Molly Tenenbaum


Preferences: A Profile for Prospective Lovers

Parallelograms and ellipses.
Lines, as in wood grain and sediment, silk and sliced cabbage.
Salt, the crunch and shine.
Shapes moving slowly, especially gray ones.

Cats, mainly, though I'm in love with the animate snout
of Billy-the-dog, his spots
like the flecks on my earth-tone teapot.
Black pepper, lots and lots.

To walk, walk, walk, and spout opinions
of gardens: Blackberries, yes, overblown, yes;
spiky, ferny, palmy, yes -- to silvers, maroons, and to all
fanned and toothed jungly air.

To close the curtain at night, but not till the last
pink smudge has rubbed the hips of the vases.

Mustard seeds jumping in ginger-oil,
cascades and tumbles in music,
bow-shakes, damped slides, anything
for texture, long as nothing, but nothing
stops fluid motion --

For language, hand, wood, stone.
Handmade, and that includes dessert.
Sawblades, wine-words, beaded purses.
Rusted tools no one remembers.

Cross-sections, captions, frontispieces.
Charts of the phrenologic head.
Cow-maps showing cuts of meat.
Coffee pots like science experiments, water in the bottom,
coffee in the middle, steam through a tube to the top.

To eat while it's hot.

To not wait. To imagine a boat
sliding the finger-troughs and knuckle-waves.

Earlobe and flat plate of sternum.
Ribs, and the heart's Chinese lantern.
Lemon, coriander, clove.

Garlic, and all the bitter greens.
Something to bear down on, something to tender,
something to hold on the tongue, stones
with feldspar windings, stones that look blue underwater,
brick-red and all the timbres of brown.

And if you've cared to read this far, I should tell you
a felt companion has walked by me always,
opens a gold space wherever I go,
has sung to me since the day I was born --
blue, sometimes, at the edges,
flaring or cooling by whatever
bellows or weather --

I don't understand it either.
I could stare forever at sky needling pine and flapping in maple.

Maybe you're sanding a mahogany table
or looking up in the book that rust-headed bird,
the one fussing up a circus of pollen in the mahonia.
I see you as through handblown glass, or not at all,

but let's eat hot pie
and listen to rain on tin.

I love the fall from a struck string like fire on a rope
and the thumbprint pool of shade at the base of a throat.
That beat, that gulp.


Solutions To the Checklist Problem

Keep the check marks on separate,
     uncorrelatable pages.
Make up tasks -- "brush black streak
     in throat of iris,"
     "bake individual lemon tarts,"
     and check them, regardless.
Slide the stars, unapplied, side to side
     in the dark of their box.
For every check, a chew of dirt.

For every check, a swish to spit it out.
As the teacher said of exclamation points,
     "Once a year, like birthdays."
The claw the cat flexes into the tree's stringy bark,
     the earring's glinty gold post --
     let the check-mark be anything, anything else.
So you can't tick when the urge strikes,
     clear the house of pencils completely.

Cut up appliance instruction booklets
     and paste the pieces backward.
     Let the displays flash noon.
Set the alarm for that dusty pearl time
     that could be either twilight or dawn.
Some use kava, but it leads to trouble in the kidney.
Some swear by melatonin, but it makes me dizzy.

Substitute a map of U-pick farms.
Substitute breakfast #1, two eggs and toast.
Trade with a friend: her bank, her bills,
     her groceries, her rice milk
     you don't even like. Her appointment,
     her results, her news.
Substitute your favorite palindromes.

Try it without penetration --
     it's hot.
Ask for a history first.
Use protection, and don't
     let the wet get on you.
Always pee immediately after.


"Preferences: A Profile for Prospective Lovers" contains all the bits about me that I hesitated to put in my actual profile. Oh god, now everyone knows. Oh well.

"Solutions to the Checklist Problem": To-do lists. You love 'em, you hate 'em, but they just won't go away. I've got in the habit of watercoloring over them at night, whether or not the things on them have been accomplished. Just a quick swash of some bright color.