Poem Written with a Cough

Sean Thomas Dougherty


After we were fired from the hospital
           we dove into Prince.

We shot junk & ate junk food
           & watched MTV for weeks.

The lengthening of our shadows
           ground down  my teeth.

We fucked on the bare mattress
           with our future now behind us.

All the noise was brilliant, a radio
           in my brain I tuned to the station

I hummed the beautiful static of tiny pills.
           I peeled  the torn red wall paper

& wrote my dairy of the amber rain
           on the scraps... Outside, a fire escape

that led to an alley.
           I’d climb down to stare at the brick wall.

I folded my body into an envelope
           &  mailed  it to the department of dead letters.


Stories are seeds & the circus
           of us was like a trapeze

of sunflowers, bowing
           in the deserted lot of decades

beside the closed
           down paper mill— 

maybe the dope man wouldn’t arrive—
           for you the matchstick girl

by the side of the road.
           I refused to betray

like the small wooden figurine
           of the Black Madonna you clutched

in your coat pocket.  Luck
           in little ways, you always said.

To protect us—
           like the glint of a blade.

We used to cut the cord.
           When you kissed you tasted

like peppermints
           you stole from the bowl

of every clinic counter.
           You my crushed orchid—

How we trembled
           like the lighter’s flame

to the bent spoon

           of our bodies—