IF YOU DON’T WANT YOUR KIDS TO HAVE SEX DON’T FINISH THE BASEMENT

This guy Lev, at the dinner party said,
If you don’t want your kids to have sex don’t finish the basement.
I don’t remember anything anymore, my 52 year old brain a soggy piece of kale,
but I remembered what Lev said.
It’s because Lev is the heart in levov
where all the stories come from.
Here’s the story: we were eating the salmon and he was talking about his kids,
all grown up,
and my kids were in the basement playing ping pong,
not yet 13.
There was beer and wine and gluten free challah and gluten free tiramisu
and the walls were red and gluten free.
That’s the whole story.
The other story is that when a guy says something like that
you have to remember where you were when you first had sex.
It could have been in a car, in an attic, between two trees, under the moon,
near the factory, inside the deep blue sea, in the onion patch.
Sex is an onion.
It’s translucent and sweet and will make you cry your face off.
It’s a swimming pool on fire and a gorilla who knows how to speak 7 languages.
If you are lucky enough to have sex in a finished basement,
this is a good thing.
If you have sex in an unfinished basement, not so good—all that dust,
those exposed water heaters, boilers, and rusted rakes.
So when Lev said,
If you don’t want your kids to have sex don’t finish the basement,
I took a bite of my salmon and here’s the last part of the story.
My kids are going to grow up and have sex.
A sad and wide-eyed, ecstatic sex, if they’re lucky,
and so I left the table in the dark, middle of winter
to buy some rugs, some cheap pillows, and a jukebox,
one of those old school Wurlitzers with the automatic eye.
Fill it up with all the songs that make your heart burst, I will tell them.
Play them till the needle runs those records bare
bone body and glisten
.

 
 

THE SAVING

We save our children.
Some days we save them from the riptide and the masked gunman on the bleachers, the armed robber under the stairs,
we save them. We save them
from the spiders in their dreams
that breathe fire
and then we walk on that fire
to get them away from the burning buildings, raging.
We look at our children and we save them with meanness in our eyes
and the eventual moment when all patience is lost
and they tell us to go fuck ourselves,
we’d never understand what is in their heart, no matter.
Sometimes, we think they save us, and they do,
from the lies we tell ourselves about how special our lives have been
flying in the circus, the boardroom, the operating table,
at the gas pump.
But, really, it is us that saves them
from the car smash-ups in snowstorms and their loneliness
when it backs up on their bodies like monster waves
smashing down without warning.
We save them.
Then, when it is all said and done,
when we think all the saving has been used up,
when the saving shop has been closed down for the night,
we get a note from our old high school friend,
Sad news, my father passed peacefully in his sleep, service Monday,
so we go down to the kitchen and make herb encrusted chicken, potatoes, and garlic infused broccoli
for the grieving.
It does not matter that we want some saving too,
that we want our beloved, our neighbor,
the bear in the woods,
to wrap its woolly arms around us in the naked night
and hold us so close it hurts—
we are in the business of saving.
It’s an endless and priceless monotony
that does not ever finish—
the way we save,
the day to day saving,
the way we take our hands and put them out and say, Bleed, it’s alright,
I will catch you in your breaking
.
 
 

Matthew Lippman

MATTHEW LIPPMAN's collection MESMERIZINGLY SADLY BEAUTIFUL won the 2018 Levis Prize and will be published by Four Way Books in 2020. ve Order (www.lovesexecutiveorder.com).

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