Only the blood in my bones keeps me warm.
Wake up to this chilling breath,
shrouds out of my mouth, a dirge dog fog.
My down comforter filled with sunken hopes,
anchored by tears that swelled there.
The marriage bed, shackled I am,
diffused, lying prostrate directly on top
of fleeting passionate visions. Now, the cold sweat
indicates I must get up and face hubris alone,
my libido, notwithstanding.
Last week a trapped bird in the atrium broke through the middle panel of the
back door, the lower middle of the tic-tac-toe grid. It must have been a bird,
for all the glass was on the outside, blood on the quarter size jagged edge of the
hole. I installed a double dead-bolt on the kitchen door. I will fix the glass
later. For now, just cut out a piece of cardboard, cover the panel, the double
dead-bolt in case a would-be intruder decided to finish the job the bird started,
break in- out. The pilferage would consist only of a 15 year old push mower, a
garbage bag full of the sport’s section of the newspaper, a round poker table,
chairs, trash, all her dead plants. The wind knocks off the cardboard square
sometimes like it did last night, when the bleak draft stalks what used to be our
house, violating through numerous crooks, crannies, orifices, starting and
beginning with the bolted kitchen door. Her dead plants don’t stir, they don’t
move, they don’t flake, they are dead, only crumble at my dry touch.
Sometimes I stare at all the dishes in the kitchen: blue porcelain, stacked, rows
upon rows, inside nameless cupboards. I never enjoyed the privilege of an
actual dinner party with the fine china we registered for. I never even picked
up all the sets that waited for us at Dillard’s. Here are three cards, on top of
this plate, from Dr. Denton, the Sturgill’s, and Andy Gaines, the man most consistent
at being unoriginal, lazy. I bet those dinner sets are still waiting, clean,
cleaner than these dusty rusty cards. The microwavable Tupperware shows
wear and tear, from cooking all that spaghetti in the microwave. The sauce
melts into the plastic. I still hadn’t wiped the microwave clean from where she
put a chimichanga in for too long and it exploded, that crisp burnt taste of
chicken permeating everything I blast in there, making my jaw ache sardonic,
wishing for shock treatment instead of the inevitable hunger that makes me
have to eat. Everything is a chore these days, especially washing these endless
dishes. One thing we used to do together, because we used to eat together, one
of the last things we ever agreed on. Eat when you’re hungry, sleep when
you’re tired. I should be thankful that those functions still propel me into
I tip-toe down the stairs to check the furnace. Careful with the third step from
the bottom, where the child cut his foot on the loose nail, where I tripped with
a hamper full of clothes, evoking a clap and rich laugh from her before concern
took over to see if I was hurt. That was shortly after we moved into our house.
By the time the child cut himself, I lambasted his mother for her carelessness,
she, spitting with rage that she gave the child permission to go downstairs to
tell his daddy good-morning, a fine Saturday wasted not looking at each other
while the child cried when the Tetanus needle pricked his skin. Careful with
the third step because the nail is no longer there and nobody will laugh if you
The furnace quit burning, a long time ago the furnace quit burning. The
instructions were implicit and direct, do not let the fire die out, do not run out
of fuel, for you will have to prime it to get it working, pump, pump, perhaps
hire some outside help to get it working. It will cost you a lot of money, a lot
of effort. Will it even be worth the time when the fire is gone, the ashes are
damp, the furnace quit burning? No Edna St. Vincent Millay candle here. I’m
not sure I even had a wick. I’m still surprised every morning at the ghostly ice
I see tainted on the edges of everything. Did I scold the child for running wild
with the can of fake frost at Christmas? No, those were the cobwebs right
before Halloween, drooping like a weeping willow from the chandelier over
the dining table. She lit candles to create a mood. She always lit candles, fragrant
ones, in the bedroom, in the bathroom, to create a mood, floating candles
that did not smell of old gasoline like this furnace that quit burning. And the
tundra is what I sleep on.
All the spare blankets cover the windows that don’t have blinds. There’s one
over the bay window in the dining room, out of place. I like it dark and silent,
I move through that room like a whisper. The giant matador on the wall
receives no ovations. And the candy disappears one by one, soon there will be
none left in the dish on the table. The blanket stops the sun from fragmenting
on the chandelier, real cobwebs are hammocks now, sway gently in the breeze
of my passing. The complaint hangs in the stagnant air.
On to the family room, a museum of statistics, this is where the child spilled
cherry Kool-Aid, this is where she sat to smoke, see where the ashtray has fallen
repeatedly, the discolored rug, the scorches on the couch cover. I made love
to her on the couch, her eyes riveted on a porno on the television, a lesbian
scene, she had her fantasies. We never did find a willing partner, well, there
was that blonde who didn’t want me, just her. I couldn’t even watch. She said
no, reluctantly. I made love to her on the couch, my foot would slip behind the
cushions, to mix with the change, a stray sock, her hair beret. She would sit on
me on the couch, same lesbian scene on TV, sound off, for me, I would talk her
through it. I knew all the names to call her. The recliner had other uses. I
could kneel on the handrests, so could she. The television is gone now, along
with the solitary porno flick we enjoyed. The stains and statistics remain, food
mixed with textured sex, covering my furniture, a paint-by-the numbers trick.
