asymmetries
Nicola Cayless.
Looking for light in words.





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If you are quiet, you can see photographs fading in the afternoon sunlight.

(What I mean is: you can see history become insignificant in the light.)

I find it so strange that you’ve slipped beneath my skin and you’re just breathing quietly inside my bones, and I have no desire to have you removed. Doctors tell you to remove that which should not be there, the alien, the unknown. They’ll medicate you with antibiotics and douse you with creams that smell of waiting rooms and despair, and they’ll write notes in messy shorthand that looks like my hair when I wake up from a night of lovemaking. I can feel you there, all the time, sipping at my marrow, playing tic tac toe in my ribcage, and it’s uncomfortable. I can feel you squirming inside my chest when you’re trying to fall asleep with my back pressed against your chest. I can feel you thrumming away, singing Cole Porter and Louis Armstrong when I have a headache and just want to fade away. But still I let you sleep, still I let you stay. I let you find rest within my bones, and although I’ve had to rearrange my skeleton just for you, although I’ve had to get used to new ways of joint-clicking and piano playing, that’s okay. Because you’re you and I’ll take apart the entire puzzle if it means that your pieces will fit with mine.

Wish you were here, xox

And if like condensation on a mirror
you should stumble over my name in casual conversation,
stutter your way through writhing syllables,
trip over the sun-warmed letters
that remind you of
the promises of Rio:

you may wake up one morning to find
a postcard on the pillow,
with borrowed lipstick for a kiss
pressed to paper instead of skin. 

These are the reminiscences of cloth.

You wear an old tweed coat.
It smells of mothballs and cigarettes,
with patches at the sleeves
& a faded name (Archie, Allan, Alex…)
on the label scratching against your neck.

You bought it for two dollars twenty,
from a little old lady who carried
singed relics from houses turned to ash
in the pockets inside her dress.

You roll the sleeves to the elbow;
and still, they keep falling,
dangling, giving you longer arms
that cannot grasp at coffee cups and hips.
You are a mismatched body:
as if your limbs had been quilted on
by a blind, daft seamstress. 

You carry a notebook when you wear
that old tweed coat (it reeks of absinthe
and memories). With your paper-crinkled fingers,
you tally the glances alive with a question,
eyes that shimmer with signs that read:

“I had an old coat once.
It was linen, not tweed,
and smelled of roses and coffee,
and it killed my mother with sickly-sweet
sugar.”
 

You stumble in that old tweed coat
through the gentle rain. You wash away
clinging house fires, and ask for strangers in their
silk skirts and velvet brassiere to burn your
polaroid image into their thoughts.
You scrounge for sympathy,
like a beggar on the Spanish Steps.

On stars and wrists and all things poetic.

Everyone knows that we are all made of stardust,
that my fingers were crafted by the whisperings of light,
that my lungs were created by the remembrance of energy.
Inside my bones are the stories of eternity, of the night, of the morning,
of the void.

I am made of celestial queens, who ruled over
planets and moons, who governed the men who tripped
over atmospheres and gravity in their haste to touch the heavens.

The star in my wrist was in love with another,
one far greater, far brighter, who danced more brilliantly,
who illuminated the way for sherpas and midnight teenagers.

(The star that my wrist loves lies in other lands,
in other worlds where they speak in grunts and groans,
in touches and in making love, but we’re all just the
quintessence of dust.) And though I am the composite of space
and the reminiscences of night, and in the whole I am bound to flesh
and yours,

there is still the star in my wrist
who twinkles quietly and longs to be
with the nebula in his left ankle. 

I think about our first kiss almost constantly; that shiver of electricity running along my skin, searching out the rhythms of my pulse, melting into my blood with the very essence of you

He drinks coffee like he’s drowning in the night, the warmth spreading through his lungs like sunlight seeking flowers. He clings tightly to that heat within him as he writes. Inside his palms lie secrets, hiding quietly beneath the wrinkles and the scars, too old at twenty nine to have seen the death of foetuses and the drawn out life of ancients. He spends his days with milligrams and needles, exploring veins and looking for tumors; he spends his mornings on cot beds in sweat-smelling nooks, and he dreams of home. At home, at home, there are mismatched plates and chipped tea cups, and a wife who cooks lasagna with an absent-minded grace. When he’s at home, he rests his head on his folded arms, and watches her sashay around the kitchen, watches her cook up stories of old Italia and bygone China, and he thinks, this is her operating room. And then he writes out the deaths he’s seen and the birth’s he has brought about. He spins poetry of how each birth was damning and death was freeing, and his little wife, his little waif-wife, sleeps on the couch and waits for him to cradle her to sleep like a child. Because he heals her like sutures and awakens her like adrenalin, and one morning she’ll wake up and he’ll still be sleeping next to her, and when she murmurs the time, he’ll fold her into his lungs and breathe away the next fifty years of death. 

You are the edges.

You are the circumference of my lungs.
You tighten, and I am filled.
You restrict with your fingertips.

You are in the periphery of my gaze.
You are the mouth of the beer bottle from which I sip.
You are the portrait above the piano when I am kissing a stranger.

You are the skin which wraps around my veins.
You caress my blood, and I drink you like vodka.

You are the blanket falling off the bed.
You are the cold that kisses my ankles.
You conspire with the moon to make the atmosphere smaller. 

You are the lingerie cascading from my shoulders.
You are clothes smelling of smoke on the floor.
You remind me in the morning of the secrets in my joints.

You are the lipstick stains on coffee cups.
You are the blood streaked on the bathroom mirror. 
You are the corners and the silence.

You are, you are, you are the edges. 

❝ You fill everything, you fill everything.

— "So That You Will Hear Me", Pablo Neruda

"I am breathing."

She comes naked to the doorway. She looks into the room. He is stretched out naked on the bed. His feet dangle over the edge of the bedframe. They had bought a double bed because they had not the money for a queen sized. 

"Will you come bath with me?" she asks, her head cocked to the side while she waits for an answer from the man she loves. His gaze is fixed on the ceiling and does not waiver.

"No." She watches the way the moonbeams from the open window glance across his chest, his collarbones, his light dusting of hair that travels down from his bellybutton and into the secrets of his groin. 

"Why not?" 

"I am breathing." His fingers twitch, a tiny spasmodic movement, disrupting the still air of the room. 

"Do you not do that normally?" She asks this honestly, as though it has never occurred to her that one day, she could hold her mouth closed and put her hand over her nose and simply stop, letting her lungs wither.

"I do not. The moonlight helps." And it does. The moonlight is filling his chest. He is photosynthesising in the night. 

"Will you come bath with me once you have finished breathing?" She longs to make love in the bath, with the scent of ylang ylang rising around their entwined bodies, and their moans frosting on the heated mirror.

"No. The bath is too small for the both of us." His eyes close, slowly, as though by losing sight he may disappear, melt into the silence and become a moonbeam himself.

"Everything in this house is too small." She is frustrated. She only wants to touch.

"Yes." His shoulders sag a little. She can see his body release, meld to the covers and become less present. She turns from the doorway, and pads across the hall. She watches the steam rise from the bath, and she smells ylang ylang. Her breasts sway with each breath she takes, and she never notices.