She turned to me and asked, “And how do you spell orange?” A smirk played on her lips. That and the cheap lipstick she just bought from the pharmacy.
I wanted to tell her that orange is what happens when the sun of her smile kisses the sea of her lips. That orange is a flower blooming on her perfect mouth. I wanted to tell her that orange is the fruit Eve tempted Adam with and of which he happily partook. I wanted to tell her that orange was what I wanted.
But the truth was I wanted more.
“What do you think?” she asked again.
I went to her and pressed a thumb lightly on the corner of her lips. Orange rubbed off on my finger and I sucked on it, running my tongue over the color, looking for the faint trace of her taste. I wanted to drown her in my poetry and shower her with complicated words which will never explain half of what I feel. I wanted to breathe my literature into her mouth when she finally gasps for explanations. I wanted her to die with her last breath in my lungs. I wanted her more than anyone or anything in the world.
But the truth was I wanted more.
“You look pretty,” I said.
She looked pleased as she held a palm to my cheek, her eyes examining my face intently. “But I’m still not as pretty as you.”
I have only kissed men who could only kiss me in the dark.
Not out of preference, of course, but these things
Happen. They are names
Inside a box I label “never look back”
Because the norms tell me that I am a slut
For playing with lips that other women have labeled “reserved.”
When I was in college, a man told me that he liked that I spoke French. It didn’t matter
That he didn’t understand.
He looked at me the way voyagers
Looked at the unexplored edges of maps.
And when he thought no one was looking,
He led me by the hand and marked my lips “charted.”
A man’s life is a continuous quest for terra incognita. It said so in all the books.
His wife waits for him to come home.
The first time a man branded me woman, he took off his pants but not his shirt.
His torso held a warning “only for my lover”
While I lied on his bed,
He looked at me the way Neil Armstrong looked at the moon, and whispered that I mattered.
Except in space, sound never learned to travel without air.
And if a word was not heard, would it have happened?
Armstrong’s ashes are scattered over the Atlantic.
Each time the moon waxes, it drags the waters closer and closer, but Armstrong
At night, my dreams are as vivid as Photoshopped pictures—
A policeman stops the traffic to make love to my lips in the open streets.
A priest calls my name at church and proceeds to fuck me on all fours in front of the whole flock.
On the radio,
Frank Sinatra is alive and is singing my name over and over and over. On the television,
Salvador Dali is young and says he
Is nothing without me.
Yes, sometimes I would take out the box of names and rip out the label.
Most women have photos and love letters in their shoeboxes, I
Have nothing but the memory of men on my skin, their smell long faded.
When they gave themselves to their lovers, they had nothing left for me to keep.
So I would put the label back,
“Never look back.”
I would turn off
The lights and assure myself that some people
Can only glow in the dark.
Your Name (noun) 1. The romanticization of a seconds-
long interaction beginning with your question, ending
as a knot in my stomach, a smile I swallowed
2. The bitter dawning of the impossibility
of having lips that will reach your ear, of having
stranger skins meeting under covers, accompanied
by the sweetness of becoming nothing
3. The disappointment that follows a minute of introduction
to the you stripped of my imagination;
4. The laugh ripe with disgust after landed feet
proving the foolishness of constructing a future, a poem,
a noun, after a spit of tired dialogue
from an unexplored tongue
Limbs locked in the dark
God looks on, masturbating
No pleasure like guilt
*Art by Paul Medalla. Check out more of his awesome work here.