Poem 16 ± June 20, 2015

Jason Schneiderman

God loves an expiration date
and lord knows we’ve got ours —

except that you’re winning — Late
in the game, like those flowers

we thought I’d killed, but came
back with water; one last lame

leaf holding out hope. I want to believe
that you will live because to grieve

is not my lot, but I know
that it has nothing to do with me

and that just as Orpheus lost Eurydice,
God could make me watch you go.

Tell me, love, whom to thank for protease inhibitors.
Nothing rhymes with protease inhibitors.

Nothing rhymes with protease inhibitors?
And we thought I’d unlearned self pity,
That the gentle jigsaw contours
of our interlocking bodies,
had smoothed out the wrinkles of my psyche.
No such luck. Old habits are hardy
And your love can’t fix me.
But there I am, back to pity.

Love, I’m not a huge fan of honesty,
because the truth is always
a problem—I’ve believed in a way
and I’ve believed in facts, and nothing.
And here’s a fact, that’s useless and true:
I was fourteen years old when he was fucking you.

III, 1990
I’m fourteen years old and he’s fucking you.
You’re in love enough to take it raw, and I’m
still wearing t-shirts over turtle-necks. It’s true
that the nature of tragedies is to happen at the time
you least expect it. Like Oedipus when he killed
his father, or the way you forget to pay a bill
and you get into debt. The day was good
but the results are bad. The sex was good,
right? He had a big cock, right? Tony
had a big cock and he didn’t love you and he said
he was negative and you believed him, and he’s dead,
and even if I could get back to 1990
and say, wait, please, just wait for me, I’m coming,
it wouldn’t have made a difference. There was nothing
I could do. Nothing.

There was nothing I could do. Nothing.
And so what? Who am I to complain,
I, who missed the worst, who can bring
no greater complaint than that I can
never love you skin to skin. I have never
seen anyone die, only hazily remember
cops covering gay prides parades with
gloves and masks. I was nine and a half
when Ryan White went back to class.
I’ve never lived without this as a fear;
never not known better. Love, it’s over
and it’s not—I will make your past my past,
and my fight. Just you remember this part:
Until the day you die, I get your heart.

When you die, I get your heart
Because I need a piece of you
That’s the way it was when you
Were alive—not a memory or a photograph
But a part that I can hold
In a box, that I can keep in the bed
And hold while I sleep.
Love, I love all of you—
The cobblestone of your acne scarred back,
The ring of stomach fat you hate,
There is nothing I can’t embrace,
Nothing I won’t miss or remember.
All things come to those who wait:
God loves an expiration date.

Jason_SchneidermanJason Schneiderman is the author of Sublimation Point (2004), a Stahlecker Selection from Four Way Books, and Striking Surface (2010), winner of the Richard Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press. His poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry, Poetry London, Grand Street, The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, Story Quarterly, and Tin House, among other journals and anthologies. Jason has received fellowships from Yaddo, The Fine Arts Work Center, and The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He was the recipient of the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America in 2004, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award in 2011. He is poetry editor of the Bellevue Literary Review and associate editor at Painted Bride Quarterly. Jason is an assistant professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, part of the City University of New York.

This poem appeared in Sublimation Point (Four Way, 2004) and is reprinted with permission of Four Way Books. © 2004. All rights reserved.