If We Were Lobsters by Nate Leland

lobsters-heart

[One of my favorite poems by Nate Leland. Contact him at linked address for a copy of his poetry book.]

How many times had you asked me what it would be like if we were lobsters?
And you meant the question to be funny,
and I meant my answer in kind.
I said, “If we were lobsters
we’d feel differently about grocery stores.”
And you smiled crinkle-kindness
as though your eyes were gathering the drapes to let in a sunny Monday,
and I tried to smile back a dappled hazy
brilliance of lingering weekend to fill your vacant living rooms.
You said, “If grocery stores were circuses,
and you and I were lobsters,
then who would ever pay attention to the clowns?”
and I said,
“Fuck the clowns!
If they wanted positive attention they should try,
oh, I don’t know,
not killing people!”
You’d never liked clowns or Christmas ornaments,
so I always smashed one with a hammer,
avoided the other entirely,
and really tried to keep the two straight…
and that was love,
right?

You asked me what it would be like if we were lobsters.
And you meant the question to be funny,
and I meant my answer in kind.
But I said, “If we were lobsters
then we wouldn’t be able to afford each other.”
And you winced,
your windblown hairs between your lips
like purse strings fumbling for your excuses,
and I tried to recall June fireflies
and how many dollars they were worth as they randomly
backlit your curves in the grass.
You said, “If we couldn’t afford each other,
would it still matter that our rubber bands match?”
And I said nothing,
because in that moment,
I didn’t know.
But it was still love

right?

You haven’t asked me about being lobsters since,
but if you do, I know the answer now:
I’d say,
“If we were lobsters,
we would be able to take our arms off
if there was danger
or if the other one needed them.”
I’d say,
“If we were lobsters,
we would deal with infinitely fewer traps
than we keep setting for each other.”
I’d say,
“If we were lobsters,
then we would be sweetest
when our skin is thinnest.”

But we’re not lobsters.
If we were,
We’d be…
bottom feeders,
in the dark,
cold and alone,
so we can’t be lobsters,
because this
is love.

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