Failed Essay on Loving a Man Who Loves Money, Or: Autobiography as Class Traitor, Or: Capitalism (A Love Story?)

Elisa Gonzalez

On that street corner that day
a trap sprung by me
uncrafted yet executed perfectly

as if I meant to snare
a millionaire (oh but I read in the paper
you’re more than one)

as if I meant anything by it—

in fact I was retwining
my scarf, fussing my torn jacket sleeve
in the spiky cold

and a smile upon lifting my eyes
to the man opposite
was a smile upon lifting my eyes.

Unbuttoning un-­
coat away, clothes away, in my room
reduced, I was

so fast down
to skin, so quick
to tell which parts

of me were most
precious I did
away with manners

knowing I was
you in.

It’s only
a man rich in happiness

who could say We met
by chance that loves art.

If I gave you the cloaked
portions of my history

like the history of the world scabbed
and ugliest drawn close—

Along with chance the gods spared
time to create fortune and misfortune

before they set my life swinging.
Someone, careless, left

its balance unchecked.

No one is born
in the back of a van
swaddled by plastic bags,

as no one
gulps Kool-­Aid,
streaks cherry powder

on her naked body,
cavorts with a black pig
in a blow-­up pool,

as no one accepts
what red marks
a father gives,

as no one burns
beloved books
for heat

in a winter of shoes pierced
with holes like burns
from an old man’s plump cigar

as no one rubs an old
man in a cigar bar
for steak and sleep

after a day tour
of supermarkets
palming and praying

as in

no one
and everyone is there someone
to blame:

a life’s single moment of privileged
oh, this is a system.

The second time we met
a new scarf a new coat
greeted me and I strained to take

the measure of your memories like gold and silver
fish in a store window flashing
their fins.

But you were unclothing un-­
twining redoing it all till it was done.
And my memories too when

for a time
your hands slipped
across my body

as the new king
probes the borders
of his realm

and stretches his arms
to catch the sun
on the morning of first


Since then
you my almoner,
no, my

liege, though till now
how little I grasped
my danger,

concealed by the ease
with which you
thriftless give and give:

is debt lying in wait
or trap unsprung, your word

given: never it shall be.

The cherries
are petaling, a pretext

for you to guide me
to oyster-­pink branches
unculled for blooms.

The bouquet is the tree: spring’s first improvident gift.

Of your wealth,
how savage how swift the urge
to dirty it—

I have put my lips to you.
I have hummed.
I have lain awake.

Your life
belongs only

to you, who
know nothing
of daily pains

and the trouble
of making yourself used
to each one in turn,

you who can
do anything,
so you’ve been taught,

you who I makebelieve
will make the gods
accept my wish to credit

a world
by your hands
shaped and furnished

because there is too much
I have always

and just as you yes lift me
to climax,

my hair tangles your hands
till I unknot it
and I unknot it

as I’ve done
many things
to detach myself

from pleasure.

Cover image: "Vertebrae" by Mónica Leitão Mota / Adapted version licensed via Creative Commons.

Elisa Gonzalez is a queer, Puerto Rican writer raised in the Midwest. Her work appears in The New Yorker and elsewhere. A former Fulbright scholar, she is the recipient of a 2020 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award.
Originally published:
May 19, 2021


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