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. 

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