Double Portrait

Brittany Perham


On my birthday you gave me a fistful of tissue roses,
tattoo-blue and wired together into a single green stem.
You carried them up to the roof-deck bar.
We kissed in the bathroom line beneath a wedding-white tent.
It was uncharacteristically sunny. I was twenty.

Twenty-two, and the roses are no longer blue.
I keep them in a jar on the desk where if there's sun, there's sun.
I smell the inside of the bleaching urchin for sea.
I listen inside the spiral shell for sea. Then I look out at the alfalfa.
I was twenty when I knew you, and twenty-one.

Twenty-two and I was not expecting to write this so soon,
which must mean I was expecting to write it.
Is that any way to say I do? Who starts out at the end
and still starts out? You'd say it was a problem of boundaries.
We loved, at one time,

to throw that word around. I still can't hold
the definition in my head, as with "rubric" or "prodigal".
There are a few other things I can't quite get a fix on. 
The placement of the period: inside or outside the quotation mark?
If there is no rhyme, and no meter, how do you find the boundary

of the line? It seems now that every line should end with "you"
because this would best mimic the working of my brain.
But the method is impractical.
I'm not writing a ghazal. I can't give you that kind of space.
If I die first, will you still be the one to burn my drafts?

I'm not sure now if this is the kind of contract that because of its seriousness
(and because I'm dead) outlasts all other contracts,
like the one in which we agree not to know each other.
There are two contingent problems: How will you get the house key?
How will you know I'm dead?

It could be years have passed. I finally left this shithole and you
left this shithole long ago. I didn't leave you
a forwarding address. When last I saw you
you said you were moving West. Isn't that a perfect end? you
said. I hope it isn't true. I'll miss you.