I know you think it’s defective, a mass of busted tubing you can’t fill the way others do with kitten sneezes and baby elephant eyes, with snow-dusted Christmas trees and families marshalled to breathe in cloved ham. The trappings which fuel the ordinary heart can’t sustain you—you couldn’t locate a valve to pump a dozen red roses through if you tried. Your heart, instead, is Schrödinger’s box: sealed, radioactive, noxious. Or not. All states contained at once—a bomb detonated and coiled in wait, your love in rigor mortis even as it teems and buzzes. Your grief both looms (a derelict staircase rising endlessly into the mesosphere) and fixes itself (an obsidian slab sinking into Earth’s mantle). Your anger is electron and proton, dark matter and the crime scene photographer’s blazing flash. Unmeasured, immune to epistemologies, your heart starts and stops time at whim, Saturn’s archrival. Niels Bohr could better explain your heart than Carl Jung: you occur as wave function and wormhole, enduring ampersand. You’ve called your heart a failure, unfillable. But it’s only because you’ve wasted your life-- your Janusian leaping across all of space and spectral flux-- searching for the nonexistent fuel door to a quantum engine.
Mrs. Mencken, 1930
Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another. Whenever a husband and wife begin to discuss their marriage they are giving evidence at a coroner's inquest. —H.L. (Henry Louis) Mencken
In Montgomery that summer, I found a mourning dove hung by its trident foot, caught in the red yarn of a nest
as it tried to take flight—for the first time, the last.
It shuddered alive at my touch, an angry coo blooming from its throat. I could not free it
without crushing one wing, and still Alabama
would not approve my right to vote. 1919. You remember. Even after that Tennessee man reread his mother’s
letter--be a good boy…and vote for suffrage—and passed
our measure, I kept the browning leaflets. Look for them in the top drawer of my chest when this all goes south
again. Suffrage, we called it, as if each ballot formed
a wound, as if making all people victims also made them equal. How could you? Such a misogynist, you say now.
My word is shorter: Henry. Ask about my marriage
and I will tell you about the blood blooming in my lungs. That here, consumption means
we are all consumed. And my name--Sara
sometimes means Look at the salt stains left on this pillow, or, Read this column; find the errors. When we finish,
and the commas have found their peace, Sara is wife,
even just woman. We are all the same and none alike, hung by our own needs to flail and cough, to splinter.
Offer me nine years and a female senator.
Offer me your one vaccine. Offer me a new disease with a beautiful name: typhus, cholera, silent
anemia. Failing all else, offer me five more years
of Sara and Henry. Throw coins to the sources of my stories; bind me to the false life
of the swiftly dying. Let there be nothing left
but woman and man, our sweats and hatreds caught in bitter symmetry—blossom
and loss, blossom and loss.
-- B. Tyler Lee is the author of one poetry collection, With Our Lungs in Our Hands (Redbird Chapbooks, 2016), and her creative nonfiction piece “●A large volume of small nonsenses” just won the 2020 Talking Writing Contest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in 32 Poems, Crab Orchard Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Sky Island, perhappened, Acting Up: Queer in the New Century, and elsewhere. She teaches at Purdue University Northwest.