Cadavre Exquis

By Emily Murman

You write a message that begins with because. Not excuses (for the excuse blooms from shame), but meticulously made maneuvers two steps from self-awareness; drafts that mutter basically, revisions that scream yes, anthills of letters, emails sent at all hours of the night, each boasting too many paragraphs, unbreathing, clogging white space, emitting no light.

You write a eulogy, a precious text to an us understood, prefaced always with a tired because. Mechanical, hammered out in cambria, an alphabet vomiting the what we used to be and what we never were and performing a procedure, a diagram, a close reading of the manual: behold this non-existent something! Watch it evaporate, a holy ghost!

These neuroses make you up, and what you are struggling to close is the gap between our atoms and what needs to happen. Because you’ve been left before and when you were you felt it sagging in every room; an undeveloped negative, a smell like embalming fluid, a rich callus forming in parts of you accustomed to going alone. Because you cannot live with anyone. Because you owe this empty to yourself, your chipped dishes, your newly naked rooms, or because when you pressed your body into mine you felt a guilty rush in knowing I remained for you, that you were wanted.

Because your one-offs were commitments, and you’ve been told to keep promises, that slugging through the slow stages of decay is what makes you good. Skin sloughs through the pipe dream to the gutter. You can’t really explain your illogical craving for companionship, and I’m not perfect, and fuck, you’ve made it so clear, I think, and I picture you shrugging when I read all this because you hate to use cliches and walk synonyms around them till you do.

Yet here are contradictory circles, stable and unstable bonds, not associative, not archetypal. You write a message that begins with because to pat me on the shoulder, the space between us staler than indoor air. And I step from it, and you shrivel when I do. Maybe I’ll vacuum the dead skin out. Maybe I’ll peel back your words, inject a pocket of air, flay each fiction until the remains reveal something real, that you rotted out a while ago. Maybe I’ll scrape off the dead parts, open my hothouse mouth, and say I’ve had it. I’ve had it. I’ve had it. I’ve had it.

Emily Murman is a poet, educator, and occasional fiction writer from the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Currently, she's an MFA candidate in poetry at National University. Her debut chapbook, SHRIVEL + BLOOM, is forthcoming via Dancing Girl Press in 2020. She can be found on Twitter @emilymurman.