Before We Had Mirrors
We looked for ourselves
beneath the clouded surfaces
of everything, back then.
Without mirrors, we relied on shiny men
and gamely tried to see ourselves in them.
We memorized Rimbaud and Verlaine,
revisited Brideshead again and again.
We saw ourselves in foppish frock coats, twinned,
French-kissing like mad on the banks of the Seine.
We half-expected, through sheer force of wish,
to see John Kerry and John Edwards kiss
whenever we turned on CNN.
We looked and strained to see ourselves on Friends:
was Chandler gay? We thought we felt him yearn.
From Iago and Othello, we chose to learn
that if the world won’t see you,
watch it burn.
(We drew them kissing, waited for our turn.)
Before we had mirrors, crowds of clouded faces
surrounded us all day, from eight AM
till dusk. It never dawned on us back then
that if we looked, we’d find ourselves
Here’s a secret, Jeff.
Remember your Vespa—
moonstone-blue and chrome with smoky breath?
The first time you gave me a ride on the back,
I courted death.
Oh, sure, the helmet—you didn’t forget.
I wrapped my legs around you; the seat was wet,
my skirt too short—you remember that, I bet.
I said yes.
But I hadn’t fastened the helmet straps.
They dangled, danced, went whap!
and clacked and flapped and scratched
my neck, as Chinatown lights and my own life
What if we crashed?
I’d never flown so fast.
You dropped me off; glazed with glee,
I took the B instead of the D
—oh well!—and rode to Brighton Beach.
Sunset Park would wait for me.
Jeff! Jeff! I thought. OMFG!
Jeff, can’t you see?
I was your employee.
You spoke in a whisper
and rode a blue Vespa
and, well, I was twenty-three.
“But Kitty did not expect much from the quadrille. She looked forward with a thrill in her heart to the mazurka. She fancied that in the mazurka everything must be decided.” —Anna Karenina
We joust and we jive.
We mouth the word swyve.
We kiss and there’s no one but us two alive.
Take off your glasses.
Squint so you’ll see
How I want you to mazurka with me!
God, but you’re sweet
In the taxi’s back seat.
I’ve never felt farther from Forty-Fourth Street.
Give me your finger.
Can’t you feel how
I want the mazurka, and I want it now!
Turn out the light.
Bend to my height.
Beautiful hipster, your jeans are too tight!
From sometime past ten
Till I don’t know when,
We do the mazurka and do it again.
Curled up like a kitty,
You’re so fucking pretty.
I love OKCupid. I love New York City.
Don’t let me tremble.
Don’t watch me weep.
Only mazurka, mazurka to sleep.
You stir before dawn.
You put ChapStick on.
Your kiss has a fake cherry taste—and you’re gone.
Who could have guessed it?
How could I know
You’d dance the mazurka and then simply go?
I flit and I fritter
And slowly grow bitter.
I study your texts and I stalk you on Twitter.
How could this happen?
What can I do?
I want to mazurka with no one but you.
Well, it’s been a year.
And still people sneer:
“You have to get over it. Isn’t that clear?”
They dance the quadrille.
They think they’re so glad.
But they’ll never have the mazurka we had.
My not-quite-crush, my minor squeeze,
Embrace me semi-tightly, please!
I find you pseudo-supercute.
I’d turn you on—and then hit “mute,”
Allowing us to kiss like hell
And never know each other well.
So come to me, my almost-dear,
And hold me near (but not too near).
I swear I’ll rarely do you wrong
Till someone better comes along.
For now, my para-paramour,
My darlingish, you may be sure
It’s you alone I half-adore.
And who are we to ask for more?
Frankie Thomas is the author of "The Showrunner," which received special mention in the 2013 Pushcart Prize Anthology, and "Equinox," which appeared on The Toast. Her fiction has also been published in H.O.W. Journal, Pear Noir, and BLOOM; her nonfiction has appeared on The Hairpin. She lives in Manhattan with two parakeets and the best dog ever.