Sometimes, when I lay down on the couch, the faint muskiness returns, she sat
here naked, saturating her essence into the core of my being. I’ve cried.
Because I quit looking for her pubes after I washed the sheets off the bed.
I don’t know why I installed a phone jack in the child’s room. Presentient, I
may have been, for I now have my modem hooked up. No laughter in this
child’s room. I always used to step on something, a toy, a cracker, a raisin, a
marshmallow, Crayola skid marks on the wall, a bag from Baskin Robbins, too
many flavors, too many colors. I’m blinded when I think of my child, like a
kaleidoscope in my heart. I must force myself to dismantle the bunk bed with
the desk underneath, create more space in this extra room, my computer forces
me to hunch down, the small chair creeks ominously while I surf aimlessly.
Above, beyond the railing, Spiderman reeks of the bedwetter’s only weakness.
Such a frail understanding, when those huge saucer eyes would question why,
why must I go to bed, when you haven’t even talked, not to me, not to each
other, why, why can’t we watch that episode of Goosebumps, or play with
Sonic on the Sega, watch him jump, bounce, run, now it’s your turn, I’m all out
of lives. Daddy, please leave the closet light on, turn my TV on, keep it on low
volume, I’ll promise I’ll get up if I have to go to the bathroom. A little louder
please, Dad, the television, because if I hear you two fighting, in the atrium or
the dining room, I won’t want to get up. I’ll have to pee so bad I’ll fall asleep.
No more Kool-Aid after 8:00 O’clock. I wish I were deaf or dumb or numb.
Maybe if I had a phone I could call God. Presentient, I don’t know why I
installed a jack in the room.
Every night I have to endure the blue, blue bedroom with the adjoining yellow
bathroom. Yellow sickly bathroom, every time I walk in there I have to brush
my teeth. Black thrives in the cracks of the tile and tub. Absence grows fungus
in my bathroom. I haven’t thrown away the Scope bottle knowing she
wrapped her lips on it. She shaved me, I shaved her in there. So bold in that
bathroom, we even made a game out of me inserting her tampon in, with the
smooth, glide applicator. She pretty much broke water the same way, leaving
me in the tub to reflect, for a second, exactly what had just mixed with the
soap, steam, dissolved bath beads. The towels tell our story. We used to share
a large red beach towel with a toucan on it. Afterwards, two towels, his and
hers, side by side, till death do us part. Mine appeared in the garage, oil
smudged, hers in the kitchen, with the rags. We always bought expensive towels
during Christmas after that, each year wondering how we could destroy
such beautiful cloth. She finally dried off with her terry robe, covering her
body. I went back to the toucan, the eye unraveling because it snagged on the
I was always in bed first, reading. She slept by the alarm, the lamp, and her
pills. In the morning, I would have to reach over her to turn off the alarm, a
daily-lost opportunity. Some nights, she used to wait for me, breathless, to
reach over, turn off the lamp. I’d pretend I was distracted. She’d wear a short
silk camisole. She would reach over, start plucking lightly at my chest hairs,
I’d lower my book. Her knee would rise up my leg, the camisole would skirt
up past her hip. I could feel that bristled tickle that told me she wasn’t wearing
any panties. I could feel the heat. I would get stiff, wet at the same time, her
hand would drop, the tip of her middle finger dipping into the semen bubble I
knew had formed there. Her hand would clamp, her fingers smearing it all
around the top of the soft dome. Our mouths would lock. She’d mount me or
I would mount her on the nights I reached over to turn off the light, who cares
who slept on the wet spot.
Only the blood in my bones keeps me warm.
The furnace quit burning.
Ants crawl up through the pipes, spread themselves out in the sink,
like an army, like a plague, like an invasion,
our house becomes some other type of house,
wood, glass, carpet, linoleum, ceramic, plastic, brass
lifeless elements, this is where I dwell.
Where will you sit naked tonight,
with the novelty of your surroundings intoxicating you?
Can your skin feel the indelible imprint of my touch?
or have you shrugged off that mortal coil, become reborn?
Have your walls already adjusted to the next man’s person?
At one time we were hand carved as one, an Indian dollar
windswept for centuries, even fossils are eventually discovered
So it goes for bliss and blisters.
I bring the next one home, she don’t sit like you,
she don’t laugh like you. The next one, well,
I can’t quite remember if you twirled your hair that way. The next one
catches her breath in a most peculiar way, a habit borne out of the need
to let her partner know the moment is close.
Something you would never do. You were more of a back-archer.
I replace the broken window panel.
I talk to a realtor, maybe move to a condominium,
all the joy has gone out of mowing the lawn.
Let someone else do it for a while.
The new girl doesn’t understand why I would sell the couch,
she also loves the recliner. I want to try a waterbed, with a heater.
A year from now the new owners have paved the driveway,
installed motion detection lights, bitched about the unnecessary
deadbolt on the kitchen door that they just keep open,
a pool table in the atrium.
I drive by, I imagine you do the same,
we pass each other, looking at our house,
not knowing what kind of car the other drives.
I received a gray business letter the other day, forwarded
from the old address typed in front of the envelope.
When I opened it up, empty, nothing,
and the postmark said
(c) 1997 Angel Uriel Perales