Portrait of My Wife as a 90s Mixtape
1. Protect Ya Neck (13th Chamber)—Wu-Tang Clan
Still you dream the Staten Island Ferry
and the dirty pond where you fed the ducks
as a girl when your wants and joys were bound
with briars. Still you dream rooftops and trains,
a fluency of shadows boxing god.
2. I Left My Wallet in El Segundo—A Tribe Called Quest
A melody can transform trivia
into sacred knowledge. You’re a road trip
I take to get back to where I belong.
The things I’ve lost along the way bring me
right back to you. The turnpikes twist for you.
3. November Rain—Guns N’ Roses
Because you ballad your rough edges with smiles,
I praise your crow’s-feet; when I look at you,
I hear anthems. Laugh dramas with me now
and let the rain be the rain be the rain
that riffs on the awkward lightness of love.
4. All My Life—K-Ci & Jo Jo
We have scraped the treacle from the bottom
of the cask and we have drawn our portraits
on parquet floors. You’re my bride forever
twirling, my homecoming dance, my spinning
ballerina flurrying the snow globe earth.
5. Sadie—R. Kelly
All the women I’ve known have been covers
of you. You classic, you platinum, you top
the charts, you deep cut, and you hidden track
twenty seconds after the last song ends;
you black cat the meow of a refrain.
6. Elevators (Me & You)—OutKast
You sexy as chicken bone, you Cadillac
El Dorado, you chrome glint, you slick hint,
you roll deep, you juke sleep, you dance spastic,
you deliver a slow-flowering grace,
you angel afire on the battlements.
7. Undone (The Sweater Song)—Weezer
The long corridor from eighteen to now
is a crooked L, is a quagmire, looms
like a labyrinth inside a tower,
is an obelisk you mazurka up,
is a troika you pull reading Tolstoy.
8. The Long Road—Pearl Jam
Lullaby and elegy lace your voice.
When I hear you speak, I understand dusk
and all the promise held on a threshold.
You whisper lintel and lamb and the stars
hiding behind another wishful day.
9. I am the Ocean—Neil Young
You have lived Pacific and Atlantic,
prayed in the forest among the stone heads
of decapitated Buddhas, jungled
your pain in a clenched and taped Muay Thai fist,
and rock about me now as calmest wave.
10. Roots Woman—Corey Harris
You are a miracle of catfish, gull
of bluebonnets, laureling of sparrows
haloing the chestnut tree, honeycomb,
kitten in the corncrib clawing sunshine,
my timeless twang, my gutbucket chorus.
DANTE DI STEFANO is the author of Love Is a Stone Endlessly in Flight (Brighthorse Books, 2016). His poetry and essays have appeared in The Writer's Chronicle, Obsidian, Shenandoah, Brilliant Corners, The Los Angeles Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, and elsewhere.
Based in Vancouver, AGENT X grew up in Connecticut and studied in New Haven and Atlanta. He was the top recipient at the Curious Duke Curious Pie Show, and he has been a finalist in numerous prestigious art contests. Agent X’s work has been exhibited in art meccas all around the world, including London, New York, San Francisco, Spain, and Toronto.