Wishbone by Richard Siken
You saved my life he says. I owe you everything. You don’t, I say, you don’t owe me squat, let’s just get going, let’s just get gone, but he’s relentless, keeps saying I owe you, says Your shoes are filling with your own damn blood, you must want something, just tell me, and it’s yours. But I can’t look at him, can hardly speak: I took the bullet for all the wrong reasons, I’d just as soon kill you myself, I say. You keep saying I owe you, I owe… but you say the same thing every time. Let’s not talk about it, let’s just not talk. Not because I don’t believe it, not because I want it any different, but I’m always saving and you’re always owing and I’m tired of asking to settle the debt. Don’t bother. You never mean it anyway, not really, and it only makes me that much more ashamed. There’s only one thing I want, don’t make me say it, just get me bandages, I’m bleeding, I’m not just making conversation. There’s smashed glass glittering everywhere like stars. It’s a Western, Henry. It’s a downright shoot-em-up. We’ve made a graveyard out of the bone white afternoon. It’s another wrong-man-dies scenario, and we keep doing it, Henry, keep saying until we get it right…but we always win and we never quit. See, we’ve won again, here we are at the place where I get to beg for it, where I get to say Please, for just one night, will you lie down next to me, we can leave our clothes on, we can stay all buttoned up… But we both know how it goes—I say I want you inside me and you hold my head underwater, I say I want you inside me and you split me open with a knife. I’m battling monsters, I’m pulling you out of the burning buildings and you say I’ll give you anything but you never come through. Even when you’re standing up you look like you’re lying down, but will you let me kiss your neck, baby? Do I have to tie your arms down? Do I have to stick my tongue in your mouth like the hand of a thief, like a burglary, like it’s just another petty theft? It makes me tired, Henry. Do you see what I mean? Do you see what I’m getting at? I swear, I end up feeling empty, like you’ve taken something out of me, and I have to search my body for the scars, thinking Did he find that one last tender place to sink his teeth in? I know you want me to say it, Henry, it’s in the script, you want me to say Lie down on the bed, you’re all I ever wanted and worth dying for too… but I think I’d rather keep the bullet. It’s mine, see, I’m not giving it up. This way you still owe me, and that’s as good as anything. You can’t get out of this one, Henry, you can’t get it out of me, and with this bullet lodged in my chest, covered with your name, I will turn myself into a gun, because I’m hungry and hollow and just want something to call my own. I’ll be your slaughterhouse, your killing floor, your morgue and final resting, walking around with this bullet inside me like the bullet was already there, like it’s been waiting inside me the whole time. Do you want it? Do you want anything I have? Will you throw me to the ground like you mean it, reach inside and wrestle it out with your bare hands? If you love me, Henry, you don’t love me in a way I understand. Do you know how it ends? Do you feel lucky? Do you want to go home now? There’s a bottle of whiskey in the trunk of the Chevy and a dead man at our feet staring up at us like we’re something interesting. This is where the evening splits in half, Henry, love or death. Grab an end, pull hard, and make a wish.
Planet of Love by Richard Siken
Imagine this: You're driving. The sky's bright. You look great. In a word, in a phrase, it's a movie, you're the star, so smile for the camera, it's your big scene, you know your lines. I'm the director. I'm in a helicopter. I have a megaphone and you play along, because you want to die for love, you always have. Imagine this: You're pulling the car over. Somebody's waiting. You're going to die in your best friend's arms. And you play along because it's funny, because it's written down, you've memorized it, it's all you know. I say the phrases that keep it all going, and everybody plays along. Imagine: Someone's pulling a gun, and you're jumping into the middle of it. You didn't think you'd feel this way. There's a gun in your hand. It feels hot. It feels oily. I'm the director and I'm screaming at you, I'm waving my arms in the sky, and everyone's watching, everyone's curious, everyone's holding their breath.