Self-Portrait with Cable News, Graffiti, Weather


When I see the woman on TV, so calm
in her porcelain-white suit, I remember
that I too smiled while a man talked over,
that I bore the persistent tar of his voice.
In those meetings, I watched the veins
in his face like cracks in a disappointed street.
Were it not for his cruelty, I might have said,
I’m sorry for your loss. Who knows.
That year, my husband would overhear me
talking in my sleep, and though he couldn’t open
the shut door of dreaming, he told me that I said,
fuck you, into the dark. Quite clearly, fuck you.
Night and waking were locked rooms,
the only exit a stuck window, and the heat
was always going or the cold. Next order of business,
a colleague said. I noted every conversation—
on the page, no one interrupted. Often,
remembering that year, I hold a serving bowl,
touch its surface limned with flowers, this thing
I’ve dropped or knocked against a shelf,
the way it refuses, decorative, to break.
Now I can say fuck you quite clearly to that year,
although there was also the kindness of friends
who brought over cherries—they knew
I loved the sweetness of a stone. I can say fuck you.
I will not lose the taste for it. In that year,
I was, truth be told, willing to punch a fist
through glass if it meant escape. I walked
down Greenwood Avenue, past the house
where someone had sprayed FUCK YOU
on the road and someone else had tried to X it out,
pale lines on top of lines. I understood
wanting to write one’s fury on a place.
I understood even the impulse to erase it,
walking each day across the purity of imperative,
how it disturbed the concrete silence.
Most of us are not the woman on TV
who keeps talking, while the man is shouting
wrong into a mic—she keeps talking while
he stands beside her like a mugger in an alleyway
and who knows what he wants to take.
Most of us are the audience watching the debate—
we comply when the moderator says no applause,
no interruptions please. Most of us wait for night
to write FUCK YOU on a clean patch of asphalt.
All of this to say I could have said much more.
I could have written something on the man’s sad face
and walked across my speech. FUCK YOU.
I think of him. I think of Greenwood Avenue,
its unremarkable houses that I learned to hate—
always moving towards a meeting or
coming late from one. I think of the sound
that spray paint makes, the rattle-shake of the can,
the aerosol’s soft hiss, the words emerging
slowly on a path, jagged perhaps, but large
enough, remaining legible through rain.