He asks if I’ve heard any of the new work put out by his favorite poet, Saul Williams, in the year and a half since we split up.
I neglect to mention out loud that he is my favorite poet; this young man talking to me but not looking at me. He would only use it against me later, but I think it succinctly at the back of his head anyway as he turns away to fiddle with the stereo. I’d been crushed when I’d heard that he’d laid his pen aside to enter art school. A necessary sacrifice, he assumes, and everyone around him accepts it as the right thing for him to have done. Like when he’d decided we couldn’t be friends anymore because he’d seen me from the inside already and you can’t go back from that even when you realize you can’t go forward either, and everyone between us agrees that that’s the right thing to have done, too.
“I prefer live poets now,” I hedge.
“Saul Williams is alive.” He throws me an askance look as if to add I shouldn’t have to tell you that. I remember getting these sorts of looks a lot, back then. It’s a familiar sensation, compelling a little part of myself to move inadvertently backward. I try to slip into the past, but it doesn’t fit quite as comfortably as I’d thought it would. I suppose relationships aren’t like old sweaters that get warmer with wear and tear.
“I know, but you know, by live I meant...” I search for the word, fumbling, “Local: someone that I can see, can see their lips moving, could talk to if I wanted.” It was through him that I’d learned poetry had so much more to offer when you knew the poet, their nuances. Pink had been his device for me. Over the stretching of our time together I had been a ghost in pink lingering, to haunt his every letter; the first exhales of whales after returning from ocean bottoms, with pink ostrich feathers for fingers and lily whiteness draping me to stem. And so I am no longer impressed by the victrola voices of great poets, though I know how Marcia Jones must feel, epigraphed in S/he, and I smile because I’ve been there, but that is all the value Saul Williams holds for me these days. A great poet on tape is only half as good as a mediocre one in the bedroom.
The transcendentalist music playing in the background seems tuned to the ceiling of his new room: half-finished basement, exposed two-by-fours pitched a little lower than is aesthetic, casting a shadow. We used to have vigorous conversations about art and writing and existence but he meets my statement with only a half-hearted roll of his shoulders and lights a cigarette. It seems we don’t have anything in common anymore but our chemistry.
*The epiglottis guards the entrance of the glottis, the opening between the vocal folds. It is normally pointed upward during breathing with its underside functioning as part of the pharynx. But during swallowing, elevation of the hyoid bone draws the larynx upward; as a result, the epiglottis folds down to a more horizontal position, with its upper side functioning as part of the pharynx. The epiglottis is one of nine cartilaginous structures that make up the larynx (voice box). When swallowing it serves as part of the anterior of the larynx. While breathing, it lies completely within the pharynx.