The Girl Who Was Thursday Night

it is like this with love_black and white

The Girl Who Was Thursday Night
Nokyoung Xayasane

There was a girl
who was Thursday night.
She would walk down the street,
and men would call out to her.
They would look at her
with an unquenchable need,
a thirst, and a hunger.
She would smile and their
world would expand.
She would turn away
and their bodies
crumpled to the floor.
She would speak
and they would hang
on her every word,
her every syllable.
She would pause,
and their mouths
would gape open.
She would wait a
second longer
and then continue.
They would
inhale sharply.
They would
stumble and bumble,
they would trip and fall,
and swallow hard.

She could stand at the corner
of a crosswalk and feel
a pressure against her sleeve,
a hand on her arm,
and she would know
before turning,
that she would be
looking into
the face of yearning,
she would be staring into
human weakness.

When this girl is sick
with a little cold,
men will offer to bring her
chicken noodle soup
straight to her door.
She will get three such offers
and ignore them all,
not out of cruelty
but out of pity,
but still there will be
someone at the door
holding cups and cups
of chicken noodle soup.
She has learned
that the soup is for them,
and not for her.

The girl who was Thursday night
has a lot to choose from
and yet
there is no one to choose from.
When they touch her
she is already disappearing,
she is already gone.
When they want to hold her,
she will allow it.
She will breathe easily,
she will breathe them in,
calm and languid,
trying to remember
the feel of their skin,
their need to connect,
to belong, to feel valued,
coddled and praised,
reprimanded and shunned,
and she will give it to them,
she will give them these things,
she will give them
these things,
at least and easily.

She will hold
the memory of them
as an explorer who has
already said her farewells.
She will lie with them
in the night,
in the morning,
in the late afternoon.
It takes nothing
away from her.
She feels no shame,
she feels no lasting sorrow.

The girl who was Thursday night
will live on
in the imagination
of the painter,
a sketch against a screen, a caricature,
the actor,
a dark monologue on an empty stage,
hollow and bleak,
the writer,
a paragraph of prose, prophetic and wise,
the musician,
a lyric that hangs in the air,
eternal and bright.
They see her
as they want to see her.
She gives them something,
she fills a need
for a brief and beautiful time.
And her own need is filled,
a need to slake her new appetite.
She is ravenous now
for that first
easy
thrill.

And every day
is different for her.
Her mind opens up
fresh and alive.
The sparrows outside
call to her with their song,
the May sunshine
beckons,
the afternoon winds
surround her.
She is free
and the things and the people
of the past,
they are that,
the past,
they are already vanishing,
they will soon be gone.
She longs for them
like her childhood playground
like when she paddled along
in a canoe on a lake
and felt the open air
and the call of the wild geese
sheer and bright and alive,
like the soft comfort
of an old blanket
that cradled her to sleep,
but those things,
those people,
they don’t belong to today.
They only belong
to those nights from long ago,
they belong
to Thursday night.

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but we kept dancing anyways

I_am_not_beautiful

This will always last for us,
Nokyoung Xayasane

So much
was happening.
Did we even know?
We did.
But we kept dancing
anyways.
We just kept
dancing anyways.

And I thought,
we will never be
this young
and this beautiful
and this free
again.

So we just kept
dancing.
We just kept
dancing
anyways.

This will
always last for us,
I said
but
I didn’t believe it.

Nothing lasts.

So I just kept
dancing.
I just kept
dancing
anyways.

The music,
it stopped.
I ran
to catch
the 1:30 train,
and I thought,
This will
always last for us,
but
I didn’t believe it.

Nothing lasts.

So I just kept
dancing.
I just kept
dancing
anyways.

And I remembered
you were dancing
you were dancing, too.

You too
were
courageous.

And we kept
dancing.
We just kept
dancing anyways.

one day, I was in love

Nok_black_and_white

one day
Nokyoung Xayasane

One day, I was in love.
And then I was not.
One day, I was living a life
that was at once familiar
and peaceful.
I remember
we made gnocchi
one early evening
while the music played
throughout
our one-bedroom apartment.
We stood in our tiny kitchen.
I remember the blue tiles,
the yellow paint, owl
teacups stared out at us.
Outside, the sky was slowly
turning pink.
The music played,
heart beats, slow and
filled with aching
and the pain of joy.
I knew the music
would stop eventually,
but I still looked at you,
and spoke words that would
vanish into thin air, into
the music’s heartbeat,
into the evening sky,
staining the concrete
with a blameless pink.
I’m glad you have good
taste in music, I said.
You have a nice smile, you said.
I laughed and the music played,
pure and tender.
One day, I was in love.
And then one day, I was not.
But the music
I can still hear it.
And it is still filled
with such sheer
blinding
beauty.

