The Book of Melvin




we were star-crossed lovers in a galaxy with no moons—little stars who burned brightly in separate corners of the black. fate placed us in a cedar room with low lights and graffiti of vandals. miscreant etchings proclaiming love of forbidden things were spread across the walls like hieroglyphs of the fallen. and we two were splinters— the impassioned meat that gave meaning to their lexicon of intimate heresy, carved from the grain with pocket knives and illicit intention.  we were  born in a box in the dark where the only light lived in the secrecy of our eyes.

after college i met melvin again for the first time in a sauna in the summer of ’99.  we opened our mouths and emptied ourselves of seven year lies.  and when the air was full of worthless words, we opened our skin and poured out truth, our beaded privacies rolling into one another and puddling at our feet. in a cedar room we began the business of sucking out poison that had long ago killed what could have been:

i remember you among blades of verdant green grass … rolling along the sides of hills, friendless with no mouth, your eyes to heaven, your heart without a home. i remember your shy. 

i remember the reflection of my face in the taut brown skin of the back of your black, bald, beautiful head. you were always looking back at me, curiously, quietly, saying my name without moving your mouth. i remember a black rose among a garden of thorny men —i did not dare to touch.



on the first reunited night, we drank bottles of blithe indifference and shot pool under muted light. we evaded the eyes of others and turned down jukebox music ’til the only tune for dance was the percussion of chests.  we drove through city streets and backroad trees into the cover of a room with many pillows and a picture window i called home.

in satin robe and silence i listened to fingers confess.  i lay myself beneath his hand, a fretboard of flesh, my head held gently in the grip of a song.  when the guitar was empty  of avoidance, melvin, empty of restraint, ate up the space between us and lay the guitar against the wall. we were consumed, struggling to formulate freedom, trying to give  name to a thing without identity.  we spoke words that ionized the air of lawless men:

i want to be reborn, to begin again, to know the other side of impossibility.  i want to tell you i loved you in the time before time, but did not know i could.  i have always sang you songs and they have always been instrumental. 

i want to listen with honest ears, hear harmonies made of unknown notes, and learn the songs you sang. but i am a misplaced metaphor and a plagiarizing poet. i mime the words of other men and have believed in lies about love. i have deceived myself with piety and have devoted myself to future failures.



against prohibitions we bloomed like an entangled garden of trouble. under summer suns and in gray rooms we were Babel in the clouds and we made the rain. then god confounded language and tore down our towers. we bathed in eyewater and uncertainty while plotting all options:

maybe we could rewrite the rules. or burn down the world and give god the work of something new. gentrify the hearts of homefolks and renovate their faith. maybe we could go to war against the pantheon and dagger their hearts for freedom. or maybe we could make ourselves unseen or buy new names.

in the room with no eyes, we danced to voice of angelic woman, made ourselves wild with wind that blew, became a tapestry of forgetfulness, and knew. our spaghetti legs wrapped themselves around one another and tied suffocating forever knots at night, knowing. in penitent mornings we were untangled in the spectral presence of eyes we had memorized who joined us while we slept. we allowed ourselves an audience and were watched.  we were adam and adam in the garden of eden, ashamed of our nakedness, in fig leaves and fear, the shining sap of our love dried on the inside of our legs. and when asked who told us of our nakedness, our serpents rose to answer.

i hung my head from porcelain tub in bubbled water and, reaching back, grabbed your thighs.  i saw your face as fearful and knew my own destructions. i pulled you in the bath and made you dark beneath the washing water. i lay with you under popcorn ceiling and stole smiles from daydreams to bring you back to life.  i wrapped myself in your skin and made me impervious. i turned you into seven suns that burned in each of my energy centers. but in the interstice of our lips lived a thing without utterance; it was the blue that made the sky. and you tasted my sadness with feigned satisfaction.

i was too young to understand divine lies. too naive to curse my shame. but i remember dancing and rainy days. i remember the last time i knew your name would not be mine. i remember moving among the boxes and existing inside cedar rooms, always looking for you again. at night i sleep beneath sheets woven from many threads of guilt. they are stained with heartblood and fragments of a dream.

you did not say don’t go. and i did not know i couldn’t.  we are many miles away from rainy days and still i remember the west side smell of wet asphalt.  i remember the reflection of my face in your skin. i remember the terror of too much love. i remember the smell of your soul and the sound of going to pieces.

i remember not knowing that truth is a lie.



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