Saturday, July 31, 2010

Starting Over

It seemed like I was waiting
all day
maybe all year
maybe all my life
to slide the key into the lock
like I did,
and open the door,

to find you there,
cutting chicken for dinner,
and the gentle hum of the air conditioner,
and the R&B you only listen to when I’m not there,
the cats fat and lazy, the apartment clean,
and smelling like a home,

like a place I have been fighting all day to get back to,
with you,

so much so that it was all gone
the second I got in,
all the anger and confusion
all the hours and minutes
and seconds I have been away.
The long long walk is over.

You are sorry,
you say
We are going to redo last night,
you tell me,
We are going to have the night
we should have had.
You kiss me hello
and I put down my bag
and just like that,
we’ve started over.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Did You Sleep Ok?

Did you sleep OK?
the post card over my desk
asks me.
It’s a picture of a framed post-it note
scratchy boy handwriting,
sweet sentiment,
left by an errant lover, I imagine.

We bought it in London,
in a little museum
in the park after walking all day.

It was right after we saw the Peter Pan statue, I think.
We needed directions and the British lady with the dog
told us not to expect too much.
Though she added that she thought the statue was darling.

DID you sleep ok?
The question we ask each morning,
shuffling around, tripping over two old cats
opening windows, making tea and coffee.

The answer is No.
I didn’t.
All night there was nothing about anxiety.
Bad dreams, nervousness,
The writing bad like this poem,
trying to say something but saying nothing,
nightmare of teeth tumbling out,
and bloody fingers.

Did YOU sleep ok?
Last night, I told you
with bases loaded and the Yanks up 10-1,
that if Alex hits the 600th homerun right now,
we would have that extra beer and sleep in tomorrow.
You told me that was too much pressure for one man.
But he didn’t, even though it was the perfect time.
He was always good for solo homeruns that don’t change the game.
So we turned off the television and went to bed.

Did you SLEEP ok?
At the end of this week filled with long days,
choked with need and want and misery of
this endless summer.
After waiting and waiting for the End,
which didn’t come, you get a bit of jetlag into
continuing your life. You are supposed to be thankful,
and you are because you read the paper and you know
how very bad it is out there. There is still that part of you,
that isn’t re-adjusting back into life and is still planning.

But tomorrow is Saturday so there is always another chance
and the weather is dropping they tell me,
so maybe we’ll have something, love.
Just a little something.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

You - 7/29/30

I always say You. Because I can’t say my sister.
We were not.

And I can’t say my friend.
We were not.

So I say You. So I say I forgot your birthday this year.

And you say nothing.
Like you have said nothing for years.

Your daughter is outside, right now.
digging through the dirt in the backyard.

And your husband has his arms around his new wife.
They are patching something out of the space you left.

This is the moment you were waiting for.
And never got to see. You have become the things you left behind now.
Nothing else.

There are things I want to tell you. No, not tell.
There are things I want to scream at you.

Until I’m hoarse and have no words left.
Until the sound has pushed you away, finally.
Until the plaster cracks and the trees die and fall like monuments to the ground.
Until your tombstone sinks in the groaning movement of this earth.
Until we are all long long gone and it is finally finally mercifully over.

I want to scream all of this. But I don’t.

Your birthday is passing us all by.
Your body so long gone. So long silent.

You show up in my dreams, all the time.
You never speak. That is a rule.

I don’t call you Sister then either. I never could.
I don’t say anything to you, anymore.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Continents - 7/28/10

I want to step foot on every
continent, and circumnavigate
this fat round earth.

It used to be every country,
but I’m already far too old for that.

So when we talk about Spain
we also talk about Morocco
and I roll my tongue

over the sound of a word,
that counts for Africa.

When I tell my mother she smiles
and says not to do Antarctica till she’s dead.
She doesn’t want to know.

For Asia, we have a plan
for the Trans-Siberian train
across the rough seas of Russian land.

For South America,
I hope for Peru, the steepness of Machu Picchu
or Chile.
Then Australia.

