[poetry month] "Intentionalities" by Rosmarie Waldrop


My hand moves along your thigh. When we describe intentions, is the
ventriloquist taken over by the dummy? Or pretending to be a ghost?

Instead of “I meant you,” I could say, “We walked through wet streets,
toward a dark well.” But could I speak of you this way? And why does it
sound wrong to say “I meant you by pulling away?” Like lovers caught
in headlights?

If I talk of you it connects me to you. By an infinite of betweens, not by
touching you in the dark. Touch is the sense I place outside myself for
you to ride.

When I mean you I may show it — if we stand close — by putting my head
on your shoulder. You can show you understand by describing the well
under the trap door. What will you say? Don’t be frightened?

The feeling I have when I mean you draws an arc of strength between
my hips and the small of my back. It doesn’t follow that “meaning you” is
being exhilarated by terror. Of course not, you say: We need a red thread
to run through, but it’s entangled with space, form, future. Is this true?

It would be wrong to say that meaning you stands for a forgotten part
of myself, a treatise on labyrinths, a path leading nowhere. Am I living
in a shell where the sea comes in along with its sound? And drowns us?

I was speaking of you because I wanted to think about you. “I wanted”
does not describe a general before battle. Nor, on the other hand, a ship
heading for shipwreck. There is no way to decide whether this is an auto-
biography or a manifesto.

— Rosmarie Waldrop, from Gap Gardening, New Directions, 2016.