Penstroke

“You can stroke people with words.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Yours is the sort of hypnotic fancy I’d have liked to put my heart in, as I huddled in an empty terminal at 3:27 am with my trenchcoat and notebook rumpled on my knees, sleepless and wrecked by nocturnal solitude. That endless fluorescent night, I prayed to unapproachable gods (one more time) that I, composed of letter and sound, could transcend the treacherous black cartography; that I could swim languorously through the unfathomable span of waves and graze his cheek with dexterous pen and ink; that someone could subsist on breath and water alone while each bounty of epicurean sensuality languished in the shadow of language’s luminosity. To have graphite hands and fingerprints of written impress, to reach him with every word and thrush of hope, limbs folded as an envelope and my mouth as the cool corner stamp: a delirious half-dream as I waited to be carried off by the great white wing.

Meanwhile, someplace I could no longer reach, he held my paper essence in his hand and placed my lettered soul upon the highest shelf, perhaps believing for an instant your blithe fantasy of living word and voices rendered corporeal. And like you, I used to believe that this body was withered transience, decaying conduit for an undefinable holy something, that the real substance was whatever I could fathom in the boundless amorphism of an aberrant headspace. These days, the shatter of grief and absence dismantles my chest in the same measure that it wracks the strange, virescent landscape. These days, I remember the unified duality of self as he asked in one breath for my body and the cowering soul inside, the tender brush of heartstrings moving through my skin. These days, there’s no defining phrase or definite hope to cleave to, but still the poetry spills over, and I shake my head at its dismal perseverance.

These days I am no longer so sure of anything, except perhaps the bleak insufficience of paltry verse and love that you read but cannot sense. Maybe some scribe more masterful and wise could manage that fantastic penstroke, that miracle of language I can’t pretend to possess. But please do not speak to me of dreams impossible, of soft touches fashioned from distant lips, of caresses gleaned from typewriters and keyboards. Here is my discourse and here is my heart, but the former cannot fathom anything that will suffice as limbs moving through worn white sheets, a hand outstretched and taken in the dark.

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