Willing to Exchange
Jeans for a dress, slacks for a shirt,
a torpedo for turmeric: your voice
for all the things you never said. Shoes
the wrong size. Old boyfriends for old bosses.
An anthology of sighs for a calendar
of false rumors. Heels for flats. Ravishing
for plain. Plain for vanilla. Vanilla f
or blue Italian ices we shared. The unchartered
for a map, lighting for a lightning bug (firefly
for a last match). A light bulb
for a shadow—one to keep you company.
The ATM for Ms Kolokowski the bank teller
you always wanted to kiss. Jasmine
for myrrh. Night for blur. Blur for clear
as a day of childhood sunlight
at the playground and your mother
is still alive, smoking a cigarette
by the chain-link fence. Your mother
for your drowned brother. Your drowned brother
for your overdosed friend. The dead
for the living. Please forgive me. Forgiveness
for sacrifice. Sacrifice for a trip to France.
The weight of magnesium for a thimbleful of salt.
The salt inside tears for a fifth of Scotch.
At the funeral of your drowned brother.
The day you told me you were leaving. To be left
at the train station. For taxi fare to Coney Island.
For a Coney with all the works. For a walk on the boardwalk
alone. For the argument that lasted into the AM,
the one where you threw the clock at my head
and yelled I was taking too long,
and how you didn’t understand why
I was laughing because it was metaphor. Any metaphor
for the weight of your hand. The rain, for near
any light. Three days of being seven, for five years
of being a teenager. The year seventeen
for the year thirty six (but would thirty six
have sucked if not for seventeen?) Any precise
and honest answer for the most obtuse question.
A knife to cut the rope. Duck tape to fix it.
Bound for freedom. Freedom for sanctuary. Body
for Ethereal. Ethereal for the black earth, a hemp robe,
and paraplegic braces. A wood stove in winter
for a garden of sunflowers in summer. Lilacs
for lilies. Lilies for orchids. A dozen orchids
for a Chinese dragon kite. Eating Duck Chow Fon
slowly with my father (for the silence, any wrong word).
Three nights in jail for disorderly conduct for a bladder infection
on the crowded Amtrak. (That one’s a steal—remember
where we were going, we couldn’t find a urinal
but the city was full of sparklers), just before they burnt out
the children would throw them
like shooting stars. How they disappeared
into the dark. A broken thing
for the black itself. A rechargeable battery for a free pass
to the Museum of Laments. Your absence
for anything, anything—
— Sean Thomas Dougherty