with two lines from Bernadette Mayer
On the avenues, white exhaust tinges blue;
a pigeon nearly gets me, perched over the red church door.
For lunch I pack a ham & turkey sandwich;
I want to hose the city down with bleach.
Mostly images don’t form patterns;
or they do—it’s my mind
arranging them, giving an impression
of continuity, not unlike the man with a serpentine walk
I’ve avoided all my life looking down at my shoes—
When I say the man I don’t mean my father.
Of course, I’m told we walk alike;
from behind we have the same stooped cadence,
arches collapsed, soles worn on a slant—
Is that him I just passed?
I don’t like cooking dinner,
get bored listening to my husband’s yakety yak.
“I have to send my meeting notes out in the morning,” he says;
I stir fry the tofu-slash-get distracted
by the inner turmoil of paying rent
& what it means to be a good person.
In another place or through window tint
it appears to be raining on asphalt.
Storm pipes branch beneath swarming feet;
we weave around each other
like flamingos on takeoff or just before dancing,
each of us moving in unison, a dot on the GPS.
Little Dot move left;
Little Dot don’t move just blink in vertical space
going up the office escalator, toting coffee in a paper cup;
Little Dot plugged with earbuds.
Riding backwards on trains we’re time-lapsed
like night scenes, streaming taillights, headlights
the signal’s shifting red-green;
or we flicker like flamingos
mating in the infrared,
each orange splotch with a yellow heart
pulsing “at once above/below” as Bernadette says,
and “it’s easier for love to have a million neighbors”
seems a breezy thing to say, appropriate
not slutty, our mouths’ sucking frenzy;
or we zag in blue swaths like zebra fish
flaunting eyes, lacing fins, in fact
yes, I’m avoiding the text
just in from my landlord asking WHERE IS THE RENT
Ellen Kombiyil is the author of Histories of the Future Perfect (2015), and a micro chapbook avalanche tunnel (2016). Recent work has appeared in diode, The Moth, Muzzle, Plume, Pleiades, and The Offing. She is a two-time winner of the Mary M. Fay Poetry Award from Hunter College, a recipient of an Academy of American Poets college prize, and was awarded the Nancy Dean Medieval Prize for an essay on the acoustic quality of Chaucer’s poetics. She is a founder of The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, a mentorship-model press publishing emerging poets from India and the diaspora. A graduate of the University of Chicago and Hunter’s MFA program, she currently teaches creative writing at Hunter College.