Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Days Before the River Seine

It’s waiting out there for me now,
In the light of Paris, rumbling little waves
in the rain perhaps
and I am here still, unpacked and ill prepared
heated with a slight fever.

Another river.
I have these rivers, the water kept.
I have the Mississippi in a jug on my shelf,
I have the Thames.
I’ve had the Seine before, but I was a just a girl.
Now I am grown.

It is the water that calls the water of me,
the tiny rivers in my arms,
the land of my skin.
I come back to the places where they come apart
where they meet bigger water and surrender themselves.
Places where they fall, separating drop for drop, each little cell.
To the places where they divide cruelly
my side from yours,

the way my skin divides my side from yours,
my legs are bank side
the river rolling from me, in those moments
where we come apart
and break down,

coming to the water’s edge,
our heads bowed in reverence.
This is a prayer of sorts,
a pilgrimage,
and when it is over,
I will feel full
for a while at least.
Understand the ache will come back
but not right away.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Panic

It was already over by the time I got to the intersection.
But he was just beginning to cry.
There were two cars up on the curb,

and the man and the woman paced in circles.
“That’ll catch that bastard on camera,” the gas station attendant tells me.
I nod.

The man’s face contorts. He takes his phone away from his ear
and holds it at his stomach as if he has been shot. Or as if he can’t bear
to hear the other tiny voice.

It seems to be taking me forever to get across the street.
She dabs at her head with a cloth.
I can see the blood.

“It’s alright,” he tells her. “Don’t get upset. Don’t panic.”
and then he doubles over again. He lets out a whimper and
says “Hello?” into the phone as if he just answered it.

She sits on the curb, watching him, dabbing the blood from her head
in little gentle pecks, the way you would clean a baby.
She sighs.

He sits next to her. His is huge, a great big huge man,
with spotty facial hair and a white baseball hat.
She seems even smaller next to him.
Like a bird twitching next to a walrus.

He cries full on now. I wish that I weren’t here.
The men at the dealership next door wear suits and shake hands.
They laugh too loud as if this side of the street can’t hear them.

The woman turns her pale face up, the blood slides quickly down her forehead,
to her nose, like a river searching for the ocean.
Her eyes are blank, her lips tight as she works to keep herself in.
She watches the first drops of rain come down.
When they land, I tell myself she smiled, but I know I am lying.

I listen for the siren wail
but don’t hear it.
Not even 10 blocks later.
Not even as I fumble with my key at the door, desperate to get inside.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Snow and Ice

In the days before you were named,
the streetlights outside were shut off.
There were power outages
and crime sprees.
The electric range was cold all night.

In the days before you were named,
there were floods, the water lapping
over the railing at the bridge.
The octopus flopping in the waves
threatening to come ashore.

In the days before you were named,
your grandmother stood waiting
in the doorway
between living and dying.
Your grandfather boarded up all the windows.

In the days before you were named,
there was pacing and the crunch of snow and ice
a wetness that crept into my boot,
making the walk home,
groceries in hand,
small dogs growling,
more treacherous than ever.

But also in the days before you were named,
there was a cobalt sky,
the scratch of pen over paper,
a woman’s laugh coming through the walls.
There was a hope for early spring,
and fresh flowers set at a gravesite.
There was a moment for all of us,
breath held, eyes closed.
There was music, light and lilting
a cadence worth remembering
in the days before you were named.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Separate Checks

You tell the lady we’ll take separate checks.
There was tea – English breakfast
and coffee.
And I’m nervous because it’s Tuesday
and I have five dollar in my wallet
and need to get some sort of lunch
before working the late shift.

The lady at the register rings it up and looks at me.
Her hands suddenly look much older than her face,
as they whip through and straighten the five singles I gave her.
The total is exactly forty-four cents more than
I have in my wallet.

I dig through my pockets
wondering if I can remember
how to say forty-four in French.
I’ve been practicing but I still can’t.

I don’t leave a tip in the jar and I pray you don’t notice.
I’m normally not that kind of person, I want to say.

We walk down to 4th Avenue
and part there.
The change in my pocket jingles.
My wallet is empty
and I wonder if I have enough for a bagel
but decide on white rice
because I know that only costs a dollar and change
and I can feel the heaviness of quarters as my fingers
dig through the metal,
saying goodbye to you on the corner.

We talked about writing, dogs, neighborhoods, children.
Change, we talked about change.
I tested the weight of words
like I test the weight of change in my pocket,
stirring it like a soup, like something edible

and realizing that maybe these kinds of things,
these mornings of conversation, and tea and coffee
maybe aren’t all that bad.
I think I need to stop being afraid of people.
And maybe my husband was right
when he said I could use a new friend.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Day You Were Born

-for Neve Anya

They say you cried and cried
and your father, new and tender
in this strange task himself,
and whispered in your ear
and the moment you heard him,
felt his breath on your skin,
you stopped.

And then everyone in the room stopped for you.

That is the first story, Neve.

There will be others.
There probably already are in the few hours
that have passed.
Later, there will be light and darkness
gentle ladies and discovery.
There will be so many stories, we will forget half of them.
But that was the first.

And there is always something magical
about the first.