We watch a show on television about a young couple, unhappy and trapped, and the boy says something I've read in a book, a sentence I've said, something I've been told before.
"We don't kiss anymore," he says.
She listens, but her attention seems focused on the cushion of the couch she's sitting on.
"Not just that," he says. "We don't hold hands either."
The girl doesn't respond, and the show continues. The boy narrates a parable about weeds which I don't understand, the way someone will use a cliche to make a point, like, A bird in hand is worth two in a bush, only I get more confused, trying to figure out how it makes a difference to what was already said.
"Sounds like us," she says to me.
Then she wonders out loud why I've stopped talking, why I've become distant. I tell her all my resources have gone into making the day successful. I'm drained of motivation. I don't feel anything. She doesn't believe me. I feel I've delivered as much emotion as I have available. After that, I feel nothing. There's a small measure of warmth for the cat that sleeps on the couch next to me. I touch the little foot that the cat's stuck out in comfort. It wakes and looks at me with dulled, half-crossed eyes. It doesn't care one way or the other.
I've come to believe there's little in life that isn't frustrating or disappointing or useless. Despite the struggle to make something coherent and enduring, it's too easy for a train to slide along its tracks into a stalled tractor-trailer, too easy to close your eyes against the setting sun on the way home from work and drift into the oncoming traffic.
The closest I've found to worth in all this while is in things—warm doughnuts and coffee at the Krispy Kreme counter, a bottle of some Bardstown, Kentucky, bourbon, fresh cut daisies wrapped in green cellophane and tied with ribbon, a book that sets me solid to a chair—these gifts that briefly grant a sense of perfection, a release from the fallibility of the body, or at least, a respite from the indiscriminate power of death to pick and choose among us to swipe away our best, most valiant efforts.
All I can expect is a brief release. That's what these poems are. For when you stop talking.