"There is no way to make this story interesting."
In this opening line, Siken just out and out lies to the reader. It's a transparent manipulation that reminds me of a guy I once knew myself, a drug dealer who told me the best way to con a person was to tell them right up front that you were going to con them. This brings up one of the oldest defense mechanisms in the book: ‘You can’t fool me that easily! (What kind of a chump do you take me for, anyhow?)’
Siken keeps telling us in this poem how he wants to tell us this story without having to confess that he (narrator) "ran out into the street to prove something.” This something comes across as trying to make a very private thing very public. It feels like hysteria and desperation and an intense fear of losing something of vital importance. In my eyes he did not even have to include the lines that tell us what he set out to prove... “that he didn’t love me, that I wanted to be thrown over, possessed.”
The 'he' seems to be Max and Max is sketched out:
Max in the wrong clothes. Max at the party, drunk again.
Max in the kitchen, in the refrigerator light, his hands around the neck of a beer.
Tell me we’re dead and I’ll love you even more.
Siken tells us that the narrator responds to Max's direction in a way that seems almost Pavlovian:
I’m surprised that I say it with feeling.
The poem is written in five parts, the first part introduces the setting as a country gravel road that the narrator tastes and feels while he has the "sense of being smothered underneath a sack of lentils or potatoes;" the second part introduces the characters (as above); and each of the final three parts is like smoke and mirrors, a different angle on the narrator making his scene and running away and being subdued by another man. Because Siken switches POV -- and because Max seems to be a little withdrawn (or maybe passed out) -- it is not, for me anyhow, a forgone conclusion that this man is Max. It could be a scene from the narrator’s past, or a scene he recently observed and identified with.
The recurring image is his body being covered by this other man, who holds him down to coerce a promise that he will not run out into the street again. It is almost a parental level of control over a child who does not understand danger and will not practice common sense. It’s a fierce brand of care that comes off as a bit over the top, but as I read and re-read these lines I am reminded that I am being told a story that is uninteresting. Pshaw, right!
It’s uninteresting like your first visit to Manhattan. You’re in Chinatown, and you’ve just given your third $20 bill to some shaggy looking dude with nothing but a cardboard box and a game you don’t even know yet is called 3-card monte. You’re reaching for your wallet again because this time, you are certain. Well, no lousy street bum is gonna take your money like this, right?What are you, some small town hick? You lay down another $20 because this is the last time you'll need to, because he is offering to triple it this time. And now you’ve figured out his game, and this time...you are gonna pick out that ace.