(April 2016)

Do you think you’re the only one?

True or false?

True or false?

The only one
Nokyoung Xayasane

When you asked me
to meet you in the library,
I went.

When you asked me
to go on my knees,
I did.

When you asked me
to bend over,
I did.

I may have met you at the library.
I may have gone on my knees.
I may have bent over.

But it’s you
who’s searching
through the stacks,
it’s you
who’s on his knees,
it’s you
who’s bent over.
Is it not?

Control.
You think you have it?
Do you think that?

I imagine you
reading this now
with an expression
of quiet amusement,
embarrassment,
lust,
always lust.

Do you think
you’re the only one
reading this
thinking these thoughts,
thinking these words
are about him?

Do you think
you are
the only one,
my only one?

Do you think that?

Okay, see you
at the library.

I’ll look for the one
on his knees,
you,
my only one.

(25 March 2016)

We shone just as we were

Indio, California (19 April 2012)

Indio, California (19 April 2012)

California
Nokyoung Xayasane

Do you remember
our car ride
through California?
The sun and wind,
those ten days.
All of it.

No road
could hold us.
I didn’t care
for roadmaps,
and neither
did you.
We existed
in this
closed box,
headed on
a journey
of no return.
The wind
and air
and sky
all around us.

We shone
just as we were,
didn’t we?
You saw me
just as I was.
I loved you,
boy,
I loved you,
didn’t I?

We drove along
the streets
of Los Angeles
in our rented car.
Remember,
I didn’t want
a roadmap
and you never
cared for them.
We rented a hotel room
in West Hollywood.
The room was lit
by a single
bare bulb,
the sheets
were thin
and itched,
the carpet
was threadbare
and worn.
We threw
the sheets up,
and hurried
beneath them.
We were
never so close.

At night,
we met a man at a bar
who told us
we must go
to Venice beach.
We did.
We shared fish tacos
on the boardwalk.
We ran
along the beach,
the seagulls
glittering in the sky,
the sand endless,
our laughter
effortless and wide and clear.
We shone
just as we were.

Later,
the deserts of Indio
opened up for us.
You in your rolled up jeans,
me alongside
in high-waisted shorts
and an oversized hat.
There were
endless throngs
of beautiful people
in sunglasses,
white fringe,
expounding on cleanses,
contemplating yoga stances,
bare-breasted women
and musicians
tongue kissing on stage.

The music
began,
the stages
flooded
with lights.
You looked at me
and I felt
the world
beginning
and beginning
again and again.

The sun scorched our
bodies brown,
we glistened
with the midday
heat,
the music
never ends.
It never stops.
We danced
and danced
and danced.
We smoked
with strangers,
we laughed
until we cried,
we kissed
until we were sore.

When night fell
our second wind rose.
I heard
the music
pick up again.
I was
who I always
wanted to be,
there with you.
You were rain
drenching
the cracked desert
earth.
We were
who we
always
hoped to be.

I love you,
I said.
I’m glad you exist,
you said.
And the world
kept beginning.

(1 March 2016)

and I can see your light

and_I_can_see_your_light

Heal
Nokyoung Xayasane

when I was younger I clung to you
the roots of a tree gripping the riverbank
shifting waters could not move us
enveloped by mosquito netting and protected
while balmy breezes blew within a decrepit shanty
the cracks would not let in the pain

shards of light reflecting mirror side up
bruised forearm, broken finger
I cannot find you in your dark
hidden by your rage, I search for you

the splashing, laughing pool
flipping through the pages of a torn photo album
you call out to me from your hiding place
a quiet voice beneath the fists
loving pain, gentle brutality
comforting violence

sometimes, glimpses of you emerge
falling rain, glimmering laughter
and I hope for your light

my image in your eyes
my movements in your stance
quiet rage
shifting below
whispering madness seeps into light
mosquito netting, broken finger
morning grass, afternoon tag
and I remember you
as you were, as you are now

soft folds of a blanket
and the radio hums within the hut
hammock swaying
cradled in the softness, protected in the netting

soothing cooling
ointment glides on the burn
healing tissue replacing cut
a soft scar in the shadow of forgiveness
and I can see your light

(2009)

She wonders about people like this.

middle_distance

The play
Nokyoung Xayasane

Here I am
again
in heartache.
I tried to write
a poem of anger
and betrayal,
but it just
came out
trite.

