Back to Issue Twelve.

The Sum of the Terms



When I turn on the stove to boil water,

you come downstairs with your hair down,

which is why the following things exist:

teapots, fire, beauty.

A kind of logic has proved this to be true:

I am breathing, I have senses, I have you.

I asked for proof that God exists.

Why else the elephant, the tornado,

the body’s ability to hold another body inside it?

If this universe is not extraordinary,

if the fact that your mole is in the shape of a hoof

does not mean that every angel is terrifying,

how can I keep coming home at night

knowing that God is not waiting naked in my bed?

From the city’s highest point, I can see miles of ocean

until my eyes begin to interpret distance as fallacy.

Everything has boundaries.

I cannot love you infinitely.

The sky cannot pour itself into a teacup.

Everything ends.

Not even God can make this right.



[Even when I’m naked I can’t tell the truth]



Even when I’m naked, I can’t tell the truth.
Breasts, knees, cheeks – I’m covered in twins

that cannot speak.  Maybe if I build a little
dim booth, write For everything, I’m sorry

on my front tooth, I could begin to reveal
the things that hide in the lining of my coat.

What would God say about my curiosity
for abortions, that I believe there is peace

for dead things floating in formaldehyde?
And what about my father’s eyes after his stroke,

their endless black unknowing, their inability to know
his dark parts are showing?  What if I want to live

in those eyes and explore the world
from their damaged hem?  When I begin to speak,

I begin to unravel.  This is how the body travels
from dark to darker.  This is how we level ourselves

with the love of our fathers.  Into what loyal jar
can I say I wish he would have touched me,

anywhere?  Into what pillow can I scream
that I wish I had scars, anything to prove I was with him,

I was there?  I understand confession less than therapy,
at which one do I say I need to be touched,

I need a man to make me?  This is what I know of love:
the being needed, the being taken.  I’ve mistaken the heart

for being able to love.  The heart cannot love.
The heart pumps.  It is more like a well;

made for depleting, for drowning.  This is sounding
more like a plea than any revolutionary way of saying loneliness.

If God ever broke into my home and said Speak or be
I would say You have it coming to you, being another father

that once woke me in the night to say Pretend I was never here.
And he wasn’t.  And he wasn’t.  Quiet is my souvenir.

Meghan Privitello’s first book, A New Language for Falling out of Love, was released by YesYes Books in January 2015. She received a 2014 Poetry Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council of the Arts. Poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, The Kenyon Review Online, Gulf Coast, Gettysburg Review, Sixth Finch, Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation, and elsewhere.

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