Monday, November 15, 2010


When it come on, it startles me.
This realization of how many of us there are.

The subway car pulls up to the platform and I watch their
faces slide by, these people, who walk the same streets,
breathe the same air.

Their fingers touching the same metal poles,
and handrails, the same doors

Coming in. Coming out.

It is all of us, we alone.
I wonder what they are searching for

and I hope they wonder what I am searching for,
before the train clanks and heaves,

this vehicle of mankind.

The woman waits, pulling her hair out of her mouth,
the breeze underground can be strong.

She sighs and rubs her eyes.
I am you, I think as I pass her,

and we can trade lives. I can live inside your little world,
and with you pull poems
from your teeth.

You live inside a room I can’t imagine, and have never been to.
The moonlight probably falls on the floor there, long and elegant.

The woman on the platform leans toward the train,
leans the way one must lean into pain.

Keep it, and then give it away, like breath
and keep passing that way from one of us to another.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When the Dead Are the Dead

He tells me when his father died
there was a great force,
and they felt him leave,

his body vacant now,
but it passed through all of them, first.

You were there? I ask, wide-eyed.
I’m gripping my chair
because I want so badly for it to be true.

My husband has told me the same. He talks about peace.
How his grandmother looked when she died,
or really
the moment after.
The moment when the dead are the dead.

My friend tells me he wasn’t there,
he didn’t make it to the hospital on time.
But his brother was, and his brother told him so.
He says it with such authority. I don’t ask.

It makes me think of my mother
when she found out her mother was dying.
And she moved from room to room alone,
the nurse speaking through the phone in her ear

Come now.
Come now.

My mother knew she would never make it
and this woman, who filled this role as mother
who bore her into this world
would be ushered out alone.

My mother moved from room to room
alone, searching. Like a good thief in her own home.

Back at the bar, I listen to my friend speak.
I look between him and my husband.
They are sure. They know.
They have stood too close to death.
It has happened to them, without it happening to me.
I am still on this side.
Alone, searching.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


It was the weekend after she died,
or maybe the weekend after that.

Everyone came back home even though my mother
had been clear there would be no funeral.

She didn’t want a funeral, my mother told me over the phone.
Okay, I said. I figure it’s probably a lot like my not wanting a birthday party
when I was younger, scared no one would come and then I would know.

My mother, to honor her dead mother, made all her favorite dishes.
Her ashes would be dumped in the ocean off of Florida where she lived for so long.
I was not invited. None of the grandchildren were.

Coordinating schedules is too hard, my mother says. It will just be your father and I.
And your uncle and his wife.
Okay, I said.

At dinner my mother talked about how hard it was sometimes.
She could be such an infuriating woman, my mother says about the dead.

And I remember being younger, my mother pulling me aside, telling
me to be nicer to this woman, this old woman I didn’t know. This strange presence in our house.

My mother pressed into my palm a little toy locket
To keep, she said, if you are nicer.

She was just unhappy, my sister said. She was never happy.
I know, my mother said. It was so infuriating.

And then she says, I wish I had more time. I think I wasted time being angry.

You should have been nicer to her, I said.

It just came out like a landslide of words
out of my mouth, past my teeth, floating out in the air.

My mother’s face crumples. She nods. She agrees.
I can’t bear to look at my sisters.
By then, it’s too late for me to take it back.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Last Stop

Even when I change seats on the bus, he seems to be staring right at me.

I know him, his red nose, red cheeks, big leather hat.

In my job you get to know a lot of crazies.
He stands in the stairwell of the bus even though there is a sign
telling him not to stand in the stairwell when the bus is in motion.

The bus lurches to a halt, the breaks squealing
the people pushed forward against each other.

This is the next to last stop. I could get off here,
and walk the rest of the way. I usually do.

But I watch the man in the leather hat turn to leave.
I don’t want to get off the bus the same time as him. I don’t want to avoid him on the street too.

Right before the doors close, he climbs back on
and I think, this is it. It’s because I didn’t get off.

I believe these kinds of things, that I am visible instead of invisible.

He sort of falls, the man in the leather hat with his red red nose
and lays on the steps.

Hey, he yells. Hey!
The bus driver lifts his head in the rearview but you can’t see his eyes.

Hey! The man yells. Hey!
The busdriver says What.

The man says, Thanks! Thanks!
from the floor and then climbs back up and the doors close
and the bus wheezes forward. I watch the man in the leather hat limp down the street
his grey hair floating over his shoulders like an angel.

and I wish I got off at that stop.
The bus starts to turn and then stops at the corner,
shaking. Idle.
and I wish I got off at that stop because I know that going around the corner,
I will pass another year of my life here on this bus.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Test Results

When the phone actually rings, we look at each other in surprise.
It is a foreign sound at first and then gradually, the connection is made
and surprise turns to disgust.

It is Friday night. We have a carved pumpkin in the window
and a classic on the television. It is two days before Halloween in the city.

Who is this? you say. Who is this?
Showing me the number.

I shrug and tell you to leave it.
And then I remember the way you remember a song
you haven’t heard in years. A song that belonged to a life you no longer live.

It’s my doctor. But by then, he’s already stopped calling.
You ask me why the doctor is calling so late.
You sound frustrated, tired, and now, a little scared.

I call the doctor back but he doesn’t answer.
He just leaves a message about calling him Monday.
His voice burns inside me.

I sit back down on the couch and we don’t speak for some time.
What’s wrong? you ask me.
It’s fine, you say. Doctor’s don’t call with bad news and then tell you
to call them back on Monday.

I nod. But I don’t believe you.

Already there is a division between us.
This experience, that will change us, has started.
You, as observer.
Me, as recipient.
This is what I think on Friday night.
Monday morning will be different, and I will laugh to myself
but also whisper a thank you, quickly, so no one sees
a breath of relief.

Still, right now there is nothing but the hours
from this moment, on the couch to Monday morning,

Hours I usually savor, beg for, kill for.
Hours that we have plans for, look forward to.
Hours that I now hate.