Battery Life

Battery Life by Daniel Schwartz

“Much we have to fear,

big-mouth beside me!”

—Osip Mandelstam

 

This could be any era, and

by any I mean none of them

swept under the loss

that was our decade

we remember the sky’s

oldest quotation marks

and the weeks of holding

our breath to keep other

people from our lungs—

other people and their

desire lines and funerals

and drawbridges and

heads and haircuts

and battery life and

notes scrawled on napkins

 

 

With so many hurt it would’ve

seemed foolish to pass over

the opportunity to mock

myself, yet I didn’t laugh

with my partitions exposed

to the onlookers who only

photographed me before

running away and all I could

do was stare until an ambulance

brought me to the hospital

 

I can only wonder if the

first operation explains my

tendencies, which strike only

at night when reality forces

shape out of static, to chisel

gaps in my teeth as if

every alteration marked

a new beginning

 

Which must be why I’m so

cruel to strangers:

I think I’m helping them

through the effervescence

of my dissections, surface-

bound but odd considering

that all I ever seem to want

is new anatomy and as yet

uncopyrighted odors on

whose occasional theft

I pride myself

 

Imagine that every risk

yields an oasis and

it all bleeds together—

positively Manichaean

or, sort of, I don’t know,

negatively Manichaean

in the way that my

computer’s either on

or off but the internet is

the city that never sleeps,

although it’s comforting

to know that someone

smart is paid to watch me

 


Oversight is all that’s left after

I’ve chewed the morning

away, “He rises,” she says

to the turf-war of an old

horror movie soundtrack

and I know it’s time to leave

but it’s cold outside and

seven a.m. is an ungodly

hour for a weekend, and

a winter morning—

to say nothing of the half-

finished glass of water that

sits above my side of the bed

which she tells me I can

save for later by pouring

into my pockets

 


The real truth is that

I’m not done wanting—

then again, I could hold

on to a rope that frays over

the course of my entire life

until the last thread breaks

and the fall will be just as

long as the fall from a rope

severed in a single cut

 


So I fall, and the second

operation is conducted

with all the chaos of a bank

robbery by a maddened surgeon

who recently left his first-

born on the side of the road

his garden dissolved in acid rain

now he wishes he were anywhere

and anyone else, brain-drained

breath held underwater while I

recharge, generate heartbeat

marksman calls one heaven’s

sake, cataract sigh cloth cut

from old book, my lips are

foundationally discursive, my

eyelids steel, pull me in close

hold on tight and spit out the tip

of my nose because I’m done

listening, I’m done listening, I’m

done lissome enough to calculate

and argue the numerological

gravitations that evaporate

the hair in my carpet

our names in permalink


Daniel Schwartz co-runs Inpatient Press, a small publisher of poetry and visual art, out of Brooklyn, New York. His writing has appeared in tNY Press, Blunderbuss Magazine, Buzz & Howl, Dead Beats, Sein und Werden, Compass Rose, The Bellow Literary Journal, and elsewhere.

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