Detail from Dirty Laundry by Jamie Heiden, copyright J. Heiden Photography
Detail from Dirty Laundry by Jamie Heiden

Laura Kochman


We have both invoked guilt. We are both at fault, and also I cannot tell you truly how you comfort me, in sharing skin to skin the weight of it.

Restless again. Is it cold there?

I’ve tried to make contact. Have you tried to make contact? Everyone else seems buried.

Lately, things have been full of water, sloshing. The water hesitates at the edge before pouring itself over. How’s your body? Mine’s okay.

The giant panda! Cadillac Mountain! The ghost in your bed!

You remember how he rowed the rowboat, I’m sure. Contented in the movement of it. Nothing else mattered. I wanted to launch myself back to shore.

The baby in the closet. With flowers.

Thinking of your solitary freckle. This thing keeps trying to autocorrect.

Madness in the capital, and my skin’s been peeling again. Each snail shell placed gently on the sidewalk, no one home, no one home, we knocked them out, no one home.

You in the waves. Write back!

Supposing back to back our bodies wedged into the outline of the bed, though we had already been divided up by room, by cells. Supposing not: supposing stitched together, speaking simultaneous. Like oars.

Like small feet walk across my stomach sometimes, when I’m not paying attention. Just kidding! There’s really no trace.

Your unspeakable fingertips. I always envied them their shaking. Leaving behind their noise.

The sea snails leave slime for slipping. Ha! See snails by the seashore, shelling themselves. In this joke, they’re really hermit crabs. But they really do live in the water.

Your quietude. Your not-saying. Your chin curved in like the bottom point of an egg. Your voicemails. Your attention to the detail of removing the pith.

This kitchen-table-talk is endless. The cove of those rocks, shouldered, making of themselves a hotel. We called it a hotel because we were not at home, and could not, at that time, give it away.

Supposing we sat strapped into a two-seater kayak.

Sorry I wrote all over your doll. She was not you, and it bothered me. In truth I was homeless.

Are you using your fingers? Our seamstress blood. Or tremors of old world music.

Common Places

Flipping through the pages
of the month

                           Southwest quadrant of the lawn
where the rootball of the fig tree left a depression

                                                                                   in the ground like a thick thumb
                                                                                                                    driven into pastry

                                                    We never thought to fill it in

The lawn seeds herself every year

Settlement-style, she makes herself unfamiliar

We have been to the beach, all of us, covered up

On the rag

                                             That one corner of the carpet where the swirl
              approaches the valley of human shape

                                                         What if there was a book club
for the purpose of sharing our reading experiences

         The good grass seeds’ stalks grow tighter
                            and more dangerous       yellow in the winter

Where one month claims another

We’ve all sat on the stoop

We laughed on her doorstep like humans

                                                                                    She seeds and seeds and seeds

Like we all stuck our thumbs on the same spot
Like chanting Save / Save / No Unsave upon leaving for the bathroom

I cut the carpet’s hair because she too
embraced change and radical style

                                       What to expect is unclear

The human eye tends to find more eyes
wherever there are circles, particularly
when one circle surrounds another

                 Covered the calendar in red Xs

I’m drawn to changes in texture / Where the territory is drawn

The Application of Mascara and Eyeliner in the Dim Locker Room Before the First Bell

Here is the door. I mean,
here is the house of the dead.

Here all the mirrors are covered with veils and you must only see yourself in others.

                             Where it comes through.

Here I am waiting with my offering

She waits at the checkpoint    /     she waits at the checkpoint

I am trying to match this dark edge against yours
                    the rim of my eye a waterline

In the mirror we each perform our own

What I mean is I’m alive, right now, sliding around in the surface tension.
She kisses me with her name        and her wide thumbs.

                            Where it does not come through.

In the baths you must put your whole body
                                                                              under the water, no cheating, no clothing
                                                                              in anything but your skin.

She looks up through the light.

Where it is so easy to forget the waterline against the porcelain,
bobbed and gentle, not a line but a shadow.

I am trying to match your attention to the detail
of your body / the dense line of longing
in you

                                        Depth arrives slowly, and in particular it waits in the dark.

Here is the dark, velvet-backed, behind you, very still.

                        I am busy believing in you.

Without us looking
her shape takes shape for itself            without mirror
Without the tension of a reflective surface

Each hair separates from the other.

Drawn within my own parameters, my face is all eyes.

She in your body / and me / evidence
of blood relations and parallel descent

Here, I think, is another clump of darkness.
The line between readying and readiness stalks away.

Waiting for the classroom door to open, for the lights to go on.

There’s a permeable membrane in the dim light

She the skin around my eyes
                                                        is the borderland

We loved them both        /       We loved them both

If I’m very quiet.

Even in the dark the mirror

A door is always a door.