And last
all that ice.
I can’t afford to go to the Pole,
but I’ll settle for seeing the Ross Sea
and McMurdo Sound and the Ice Shelf rising like a castle
at the bottom of this ball
of fire and rock
spinning in all that dark space.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

With his Silence - 7/27/2010

It is like gathering
all the salt from the sea

locked arthritic hands, aching.

His wife opens the water bottles for him.

There is no end to this,
I want to tell him.
No finish line.
This is life now. This is just what it is.
You are beating the cancer, yes,

but your kidneys are dying.
The knee won’t get better.
The pain will always be there.

If you are in pain,
say something!
Be honest with the doctors.

I have a whole list of things to say,
but he will lift
those pale blue eyes
sea water eyes,
like his daughters,
from the paper
to me

and say everything with his silence.

And I know
I will be quiet, too.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday Morning - 7/25/10

I sit with my mother at the table
and talk about the business of books.
I'm mid sentence and she stops me,
holds her finger in the air.
The silence lingers,
as her eyes scan the newspaper in front of me.

"Who died?" I ask,
because what else could it be?

"Oh, it is her. Oh how sad," she says and for a moment
her face crumples.

"Oh how sad. She was only 48."

"Who?" I ask.

It was a neighbor.
I don't recognize her name
and upon seeing this, my mother,
who has lived for so long in this house
on this street,
describes the departed's location on the block.

"Next door to the Levinsons"
she tells me.

"Oh, I say, sure," but I'm lying.
I have no idea who she is,
this woman, who my mother tells me had no children
but was engaged to be married,
dead from cancer.

"It's always so sad when a neighbor's child dies."

I think of the boy down the street,
who died in high school and the line I stood on
to get into his funeral. It wrapped through the parking lot.

My father is on the couch,
the newspaper on his lap,
just having fallen asleep,
He is cold, always cold
and his fingers are locking up.
My mother opens all this water bottles now.

and I think about how long they have been here
in this house,
on this street,
my whole life.
Always here.

I think of that and how I hope it's longer still.
Just a little bit.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Voice of God - 7/23/10

On the 86th street overpass
in the part of Brooklyn the tour buses
don't go to

lay a pair of sandals,
side by side,
neatly tucked against the
chain link fence.

And next to them a wrapping from the Holy Bible
on audio cd and I thought to myself
even the voice of God couldn't save him,
when he dove and landed on the cars below
small stones embedded, still
in the skin of his heels.

He should have taken the Book.
The weight of it might have kept him
tied to his earth
a little while longer.

The thin onion skin paper
reminding him of his own paper thin skin
down near his sex.

So simply construced
and durable
unlike the body
crashing and popping
against all that metal.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Flight - 7/22/10

I grabbed your hand
when the plane lurched
and the lights went out.
We were just in the air
and I thought to myself,
This is when they crash.
It's on the news all the time.

Take off or landing.
Right at the beginning and the end.

We were on our way to your grandfather's funeral
and I thought of your mother,
how small she would look
in all that black
her long blonde hair
and nervous fingers

finding out at the funeral home that
we were already gone.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What the Neighbors Said - 7/21/10

It was an unraveling
like these sorts of things always are

a thin spool of thread
where the sweater once hung

a dead bird
it’s neck craned backwards
at a tilt most unnatural

unfeathered wings snapped
like pencils which you side step

the fall from great heights,
from nest to the shore

from roof to the pavement

from hanger to floor

from heaven to hell

the door slam
like the crash of thousand
beautifully carved marble statues hitting the sidewalk

at once.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Big Sur - 7/19/10

Am Alone, says the king,
walking down the stone path.
Am Alone.
And at first he means it, they all do.
At first.
Until the silence grows
louder than the noise he used to make
down in the dirty city bars.
It grows like the moss on the trees,
like the gray hair on his arms.
Am Alone, they say
to get better
to be well
and still and peaceful,
to quell the fury.
But they hate it, like all kings hate being king.

