For you I would be insane and lovely at the same time
(for the Dutch poet Joop Bersee, with love)
Here’s looking at you at fifty. You’re
fifty still living in your parents’ house.
You’re not happy. You’re living in the
shade of your sister’s happiness. She
left you years ago, ventured out into
the world on her own. You still think
you’ll get better in therapy. You still
hate your own face, and sharp objects.
Steak knives with their cool, clean, pure-
serrated edges. Masters of none-and-
everything. Masters of Jericho, Ruth. Boaz.
The dreams you once had, you dream of
them still. They’re like paper flowers.
And your voice is like the agreements
between them. Full of secrets, a fading
sunlight of day paying attention to the
resonant branches and their tensing
melody. You think back to all the hurt,
despondency, useless slipping-away-
from-you-frustration, (honest), and it
moves inside of you like the first man
who molested you. You go under the sea,
and become pure again (an innocent).
Your hair dark lines, and haywire all
over your face. The road home all-pepper-
and-potholes. You’re still scared of
the dark. Yes, yes, you’re still scared of
the dark. And you’re all feminine-and-
masculine (girl with her hair cut like a boy). Still
you long for the safe truth of women.
What did you do with the angels I gave
you. I think of the coconut oil on my mother’s
hands as she combed and braided my hair
when I was a little girl. There’s a little
girl in the advertisement I’m watching
on television. It’s about hair. It’s about
hair. It’s about hair. African hair, whatever
that means. Oil, sheen, relaxer cream, and I’m looking
at the Portuguese man again who gave
me the eye in Johannesburg all those years ago.
I think about his smile that lit up my face,
his light-blue sweater as he leaned over
the counter, and I think of the hair on his
hands, his arms, the hair on his chest there
sticking out like a triangle. I think of his
European-lover-face, and how I went up in
smoke that day. How sexy he made me
feel, how beautiful, and desired, this Captain Fantastic
in the paradise that was Johannesburg then.