Rue du Cherche-Midi

by Mary Mussman

Is it fair to choose a book like Nightwood over you, to wander?
For each of us longs to be Robin Vote,
to allure, to err away,

  our days foreshortened:
  the dance, the blush.
  Never the second person singular,

she eclipses into us, rather than
descending over us or beneath us.
To your tacit request that I hold you:

  I will, and I will draw the Hermit from our deck
  and pull away, will wander up and down the street, pressing
  my toes into my own footsteps, alone, search for lost

views, windows without any lamps
behind them, without curtains
to draw, to brush, to glance through or look

  after. Lipstick printed all over my
  napkin, a wallpaper of mistaken bites:
  can one bite soup, exactly? (Carrot and cauliflower,

sun on my insides.)
But our insides keep trying
to become our outsides, never quite being them,

  simply looking around,
  looking for anything that draws
  their attention. The language I speak with you depends

on who might be listening:
the plants (wildflowers and rosemary)
in the box on the windowsill, or the girl with glasses

  (who has been drawing me for a quarter
  of an hour),
  or our various sicknesses.

Mary Mussman is a doctoral student of comparative literature at UC Berkeley. She studies English and French texts since the mid-nineteenth century that use ancient Greek literature—particularly Sappho—to consider and represent queer female sexuality. Her poetry has appeared in Hypocrite Reader and the Yale Literary Magazine.