left vs. right

I want you to my right, but I need you on my left.
There’s science behind it and it’s legit.
When you sit on my far right side, I cannot see you,
not really.  You are a flickering ghost
half-visible out of the corners of my eyes,
one of which doesn’t work (right) and never has.
It’s not so much a massive blind spot
as a colorless, invisible mist; things happen there,
but they’re not real, they don’t register,
I can’t respond properly, as if I’m half-dreaming.

My hearing has a similar deficit,
so I’ll never be able to understand what you said
that time you spoke only into my right ear,
your words falling meaningless as rain.
That ear’s an empty shell, a whorl
of ornate spirals leading nowhere, no loving heart
or understanding mind lies at the other end,
it holds nothing but oceanic whispers
and salt-wracked loneliness.
Whatever nothing lies behind it has
as much understanding of secrets –
and cares as little for the mysterious
motives of humans – as a hermit crab.
So if you really don’t want anyone
to hear or remember, tell it into my dead right ear.
Your secret’s permanently safe with me.
Maybe it’s buried in my subconscious
and will surface in my dreams,
a long lost wreck lifted into the light at last.

I’ll probably misinterpret it anyway, don’t worry.

When you sit on my left, you are present,
almost too present to bear – unexpected,
like the best and worst gifts –
I see your true colors and can’t help but apprehend you,
you are corporeal, solid to the touch.
This is frightening;
after all, my left side is so weak and damaged.
I broke my left arm twice and my left leg once, growing up,
within the same year and a half.
So I like to keep you on the right,
safely in the dream world,
until I get to know your pressure points,
in case we start to go too fast, and I have to put the brakes on.

The left dares to presume too much; it can’t behave.
It wants to grab your arm excitedly,
touch your hand inquisitively,
a dumb ape wondering what this other ape feels like,
a mindless body hoping your body might like mine and vice versa –
the braille’d texture of my skin, the round coldness of my arm,
meeting the electric/al resistance of your muscles –
a collection of pheromones wondering if we are compatible,
bacteria trying to decide if we like the taste of this new colony.
My daring left side would stare right into your eyes
as if to find the answer for everyone who’s ever hurt me
with leers from eyes that color,
mocked me using a voice with that timbre,
laughing a laugh like that at my expense;
and everyone who will hurt me in the future
by reminding me much too much of you.

If you’re to my right I can contain you,
a neat and tidy little ghost in your dream world,
keep you safe in a box full of other half-seen expressions,
with all the eye contact I never quite made –
the times I looked at your ear instead of your eyes
to stop myself from drowning in them –
all the things I cannot bear to watch
for fear they’ll disappoint me,
all the secrets I may never be ready to hear.
They are packed too thick with sorrows, and
my heart can’t make room for any more.

Published by

R. Brookes McKenzie

what fresh hell is this

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