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.
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.


These two poems come from Crush.

Click here to purchase.

Click this printer icon to print this page for reading along.

To learn more about Richard Siken, visit his website by clicking here, or his Poetry Foundation page by clicking here.

Lit from the Basement is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com (this means as Amazon associates, we earn from qualifying purchases).