.
I keep a tab open with pictures of Sappho.
In every painting she seems to be shirtless.
She seems to be sad. What do we have to do to ourselves
to not care that we are showing
our tits? To let our tits be downcast eyelids?
Sappho looks sad and looks
away from our looking. Towards another’s look.
Where she lives, everything she wants
and touches has her name on it.
A dark lantern tracks enemy boats.
Flutter the shield to cast light.
When someone calls out, shut
the shield on its hinge. The tin is hot.
Now open the shield again
without snuffing or relighting.
Many guys are made of tin
but flame spills past the cage
and stress-fractures the shield.
The best guy is made of brass.
But when you stow a guy, what
do you think you’ve hidden?
You need to hide the hiding, so that
the flame is not effort fully absent.
One girl on Lexington
squints down the block, wearing
red lipstick and a WAR IS OVER
T-shirt, OVER tucked under her belt.
Liza Flum teaches writing at Cornell University, where she recently received an MFA. Her poems appear in journals including The Southeast Review, Lambda Literary, H_NGM_N, The Collagist, and PRISM international. She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Saltonstall Foundation and Tent: Creative Writing. She is also a poetry editor for Omnidawn.