They have no idea,
these men
with the bright ideas,
with the looks that give and take
away from the spotlight
and all their fickle tempers,
their broken glasses,
cutting the bottom of feet.
All the roaring.
They hate it
when there is no one to hear them.

Nothing but silence and the echoes
of their own fury thrown back at them
from the ocean’s mocking slap.

still, Am Alone,
something I have never known
not truly.
To live without it.
To forget and be forgotten.
To be still
for as long as I wish
vibrating like an atom.
Forever, even
Am Alone.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

For Harvey

We toasted you the night you died,
but I couldn’t help thinking that you
didn’t seem like the kind that would die.

Which is a very stupid thing to think.

Salinger died. But he already checked out,
decades ago firing shotguns at curious trespassers.
Steinbrenner died the day after

they found your body in the bedroom.
But it didn’t make sense. You couldn’t be dead.
You are too real to die.

You are supposed to be in Cleveland
in the grocery store.
Behind the Jewish lady with all the coupons
arguing over canned soup.
You are supposed to be living through the same
shit as the rest of us.
Bus routes
and late bills.
Sick mornings and fights with the wife.
You are supposed to be nervously checking the phone book
for another Harvey Pekar.

Not dead and still and peaceful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

For Stephanie, on her birthday

The sun has not yet fully risen
here in the city
as if she is tired from what the
rest of this month has put her through.

But I think you are probably up,
your infant daughter on your lap,
her gentle cooing over the discovery
of her fingers.

I can picture you
on your blue sofa,
the music playing softly
the coffee on the table.
The quiet settling of the floorboards.

And I wish I was there.
We would talk about
when we were little before the house was painted blue.
we would pull out those old stories,
about birthdays
and the streamers our mother would hang from the lights.
About the woods behind the neighbor’s house.
We would joke about our father’s
green lawn mowing sneakers
and the time with the golf club
that ended in me losing a tooth.

We would laugh softly
in case your daughter nodded off.
and for a moment that time wouldn’t
feel so long ago,
and neither of us would feel
the days stretching ahead and behind.

I wish I was there, this morning
on your birthday
but the best I can do,
are these words on this page,
a love letter
between women
from one sister
to another
letting you know
you are being thought of right now
as you are,
as this new mother
a thing of beauty and comfort
your hands cupping the feet of your daughter
a small song unknowingly escaping your parted lips

but also as you were back then, when the world was smaller
a thing of beauty and energy
and white hot streaking summer light
an explosion of laughter
in the time when we were both little girls.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Razor Blade

I should have moved it,
I tell my husband on the train,
watching the little boy cry and hold his finger.

It’s not your fault, he tells me.
But still, I saw it. I saw it and the other boy saw it
and I should have kicked it away.

He’s too old to be picking things like that up,
my husband tells me. Besides, it happened too quickly.

I could never be a parent,
I say,
I’m sick now just watching this and it’s not even my child.

The father has the boy on his lap. They are all very blonde,
They look Swedish but it sounds like they are speaking German.

The subway lurches up onto the bridge,
back out into daylight.
We are going home.
The boy has stopped crying now.
The mother is studying the subway map.
The father has kicked the razor blade
across the subway car,
like a dead thing.
Not like a killer.
The sunlight catches it and it gleams,
like a smile.

No one on the subway car does anything,
not even me. What is there to do?
Now we all wait and wonder.

I watch out the window
the water of the East River below,
the city retreating from me like a living thing and
think that I’ll spend the rest of my life
wondering if this kid,
holding his bloody finger
this five year old boy
is going to die of some horrible disease
is going to rot from the inside
if it is even already starting now.
I wonder if he’ll get to grow up, get married,
fall in love, have sex, get his heart broken
before it all comes to a horrifying end.
All of this wasted
because of one trip to the United States.

Who does that, my husband finally says.
Who leaves something like that on a subway seat?

And I think I don’t want to know.
But they live in my city.
For now.