A poem is a party where something happens

for Eileen Myles

I’m a “good” girl coming down from work
she’s a “bad” girl scrubbing up
we look the same to the shopkeeper

tonight was the night I learned I possess a secret weapon

he looks me in the face twice
first to check my age
and then back again
to my painted lips
which he draws over with this eyes
I’d smeared them with something
I don’t know
browns, reds
some tester pack they sent me in the mail

he says, “have a good night”
with a weight on “night”

I felt his pity and I’m grateful to him it shows a kindness that has touched my kin

I too remember how it feels to be cold and be given a blanket
how it feels to have loving hands press the blanket to my form
as though molding clay
the soft mutter of a body retreating
mingling with the memory of a smell and a body being touched
Proust died at this very alter
Many others have died

But I’m going home
I live right over there
just around the corner

I don’t ride the edge of darkness anymore
but I know how it’s done

and so I came home and wrote this and remembered we were hosting a party
and that I could ask you
all of you
what I’ve wanted to ask you
so terribly all these years
since I woke up

will you
and I’m asking as someone who knows the gut feel of having no money
finally having money after so many years of feeling scared of having no money
will you
will you please
will you please form your hands into a bowl
like this
like you’re holding something good
and will you
will you please
will you please pour a committment of $200 into your hands

and I’ll tell you what we’re going to do

now you heard me from the start of this poem
the whole part about me coming down from work
and the girl scrubbing up
how we look the same on a Monday night
at the store around the corner the night I wrote this poem

that woman
she can feel the blanket too you know
and I’m going to give her and all my children who move like shadows in the world so many blankets


do you have it yet
in your hands
have you poured a commitment of $200 into your hands?


now I want you to listen
I want you to listen close for a second

There is someone’s pain
in this world that moves you
moves you past yourself

You are going to give this $200 in your hands to that person

if you don’t know them yet
like, you’ve only thought about them abstractly
you are going to find them
and you are going to approach them
and you are going to look them in the eye
and you are going to tell them
“you move me past myself”


I’m not messing with you
you have this money
you can do this

you do this
and you tell your friends tomorrow
you tell them you read a poem and it was a party
where something happened