The Last Poem I Loved: “Untitled” by Tina Brown Celona


This poem begins with an epigraph:

In poetry at least the imagination must not detach itself from reality…
-Wallace Stevens

I want to be in love forever
and not like anyone else

In motels, I think about love. For a time, I traveled frequently for work, found myself in strange beds, smoothed over. Rooms stripped of the personal. This room, this bed, these photographs of landscapes or fruit bowls or flowers. I could be anywhere. The anonymity of these temporary rooms. You will not be here long, they seem to say. Anything can happen and sometimes it does. Bring your secrets here at night. In the morning, they will be whisked away with the room service tray.

you must be

at least 1000 miles away
reading poems about fucking me

in a motel in Nebraska
which I can confirm

really happened. It made
your poem happen

and this poem can
never escape from it

We went to Boston to be alone, to be away from the people we knew. Far enough so that we would not run into anyone we knew at the diner where we ate breakfast or at the bookstore where we spent the afternoon. It was early in our love. We were swept up in the heat of it. Now, years later, it floats over me like a dream. If not for a photograph he took of me wearing a brown dress, slipping an earring in my ear, would I be able to say we were there at all?

These days everyone wants
a piece of the real

and “representational writing”
and “documentary poetics”

describing what appears
in the imaginary mirror

the mind’s eye. It wasn’t ever
the real but how

it looked to us.

I read an article about how difficult it is for us to separate what has happened from what we have imagined. It was also about feelings. How we feel deeply for things that happen in our imaginations – as deeply as we might feel about a thing that can verifiably be said to have happened in life. With evidence like a photograph (although photographs can lie, too).

Even this poem may be wrong
but at least it spoke

What it says
isn’t important. If you want

to tell people you fucked me
in a motel, I can’t stop you.

If fucking me in a motel
makes you want to write poems,

by all means let’s fuck
in a motel and write poems

we want to read at readings
and publish in journals

so that we can get jobs
and buy more expensive liquor.

My six-year-old son is preoccupied with death. “What happens when you die?” he asks at moments when we are unprepared to answer. Sometimes, he will wake in the night and tell us: “I am thinking about dying and I am sad.”

I want to tell him: I think about this, too. I want to tell him time passes and the things you feel will change and you will wonder why you felt them at all. You will be sad and then you will not be sad. You will be afraid and then you will be less so.

But more than telling anyone
what really happened

most of all I want to be with you
writing poems

about our feelings not
because they are new but because

everyone has them
and because the poems we like

are emotional. And because
only poetry can make you feel

what I feel when
you are driving without a seatbelt

We sometimes think of youth as being a reckless time, a kind of abandon in what we are willing to do, the risks we are willing to take. Like staying out all night and drinking too much, or driving to motels and having sex with strangers or wanting to. But I am older now, and I am reckless in imagination. I travel the world. I buy a stone cottage in the Languedoc by the Mediterranean Sea where I submerge myself in the undulating water and I do not track the hours and I do not pick my children up from school and I do not fold the laundry or scrub the bathroom tile with a toothbrush. A kind of danger in imagination, too.

Words make things happen

you warn me.

In the end, I want to say all that should be said. That we have lived and we have loved and we have been reckless and we have held ourselves back from the brink of recklessness and at times, our feelings have overwhelmed us. “They are only feelings,” I read in the self-help books, “and feelings will not kill you.”

But who is to say how it is that we die? In the slow decay of our bodies or in the daily ache of all that we want to express, but do not have the words?

We are
especially susceptible, having

nothing else
to convey our feelings

but photographs of trees
and of our faces

resolute and dumb
in two dimensions.

You can read “Untitled” at Typo.

Mary-Kim Arnold’s short fiction has appeared at Tin House (online), Wigleaf, Swarm Quarterly, and The Pinch. Her poems have been published in Day One, burntdistrict, Two Serious Ladies, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere. She has also written for HTML Giant, The Lit Pub, and The Rumpus. She received her MFA in Fiction from Brown University and is studying poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She plays bass in the band WORKING and lives in Rhode Island with her husband and children. More from this author →