If Only the Song Went
Caravaggio dead on the beach, having fled the law.
Curled up in the white sand, his skin the color of a peach
Kicked into the street. You know any room I’m in
Can become haunted if I get quiet for too long,
Like a woman who won’t take off her mask, even
Once you’ve told her you love her. If only the song
Was about his favorite yellow-haired lover,
He could’ve died dreaming on the beach,
Fingers deep in the sand, a wound in his back where
Slowly his life departed into the weaving seaside.
There were two stories of Caravaggio’s death.
If not the first, then he made it to a dark and greasy local tavern,
Put his head & fists on the bar and died of sunstroke,
His pink neck crooked forward amidst nobody who loved him.
There’s just enough dark music that plays from inside them
And draws me to the beach. Like a music box lying open
In a truck bed—when I come to the water holding a rock, I tell you
I mean to love you so it barely disturbs the water.
You know there’re all these royal catchflies around cause it’s night out
And you don’t know if it’s me singing, or if the song sounds just like
A child stayed outside too late, who got boxed around his ears
Who cries and holds his head
I thought the moon would stop
Making flowers if I left you
If we quit our low-voiced lying under
The white sheets propped like
Pointed carnival tents by our heads. But
I woke alone next morning covered in white dust
As though someone had cut a hole
From my ceiling while I slept
The way my two hands had joined
Like thieves in an empty ballroom,
The shadow they make
The Circus Fire
This morning when I woke up and started to die
I was feeling my way around the room quiet as I could.
I was feeling my way around my red mouth with my red
Tongue. I knew I could’ve hung myself by how you spent
All your cards on me the night before in my bed like a field
Of milkweed. Like a field of lilies with burned faces.
Your face speckled & darkening like a lily at a circus fire.
The lions yawn. I lay this head down to listen for it coming.
While I practice singing. The way I practice loving the way
I don’t love you. While I practice lying.
Your chest the river I would die by of heat
Not quite able to find it in the dark brush
Bridget O’Bernstein grew up in Brooklyn and holds a BA in Art History and English from Syracuse University. She is the founder and curator of a poetry reading series in Brooklyn called Sang for Nothing. Her poems are forthcoming in Forklift, Ohio.