This is Our Life in Twenty-Eight Numerical Orders
By Alexandra Lukens
1. The wrinkles she lives for bought her a drink, sat patiently while another begged for tobacco screaming in her ear about Beckett. The wrinkles bought her another; she insisted on tipping on top of the bill. The screamer’s facial hair felt terribly close, & while she never truly touched it, she imagined it scraping her cheek raw.
2. What inspired you to buy a flask of cognac? What’s more, you left it here, drank none. There were facts unspoken you wouldn’t dare, & you watched your feet unclimbing the staircase, waiting to return.
3. I cannot. I am a ragdoll whose body is too delicate to house such emotions, & I am ripping thread at each seam, & I am sleeping.
4. She is delivering him to the operator Wednesday around brunch. It’s a late bris & he is hardly Jewish. Together they cringed at knives on organs, & he went generally under to ignore the facts. Last attempt, he hurt so badly he wouldn’t finish; broke her heart.
5. You prefer her manic; more interesting & sexually active. Now that she’s medicated, you can’t stop wondering if it was the mania that made love, so you ask & she twitches gently.
6. There was a moment which I realized the spot where my right nostril connected to my upper lip would never heal. I spent three months wide awake & dreaming, & I was told I looked better than ever, but my mother said I had no ass. That she used the word ass nearly knocked me from my seat, & I vowed internally to return to ingestion.
7. I could only imagine making it through the day by sleeping through it.
8. Why do you hope for a moment of Tourette’s while operating an automobile, in which you violently swing the wheel to the right & see what comes of it? What makes you dream about massive collisions & apocalyptic curfews? Where in your body does your trauma play?
9. The cat has eaten half the plant; this morning he vomited on the foot of my bed. I bought that plant at a hardware store with a terribly confused Buddhist boy who looked saintly naked. The last time we slept together he drank absinthe heavily & vomited next to the mattress. I am always sleeping amidst internal rejections.
10. Their first kiss happened in a tent in the front yard at eleven a.m. If they were pretending to be married, they should kiss like married folks do. It felt like a slug on her face. Later that day her mother was bitten by a tick & contracted borreliosis.
11. My apartment smells like rotten milk. The dishes piled so high in the sink I moved them to the bathtub; I cannot shower for fear that I might step on a fork or slip on a plate.
12. My grandmother got colon cancer, got surgery, got a ; and died.
13. My father loves to talk about how much of an asshole Billy Joel is; how he used to do the lights for his shows 25, 30 years ago, & he was such a piece of shit my dad swore to never work for the guy again.
14. I found my clock in a box on the side of a road. It is fashioned to look like old, rusted gears. The numbers are carved as roman numerals. Instead of writing the number “four” as it should be (IV) it is four “I”s & I am deeply disturbed.
15. Flaneurs end up in places like Queens, where a can of food is eaten, thrown away, picked up by a garbage man, recycled, melted down, turned into a pistol, purchased, & used to kill a husband.
16. In later years, I learned to love to capsize, running on the sideways sail like Jesus walked on water.
17. My first serious car accident left me upside-down with windshield in my forehead. Backwards and bleeding, I kicked out the window. The firemen had to cut my teacher out of the driver’s seat; she was too fat. It was Valentine’s Day, & I had made my father a card that was taken away with the scrapped metal.
18. I was sixteen, early out of high school & studying figure drawing at the Corcoran. A young woman came in, new to public nudity, asked the professor for a robe. She was scolded for not having her own, & was forced to remove her clothing, piece by piece, in front of the whole class. I have never sat through anything more excruciating, but she was stunning nude.
19. You threw up upon arrival, your face hanging loose, dangling from flat rocks you never thought you’d see, & you miss her.
20. I am always cold come summer.
21. She was given a kitten for her thirteenth birthday, & it got trapped & suffocated in her sheets the first night she slept with it.
22. He has fallen deeply for Alice Notley. I recommended her to him because he would love the cover. It reminds me of Leadbelly, & I can’t get the song out of my head. I keep asking him to leave her at home, but he insists on reading her to sleep.
23. Tonight is cold, & the cats’ coats wear it well.
24. I dream often of marrying Werner Herzog.
25. We haven’t slept alone in four months, & we continue as sardines with needle on vinyl until someone finds a date. She did, last week; we’re one less and less lonely.
26. His brother got married to a young virtuoso; she played cello & was almost crowned Miss America & the youngest surgeon in the hospital. They left their unwanted wedding gifts in his grandmother’s basement. We snuck in while she napped & stole a crystal bowl & sold it for one hundred dollars.
27. Ninety people kill themselves everyday in Japan.
28. Your grandmother can see you masturbating from heaven.