It can be demonstrated with thermo-
luminescence: the salt solution
retains knowledge of what it once held,
though nature, though logic
would tell it otherwise. Dumb as a bedpan,
the hydrogen bond remembers
the lithium, the sodium chloride no matter
how long distilled. There is so
little purity left in the world. Desire it,
dilute it, strip it down till nothing
remains, onion eyes wept dry, last flake
of the artichoke bit clean,
sour stalk swallowed whole. The homeopath
stirs his mug, glass rod
guiding poison to balm, balm to poison,
nothing settling, nothing
dispelled. With every loss the ache
of a phantom limb he never
believed in. And still he finds himself
awake at night, clutching the
cool insistence of a pillow to his chest.
She says that everything is after Hopper.
That posh hotelâ€”you looked about to slap her,
but never did. Sometimes sheâ€™d wait at night
in her blue robe, face folded like the note
you didnâ€™t leave crumpled in a coat pocket.
Sometimes sheâ€™d stand in broad daylight, naked
before an open window, flesh so pale
and round and full it seemed about to pull
a tide of ruttish men up from the street.
But mostly itâ€™s the red dress. The cut straight,
sleeveless, loose. And her mouth is only lipstick.
She says you never even see her talk,
but just about to talk, about to smile.
She says that every moment is a jail;
this diner is her prison of endless light,
the ceaseless hour always getting lateâ€”
yet no one moves. Her cigarette remains
unlit. The busboy doesnâ€™t lift his hands.
You could write a thousand lines, she says,
on all the things she never does or has.
How she seems so sad she might have cried.
How you only see her almost satisfied.