“What to Know” by Allison Campbell

Allison Campbell


I can’t write anything new for you,
reader, I can’t tell you anything
you don’t already know, but you’re still
here so I must have gotten something right
or, at least, you can tell I’m not lying.

I know the colors of your bruise,
and that’s not it, I know the way
you feel about dark staircases and potato salad,
both are scary, but mostly I am
lonely here on the other side
of this page, hungry for everyone.

At night you want to give your thoughts
to someone, someone who will let you
pour back and forth, the way you do
between glasses to aerate the wine.

Maybe, reader, I have let you down,
not enough images here, not enough
insight. But my lover cut himself up,
covered the back of his forearms
in bloody stripes. Now, I don’t think
I know anything about love.

Has that happened to you, reader?
Has yours lost his mind, hid drugs,
heard voices and slammed his head in doors?
No? Oh, neither has mine, actually,
I’m married now, we have two kids.
While I write he is brewing coffee,
and later he’ll lift the bed sheet corner,
make a tent of space for me to crawl into.

There, I’ll pour my day into him. No,
I don’t need you, reader. I just wanted
to make you feel less alone. I thought
you might feel better about yourself, reading
this, imagining me in your shoes. But I’m not
this poem, and I can’t hope to see you.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011


Allison Campbell: “I’m our kind of traitor. You know what I mean. I’m on our side and I’ll turn us in to ourselves for any price. This poem is an example of my treachery and I suspect we’ll all be lined up early tomorrow morning.” (web)

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