botanic gardens. 9am
and after a night out
in town. I was twenty.
nineteen – I was maybe
nineteen. out, some activity
to rinse off the drinking
and the feeling you get
of a tired clearheadedness
which you think
when you’re young
is a hangover.
the giddiness of trick
shots at pool and the sun,
like a chuckle,
making light without heat.
the morning quite pretty
and the angle of certain
white-spired piles of victorian
iron. shapes of horizon
like fishhooks crunched
into a fist. fantastic. a life
in a glass of cold
water. I don’t know
who’s idea it was,
going, but remember
being glad they’d had it.
the sun on the grass
drying out a wet night.
the shine of the flowers
in clusters like billiards on baize.
She finds her voice in an empty room
And tries it out in the echoing chambers
Of a pink-lined shell
That sends it ringing back
To her; a mottled little wife.
He stands up to notice the practice pieces
Of cool, clear notes, and bows
As she leaves him for an open space
He has heard the call that came
To her; the bright, fighting woman.
The prairie roots her firmly
With its blowing, bristle grass
That tickles her calves urging speed.
In silence it whispers her words back
To her; the clear, complicated person.
Rocks on the road pierce her shoe soles
In the painful way that is life.
Still, she hurries for the breath
Of wind that carries her mans’ name
To her; the compassionate, loving soul.
And she returns to the empty room
To sing, her voice a familiar garment now
Flowing around her as she works
With his voice in harmony
To her; attuned to their life
beneath worn soles
to go home
My husband’s name sewn into the necks
or waistbands of his clothes returned
from the nursing home, his scent laundered
out of them, the folds of his long body
no longer in the folded clothes.
I must pluck the stitches to remove each label
before I give his things to a homeless shelter
where men who live in the Hoovervilles
of Americana are coaxed inside in freezing weather.
My husband would have given
the shirt off his back to anyone, and now
his clothes will be given to the living.
The dark crust can hold a gleam
like a candlelit still life. Slice
through the crust to the grainy
richness of the innards. Held
in the mouth, the soft density
dissolves slowly, tricking the mind
into believing you are eating more
than you really are, like the miracle
of Christ multiplying
loaves of bread to feed the hungry.
When my father bit into pumpernickel,
his jaws clenched, the veins in his temple
swelled and you heard each chew
from across the room
which told the story of his hunger
in Russia as a boy, hiding
in the forest from the Cossacks.
Father took slice after slice, and watched
over our plates for leftovers.
Don’t fear the clash of words.
Bring them in their confusion
to the white heat of the page.
Let them enter battle,
find terms. Whatever pain
it brings is balm for silence.
You’ve never tasted his lips,
soft and insistent against yours.
His fingers haven’t tucked
your hair behind your ears,
brushed across your jaw,
stroked your cheeks.
He didn’t gaze so deeply
into your eyes that you
couldn’t catch your breath
and nearly drowned.
His hands haven’t skimmed
across each vertebra
of your spine and lingered over
your hips. He hasn’t nibbled
across your collarbone, along
your throat, smiled with his teeth
against the soft spot just beneath
your earlobe. You haven’t been his
undoing – baring your souls,
sharing each other’s breath.
His heart wouldn’t have whispered
its love for you if you pressed
your ear against his chest as you lay
tangled together, so close it becomes
impossible to tell where he ends
and you begin. You were never
the center of his universe,
it was you who slipped into his orbit.
A sparkling liquid silver rod
gorgeous at the turn of a tap
except for those whose lives are
filled with an abundance of
miraculous things they no longer see.
Essential, except to those whose
lives are so secure and
provided for that the change in
price of gas at the pumps is
an affront to their existence as
they buy bottled water by
the costly gallon.
A right to those who live lives
as boot-on-the-neck victims of
water stolen from their
rippling back yards and
sold to the dry city down
the road leaving them with
soiled dregs they can neither
drink, nor bathe in.
A weapon to those whose lives are
built on the backs of the poorly
unseen hoards toiling
to make them rich, in
countries far off with
out rods of gorgeous
silver pouring out; but with
locks on the doors their dreams of
wealth, health and freedom and
the keys thrown away.