If I call myself unloveable, I am, practically; if I say it
enough times: unloveable. Then, like practical magic,
I’m hollow as old garlic; I’m distance-skinned.
I’m a long, mean package, a terror-dyke, a nag, a squinting,
slut-spun hag—it’s easy, really. It’s the simplest thing,
I do it in my sleep. I have invasive dreams,
after all, they infect my lover’s skull, they crank our jaws
into four slow hammers. After all, I’m made of distance
plus the beautiful things people have tried to put
inside me, they fall out the bottom. No one can kill me
with kindness. No one can reach me through the sound
of such ancestral ugly, sound of my grandmothers gagging
a half-century ago (did they?). My grandmother beating
her stomach with her fists, drinking medicine, then poison (did she?).
I’m distance-skinned. No one can put a story inside me
but me. If not even my memories love me enough to stay,
then fine, cut off the hands that keep me married
to any history. See? Like magic, then,
I call myself a rotted-out bulb, and soon enough
I’m hauling out the wet stuff, cracking my compost heart
under a shovel’s faceless verdict. Sometimes a highway opens
between my hearts, and I run suicides between until I’m lactic.
Sometimes I wonder how long I’d have to run
to reach the last generation where one of us felt loved,
and I crumple into carcass. I come from a short line of women
who were handed husbands as salvation from rape.
I’m a short lie of a woman whom men have wanted
to tear apart with their good strong hands. I mean, same.
If I love anyone enough to know they deserve better than me,
and stay anyway…? If I love myself enough to beat
fistfuls of poison into me, into me who hurts me, oh well,
I’m just imitating the rockets’ red glare. I’m just covering
the old song. Unloveable is open-source, anyone can make up
new verses to sing it. Here’s the part where I list the times
my white ex hurt my feelings, or my white teacher,
my white therapist, the white boy who put his dick inside me,
the boy I liked too much, the woman who let me fall
in love with her too fast, of course there’s the boy
who died by accident and left me only able to write beautiful poems
about his leaving, pretty only-love things I threw and threw into
the endless distances inside me, highways of quiet.
O, I’ve been hard to love in America. I’ve been slow
to speak in America. I’ve been, undoubtedly, an American
and done practically nothing to stop it. I’ve been
some version of my grandmothers slinking around the floor
of the GI bar, shivering in the bathroom of the GI bar.
I’ve been some version of my grandmother making child
after child for a loveless man. I’ve been her, and I’ve been
the version of her that lives, that lives in an opportune land,
that chooses who she loves, that sits by a window writing,
drinking water with tulsi, breaking chocolate with her clean hands,
that goes to school after school and collects heart and heart
and heart sweetly brimming in her well-oiled forearms and still
has the gall to be unloveable. O, my badly-loved grandmothers,
I kin you to me, facelessly. I wrap all our deaths around
my shoulders like a foxpelt coat: grandmother across
oceans and ages, grandmother across the border, grandmother
carried off by soldiers, grandmother carried into endless highway
by disease or dog or dawn’s unrelenting purge. I wrap until
I’m made of grandmother, until the ritual musk of their dreams
is sprouting from my skull: sandalwood, ambergris, copper
of blood, coin copper, clay of approaching dusk. I am loved
by pheromone if nothing else. By accident at best.
O beasts of fortune, I am loved sweetest by the horrors of blood,
by my own, and by ours, O blessed rootrot, by ours.