I can’t stand to watch you drop another glass,
so we toast a drink over the telephone.
You balance confession with comfort
while I stroke blemish on canvas,
eager to portray your anticipated resurrection.
Her pictures are pinned on the tile
around your medicine cabinet mirror.
As we speak I feel you stare,
absently hoping arms will emerge
from polished slate to touch you again.
You ask me what I know about human frailty.
I remind you of the bite on my neck
and the fingerprints on my hipbone.
It’s good I don’t bruise easily.
We sing “Sunday Morning”
across the wire in the recording studio
of your too small bathroom.
You say it’s because you sound
best in the shower,
but I know you prefer her face
against the reflection of my voice.
Puzzling our portrait together,
squares ill fit and fragmented,
I tried to capture my place along your side,
but the colors smear before they dry.
Last Thursday you scribed a poem
on the back of my thigh
and the skin still reddens where you stabbed your vowels.
Now, every beat of boots against hardwood hall
yields an ache for your knock on my door.
I want to dance with you,
trip under unbalanced steps,
pose your cigarette on unpainted lips.
I want to sketch our fingers interlaced,
listen to the way your voice claims my name.
Read all your letters out loud,
over and over,
but you are too consumed with
watching paint drip from forearm
to hear my spin on your words.
You stumble your speech, hiss alcohol,
use death as an excuse for a cold bed.
Say, in the mumble of the morning,
you love me still.
I only mutter how the bloodied
canvas before me is all I need to know of frailty.
“Frailty” is previously published in The Fall of a Sparrow (2014).