The panic of wanting you
comes unexpectedly, distant need
close now, roaring in my ears,
how quickly it becomes irrational.
Where are you? Where have you been?
Where are you going?
How did you survive before the day we met?
Waiting for your call, the throb of it
in my hand, signal always on,
How suddenly I am in the wrong house,
my rationale pounding on the door,
picking locks, testing windows
for any entry, because even as I
temporarily lose control, both of us –
my two halves – know it’s nothing more
than misplaced desire.
This is New Orleans, after all.
It comes with the rain.
The old woman blindsides me in Leicester Square,
pushes the scrub of flowers into my fingers,
the tinfoil holding the stems damp from her grip.
Take them, sweetheart. How about a pound?
She is Romani, her head in a scarf, her face a relief map
of all the places she has been driven from over the centuries.
Her voice an amalgamation of those same lands,
touched with a dash of cockney.
I want to hand them back, refuse the offering, go on my way
to wherever my way might be, but the woman seizes my hand,
holds it fast as our eyes meet. Her face goes slack with pity.
You have to get away from him, sweetheart.
I drop the coin on the pavement and run,
push past tourists and buskers in Piccadilly Circus.
Slumped on the steps of Eros, I open my fist
to see the flowers – weeds really – staining my skin,
filling the lines of my sweaty palm.
And here is another map: of who I was, who I will be,
where I’m going.
I ask too much of cities
wanting streets of glass
to dazzle and blot you out,
to become lost in the glare
like a hopeless tourist.
Horns, tires, grinding metal
are almost enough
to drown out your voice.
Some walk to clear their head;
I walk to fill mine with noise.
Even insulated in backseats,
of bridge joints resonate
in my bones, rhythm drumming
out damaging words.
Down below, subway trains
screech and hum along
the tracks of my nervous
system, your face scattering
away like old newspapers.
After a sleepless night of silence,
first light reveals pockmarks,
the demolished and burned out
becomes visible, the crumbling
edges of the city falling into the horizon.
Only here can I tell you
that I am as broken as the skyline.
Waiting for other hands and machinery
to smooth out, fill in, cover over
what your tearing down left behind.
as day folds into night.
The clock running fast
suddenly crawls until
your silence freezes time.
You could be anywhere
with anyone doing anything.
My mind turns toward dark
places: you in midnight
backseats, parking garages,
under someone else’s covers.
All the places we’ve been.
Your reliable voice goes mute,
stills the air once full of signals
as words bounced between
towers, lighting up my car,
desk and bedside table.
Where are you as I drive past
your house before daybreak?
I resort to eyes and intuition –
There’s always a good excuse
when you reappear, enough
to make me doubt my gut.
But some nights the minute hand
unsticks, the story strays from linear,
and the lost hours reveal their secrets
and the taste of another on your lips.
Collin Kelley’s poetry collections include Midnight in a Perfect World, the American Library Association-honored Render, and Better To Travel. He is also the author of The Venus Trilogy of novels – Conquering Venus, Remain In Light, and Leaving Paris.