from Manuals Are Interesting Reading
Laura Eve Engel

*

When I get a feeling I like I want to click on it.

Topography is one of the first things to fall away
in a deep sadness.

There’s no recognition of the shape of things.

If this were the middle, it’d be strewn with blue flowers
or maybe it’d be falling apart.

If this were the end, it’d be an airplane.
A beginning.

Without you,
I’m flooded with a feeling that dulls
while you make coffee.

If this were the middle,
you’d be taking my hands in your hands

outside the bar. If this is the middle
then that’s the beginning.

In this middle, the internet tells me how many
of my friends like Sylvia Plath and how many of them
like food.

Who let me bring my brain in here?

There are enough people in this bar
to put on a snowstorm.


*

In a room an undressed woman imagines
her distress would be better over
a hamburger at a plastic table, perhaps
with a strong man who will admire her
as she eats it. She erases the strong man,
he wasn’t part of the initial desire.
The room hums a little with an almost-
anger for anything that wasn’t part of
the initial desire. Who doesn’t want
to think their love of a hamburger
is pure? The slick of greasy paper
around the hamburger is driving her mad.
The strong man would love her for how
she smelled when she was dreaming.


*

There are such a limited number of ways
to describe a person. Confined to the realm
of facts. He is a nice person, so genuine or He is full of ham.
Without a defined order we shed our arrangements
and with them some kindness too goes out the window.
Who stops to caress your cheek in a cyclone?
The movies are made up of moments like this one,
little sacrifices of time in the storm. I love you
so I slowed for sadness. In a storm the city barely stops
but we strain against the living impulse for the luxury
of everything’s delay. Let it be a weekend.
Let the stores close. O, for a two-day end
to brunch. I ask if you remember when
hardly anything was open on a Sunday.
You look at your food like it’s growing into
more food, into some multiplying enemy.


*

You know what puts a smile on my face, the man says, is a good bit of confusion. A gopher pokes his head up out of the ground and he’s a horse. The moon. Whatever, he doesn’t belong. Look out, now the hole is starting to constrict, the dirt is coming down on his chest, his little eyeballs begin to pop and they’re not even such little eyeballs! Don’t you think the moon would look downright silly then? Wouldn’t you laugh?


*

The dark thoughts come in
and we think of our possibilities.

We’re huddled in the corner of the room
thinking of them.

We’re thinking of ourselves as many selves
and it makes for a better evening.

We are watching and waiting
while they put their mouths on others.

We love each other for how no one loves us.

That sex is a thing
that can be talked around, then into.

We drank his wine in his beautiful apartment
with the view of the city’s tallest buildings,

with the books we liked stacked
on shelves, and felt a fancier version of nothing
borne up by drink.

The art on the walls.

In a world where competition is all,
a lack of competitive verve turns to a crater
on a country road.

The wheels of the cars put their movements away
inside us.

I make a tunnel in the snow
with the lit end of my cigarette.

Thousands of miles away,
you text me a photo of your breakfast
with its four tiny dipping sauces.


*

The tenderness with which
I might approach someone
I barely know is something
I’d like for you to see
I pretend you can hear whatever
I say to this man in the bar
I pretend you are rooting for me
to take him home you know I can
in kindness bend toward another
hand him a full glass unasked
I was with you on your couch
when you wanted me and
when you didn’t want me enough
to know then it was you I wanted
to look out for when you were
thirsty watch me now
how I put out my hands
to receive water



Laura Eve Engel’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Boston Review, Crazyhorse, Tin House, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn.