Portia Elan

What The Academic Does In The Library Stacks

The easiest part of being me is probably all of it but somehow I keep finding it hard. Especially the folding of clean laundry. Especially the throwing away of old flowers. I carry death on my shoe. I keep pebbles in my pockets—small ones of no particular significance but mine, still. I wear voluminous dresses too, big gashes of fabric & the body swirling underneath. I’ve got all these hands & I just want to touch myself, okay? & not always even that.

Over & over the cat says she just wants to be where I am or, failing that, to know where I am. She keeps an eye out. She’s ready if the rats ever come. The body swirling underneath is sometimes a galaxy & sometimes an engine & sometimes a dog but please don’t mistake it for ever just a body please. How do I talk about a body? The cat walks everywhere with purpose.

This article is a treatise on the semantics of bodies in relation. The weather is always an excuse for drinking I say. As if I needed an excuse. The sky is my excuse – my reason its unbounded size & the distance between it & me. Come closer please. Wouldn’t you like it if I said that to you? You would, you would.

But the body beneath the body is an exploding star, a hidden tulip, a skeleton key that once spoken might open your heart beyond what you can bear. The body beneath the body has a voice. The body beneath the body beneath the body is composed entirely of heart. What is a body. I am going to keep drinking. Keep going.

I am translating into academic language the story of peeling back the bodies of my lover, of holding her in my mouth & the awe-clapped collapse of one body into another, those infinite layers crossing one into one into one into one until there—was her heart in her mouth & O how it sang. Come closer, now. See how the body moves under all this fabric. Perhaps I’ve waxed long enough. The clothes unfolded, the flowers drooping.

A Simile Is a Suspension Bridge

God—loving you is like sleeping drunk on the roof please come get me
or at least give me a call & we can talk about having a party:
let’s talk about having a fancy dress party, a costumed fancy dress party
where everyone comes as the person they most want to sleep with
& I will make hors d’oeuvres from my mother’s cookbook,
the one from the seventies with the terrible off-color photographs
but I have faith it’ll turn out okay. Cheese balls, devils on horseback,
pigs in blankets, pimento-stuffed olives, Ritz crackers, tomato aspic.

The cat & I have been so sad, God, we wake up every few hours
to say “I love you” even though this only serves to remind us:
we are still alive.
             We’ll invite all your favorite people & all of mine,
but not Julia, who turned out to be a bitch, or Angel Michael,
who you know I like but sometimes he can be sort of smug
& I really want it to be the kind of party where we let loose.

God, needing you isn’t easy, not even a little I wish you’d come get me.

The cat & I miss you something fierce.
                       Faith is like a wholly undeserved hangover,
a stubbornly dry ballpoint, like realizing partway through an episode of Law & Order
that you already saw the second half, in a motel outside Tempe,
your whole naked body goose pimpled under the air conditioner;

it’s like / it’s like a bridesmaid dress, faith is.
God, faith is the distance between you & me,
sure, but it’s also like a head full of the perfume of a girl
who probably doesn’t want me back.
Everyone knows this already, but of course
I would show up as Joan & I think that’s a defensible choice.
I’m getting carried away with the party, aren’t I?
I just want you to call or to show up when I go for my goodnight smoke
or sometimes I imagine you will be waiting on the porch
as I walk home from work because you’ve forgotten your key
but you don’t & don’t & don’t don’t don’t show up
& the cat & I are so sad God I wish you’d call.

Portia Elan holds degrees in medieval history and library science: she knows a great deal about heresy, Dewey, and queer politics, but little-to-nothing about chemistry, coffee-making, or Romanticism. Her poems can be found in The Journal, PANK, and Birdfeast. She is an MFA candidate at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.