Leveler Poetry Journal
About Leveler Submission Guidelines More Poems

Valentine Graph

Cupid must be stupid to shaft you.  Soon the stems start to droop     and the yard sale vase leaks from a crack.  I snack on candy samples hawked at the supermarket.  You get a water bill in the mail.  Nobody cares if the stars come out tonight.  My one wish is that they won’t.  But the moon plods along full of itself.  Waves of blood lap my brain eroding my thoughts to a flat silt.  My picture of you is a fish carcass.  In it, you dissolve and drift out then tumble back in.  Your hair is stranded with green weeds.  Foam bubbles between your pale pink lips.  I never can think of an opener.  You flip over on your back and look black and charred.  I reach for you with smooth driftwood arms before your fragments are sucked by eddies under the surface.  You become a memorandum — a shape that glides along the bottom of my meditations like a ray.  But after several lunar cycles I become less thoughtful.  I carve my broken heart into patties, fry the scraps, set them under heat lamps. My all-you-can-eat needs are my concerns.    I now court only amusement.  I buy a season ticket to Oceans of Fun.  I love the waves      because they’re fake.  I love the sun      because it kills me.  Children around me splash and play because they are not ours     and I am not thinking of you even as I write this line about you.  I float alone on a former tire that goes nowhere but away from you.


Background: “Valentine Graph” is from Graphs, a prose poem series.  Graphs in the physical or digital world, display data using a pictorial device.  In mathematics, graphs abstractly represent a set of objects, some of which are linked and shown with abstractions called vertices, while the links that tie pairs of vertices are known as edges.  Graphs often take the form of diagrams that show a relationship, sometimes functional, between two sets of something.  Generally, these sets take the form of points or numbers, but, here, in these diagrams, other relationships are displayed as the vertices become abstract forms of the heart and mind, and the edges tie together context, whether social, political, cultural, or personal.  Notes: Cupid: The likely son of Venus.  Ovid depicted him as a whimsical child and probably best described his lot as the Roman god of love: “Cupid’s there, quiver reversed, bow broken, / Holding a burnt-out torch.”  stems start to droop: Depending on the type of flower.  Carnations remain vibrant longer than roses.  According to gardenguides.com: “Most bouquets last seven to ten days if kept cool, away from direct sunlight, and fed with floral food.”  yard sale vase: Whether decorative for flowers or functional for ashes.  candy samples: My father worked for some years as a candy salesman.  get a water bill:  Josh Peterson, writing on planetgreen.discovery.com, 4-28-09, reports that “according to a study by the Environmental Working Group, bottled water is just as polluted as a tap water. In fact, twenty percent of bottled water has more chlorine than California’s state regulations will allow in tap water.” stars come out: Strains of “Open House” by Lou Reed and John Cale: “Fly me to the moon, fly me to a star / But there’s no stars in the New York sky / They’re all on the ground.” the moon plods along:  Not hyper Artemis with her busy bow but more likely Mattel’s Goddess of the Moon Barbie designed by Bob Mackie.  Waves of blood: Or, maybe not.  Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz, writing in Scientific American, 2-09, claim the folkloric tide-brain connection holds no water: “The gravitational effects of the moon are far too minuscule to generate any meaningful effects on brain activity, let alone behavior. The late astronomer George Abell, dead February 7, 1983, of the University of California, Los Angeles, noted that “a mosquito sitting on our arm exerts a more powerful gravitational pull on us than the moon does. Yet to the best of our knowledge, there have been no reports of a ‘mosquito lunacy effect.’”  a fish carcass: Ichthys skeletons adorn a host of  automobiles here in Baptist-saturated Arkansas where I presently live.  stranded with green weeds: I was thinking of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea / With sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown.”  No valentine for this persona – figuratively loitering with mermaids and dreaming of drifting hair plugs.  an opener: Wendy Molyneax, writing in McSweeney’s, lists “Popular Pick-Up Lines Used by Serial Killers,” including, “Will you run away from me somewhere romantic?”  flip over: Google seems to top off the number of sex positions at 101. If you lose count, there’s an app for that. iSutra is a Kama Sutra add-on for the iPhone. Cnet.com reports, 1-4-10, that the Indian manual was the most pirated e-book of 2009. driftwood arms: In Cursive’s “Driftwood – A Fairy Tale,” Pinocchio loses in love and drowns his sorrows by walking into the ocean where “his wooden body floated away.” a memorandum: More of a record than a reminder.  like a ray: Fish use air-filled bladders to help them float, but rays, like sharks, have no swim bladders and must use their sebaceous livers for buoyancy. several lunar cycles: Time enough for the storm to pass.  Michael Reilly, from discovery.com, 3-5-09, explains: “Werewolves aren’t the only terrors that follow the lunar cycle; hurricanes strengthen more often under a new moon than at any other time, according to a new study.” under heat lamps: On public display, that is, unlike microwaves.  Oceans of Fun: Located in Kansas City, MO. VisitKC.com says it is “the largest tropically themed water park in the Midwest, offers 60 acres of splashing excitement and fun for every member of the family.”  they’re fake: But the waves are, if nothing else, more predictable – and became longer lasting in 1928 when Marjorie Joyner, dead December 7, 1994, created the permanent wave machine.  it kills me: UV rays can cause skin cancer, cataracts, and immune system suppression, although Hamlet had other sun overexposure problems.  this line about you: Only you, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  a former tire: Soon to be ground into crumb rubber and used to build a road not yet traveled.

Terry Wright