“Love Is Not an Emergency”
more like weather, that is
or false spring: the ambivalence
we have for any picnic—
flies ass-up in the Jell-O;
the soft bulge of thunderheads.
Right now, the man in the booth
next to me
at the Nautilus Diner,
Madison, New Jersey,
is crying, but looks up
to order the famous disco fries.
So the world’s saddest thing shakes you
like a Magic 8 Ball;
and before him, the minstrel
who smeared on love’s blackface, rattling
his damage like a tambourine.
I have been the deadest nag
limping circles around
the paddock, have flown to beady pieces,
sick as the tongue of mercury
at the thermometer’s tip.
But let’s admit there’s a pleasure, too,
in living as we do,
like two-strike felons who smile
for the security cameras,
like love’s first responders,
stuffing our kits with enhancement
pills, Zig Zags, and Power Ball cards.
I read: to greet is the cognate for
regret, to weep, but welcome
because “we grant the name of love
to something less than love”;
because we all have to eat.
—For A. C.
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Erin Belieu's most recent book is Black Box. She directs the creative writing program at Florida State University.