Here goes anyways.

Boy meets girl,
girl is unsure.
She goes against
every doubt,
every instinct,
and she gives
boy a chance.
They say,
love grows
where pity lives.

Now let’s pan
to almost
four years later
and her doubts
have become
real problems.
I mean,
real issues.

I don’t think
about the future
,
he says to her.
That’s the problem,
she replies.
I don’t want to have
children
now and maybe
never.
That’s the problem
,
she replies.

But wait,
just wait for it.

So the breakup was hard,
but amicable.
The girl was sad
but she was
dealing with it.

Then one day …

Are you listening?

Boy
texts her for coffee.
Sure, she responds.
She knows
the news will
be bad.
Actually,
she knows
exactly
what he will say.
She’s known it
for quite some time.
She’s known it
before he could
even admit
to himself.

It’s not good news, he says,
you’re not going to like it.
I don’t want this to mar
what we had
.

See what I mean?
Cliché.

It’s all been written before.

Oh well, here goes.

I’ve been seeing someone.
Not a stranger.
But someone you know,
someone you trusted
and admired.
I’m with her now.

I know, girl replies,
I’ve known it all along.

And the look
of shock
on his face
makes her
want
to
spit.

All this has been lived before,
she knows.

They spoke together
in calmness
in that coffeeshop
on that street
in that city.
She left for her home
while he made
his way back to her.

But then
the hours went by
and the days went on,
and
she
began
to
unravel.

She began
to revisit
every moment
every look
every word.
She remembers
the night
it all changed,
the night when
he didn’t come home.
The minutes ticked by,
the hours passed along,
and
still
he had
not
come home.
She read aloud
to herself,
to comfort
herself.
And as she read
the darkness outside
changed to light,
the sun rose on a new day,
and still
he had
not
come
home.

In truth,
it was over between them.
She’ll give him that.
It had been over
for weeks,
but they still
shared the same bed,
they still
kissed each other goodbye,
they still lived
with a dying, ruined love.

After that night,
he avoided
touching her,
and she pretended
not to notice.

In truth,
she was not
altogether sure.
Was she going mad?
But he was so
excruciatingly
obvious.

It was painful.

And when
he sat across
from her
with his tissue,
sniffling
because of a cold,
excusing himself
to use the bathroom
while bringing his
phone, she sat in
silence
and stared at
nothing.
She imagined him
texting a friend,
maybe texting her,
for moral support
so he could say
what he came to say.

Let’s get this over with,
she thought.

And when he returned,
he said all
the things
people feel
they need
to say.

In a nutshell:
What we had was great,
but now I’m fucking
one of your friends.
Thanks for everything.
My conscience
is newly relieved.
Now I leave you
to deal with that.
Also, I’m happy.
I’ve moved on.
It’s been three months,
but she’s met
my sister.
Maybe we’ll get a dog.

When did it start, she asks.
He says
they waited
until he had moved out.
How respectable of them.

What about that night
you didn’t come home?
I was with her.
Of course.
We didn’t sleep together. We talked all night.
All right.

She wonders about people
like this.

A musician and an actress
begin a sordid affair
before the end of the musician’s
relationship to the poet.
It could not be more
pedestrian.

She remembers
how the musician
and the actress met.
The chemistry
was palpable.
They could’ve showed
some kindness
some restraint.
But they are not
kind people.
She watched it unfold
like a play
and when the actor
spoke his confession aloud,
she was neither
jolted nor hysterical.
But the look of shock
on his face
as she stared out at him
with calm placidity,
that was
priceless.

She thinks,
perhaps his new girl
is a better actor
than him.
But she has seen
the actress perform,
and this is not the case.
There is a
desperation in the new girl
to be lauded and admired.
Perhaps
this new girl feels
a sense of
triumph,
but it won’t last.
This girl is fickle.
This play is
poorly written.
The characters
are placeholders
for ideas of
what it means to be
human.
They’re flat
and
played out.

He is out of her life
except when she wakes
in the middle of the night
and reaches out
for nothing, but a
dull ache
and the sweat and shivering
of a poor player
who’s forgotten
her lines, and she
shudders to know
that she could have
loved someone
so weak.

Sorry,
I apologize.
I wanted to write
a poem about
anger and betrayal,
but it just came out
trite.

(January 2016)