Two Poems by Max Mundan

 

THE SECRET TRANSLATIONS OF THE WORDS “I LOVE YOU”

When Alison said, “I love you,”
she was asking a question.
What she meant was,
“Can you take away
this hideous self-loathing
that has dogged me my whole life
and make me feel
more comfortable in my body?”

Every time Lillian spoke the words,
she was saying,
“I can’t take care of myself;
I have no skills
and I don’t know how.
I need you to take over
for the most recent man
who couldn’t stand to do it anymore.”

Monique was telling me,
“I am completely infatuated
with this picture in my mind
of what I want a man to be,
a picture I can mold you into,
if you let me.”

Diana said, “I love you,”
almost as often as she breathed;
for her it was a plea,
“Please don’t notice my insecurity
or point out the fact
that I need to fuck
every single guy who smiles at me
so I can feel okay
about myself.”

When you speak the words, “I love you,”
what I hear is
“I want you as my partner;
I accept you, exactly as you are,
as much for your weakness
as for your strength.”
For the first time in my life,
I believe you are telling me
what I thought the words meant.

 

A JUNKIE’S FIELD GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA TOILETS

This is the temple, the tabernacle
this is the sacristy
and the quiet here, the empty
is chocolate covered cotton-candy
it’s marshmallow pillows
it’s Saturday morning cartoons
it’s Mommy’s distant womb
you can hear a pin drop
or at least a needle
and so it does
the needle drops
this is good

I remember driving the length of California with my family and, Jesus Christ, was I sick. We’d been traveling for hours and the dope I had shot before we’d left had worn off. I needed to find a bathroom badly. So I could shoot up with a little fucking peace. Not so many goddamn prying eyes. The best that you can find is one of those one person bathrooms, with a door that locks, and it’s just you and the needle and the silence. That is golden, baby. You can bleed all over the walls and no one will ever know. At least no one in the family. A stall with a door is the bare minimum. if you find one of the run down places where the doors have fallen off or don’t lock, then you are fucked. Naturally, this is what happened. I held the door shut with my foot, while I tied-off with my hands and teeth, holding the tourniquet in my mouth. It took me so long, trying to find a vein and maintain my barricade that my father came and pounded on the door, demanding to know what was taking me so long. I ended up having to give up, put the heroin in my mouth and chew, just to get a little bit into my system.

This is my spaceship, my cubbyhole
this is my ferry down the Styx
the peace here, it breaks my heart
it’s tears of barbed wire
it’s oatmeal made of glass
it’s champagne flutes filled with cyanide
it’s my little baby’s smile
the ground here is consecrated
to offer my sacrament
and so I do
on hands and knees
I offer praise

At a huge dinner in San Francisco, I snuck away to the bathroom to find that the stalls had little, swinging saloon doors, like in the old west. What the fuck were they thinking when they built this place? How is someone supposed to take a shit here, let alone shoot some black tar into their arm. I had to make up a crazy lie. I whispered into my father’s ear that I had hemorrhoids and needed to go back to the car to get my medicine. No, it couldn’t fucking wait. I had to go now. I know he didn’t believe me and everyone knew exactly where I was going and what I was doing but at this point, we were all still trying to pretend that I was still their good, little boy, so he gave me the keys to the car and watched me walk out the door. He told me later that he wasn’t sure he was ever going to see me again. At least not alive.

This is the confessional
I can hear the priest breathing
on the other side of the door
it’s the waiting room to the slaughterhouse
it’s the last meal in limbo
it’s the grains in the hourglass
slowly sliding out
when I shut the door
this is who I really am
without pretense, without guile
without any hope of salvation

 

Max Mundan has been published in a slew of magazines and literary journals, including The Metric, Vagabonds, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, Eunoia Review. He operates popular websites here and here. Thought Catalog just published his first poetry collection, Junkies Die Alone. Hollow Publishing will soon release his second collection, Everyone is Broken.