List of Lists
We were lying on our backs on a picnic table,
you with your National-Geographic-yellow jacket,
me with a scarf stolen from a Boy Scout.
That’s when I asked you to list
your favorite poets, and from there
the conversation strayed.
What sins have we committed? More to the point,
what sins are still left to commit?
Would you rather be
God’s toenail clipper
or Satan’s toothbrush?
What would make a good title
for my essay on post-structuralism?
Yoda’s Homoerotic Dreams?
Emily Dickinson’s Favorite Flyswatters?
You turned to me, asked me to name
the people I would put in envelopes
like blankets and cram in the mailbox downtown,
the one shaped like a gingerbread house.
People with reasons to sit down on train tracks
like the ones I trace down your thigh.
How many tattoos do you have, anyway?
Tell me the constellations I can draw
by connecting your neck’s freckles. Test my knowledge
of Biblical figures while I count Sufi saints
as we stargaze in the snow. Help me list
the Missing Links like broken bulbs on Christmas lights.
Help me recount the years a major war began,
but ignore the endings.
I know they don’t matter to you.
How do I pronounce the name of your sister?
How do you pronounce the name of my grandfather,
with or without the umlaut? Let me list languages
I must learn, while you water down the ways
one suspends eternity between thumb and forefinger,
pinching little pockets of unanswerable questions
while we avoid the topics of reality,
those pesky little shopping lists on our minds.
Maybe I really should go shopping for a life,
a relationship, a reason to wake up in the morning,
and an extra can of monetary success.
On the way home I should pick up a PhD of any flavor,
I’m told so often, and maybe a wife and some kids
while I’m out. Those unobtainable dreams
are too close to our hearts,
so let’s go back to listing
all the snowflakes
whose name is Karl,
all the names of God
that are suspiciously erotic,
or the famous blues tunes
I can scribble
on the small of your back
without going off
the edge of the page.