Tuesday, December 13, 2011

¡Salud!

I spot them down the street before my husband.
Where? he asks
craning his neck a little until they appear,
like a magic trick between
the crowds of tourists and New Yorkers.
They’ve been in this country one week
and already, too much has happened.

We agree to drinks and set out. Salud. We clink glasses.
I ask how the day went.
It is so big, they tell me. Not like Madrid.
We build up and up and up
I tell them, pointing at the buildings
thinking of America’s need to reach something unreachable.

It is like a fucking movie, Oscar says. A fucking movie
a wide grin as he rolls his cigarette. I love it.
Me encanta, she says. We love it.

Later, we’ll put them in the car,
after hugging
and promising again maybe next year.
Maybe Rome?
Maybe Barcelona. Again next year?
We promise and we promise.

Write us, my husband says.
When you land so we know you are safe
and I watch him help her get her bags in the car.

We will miss you so fucking much, Oscar says.
We hug again and again.
They get in the car, doors shut. I have already helped
them put together the fifty dollars for the driver.
Tip, tip! Oscar says and I nod. Yes, tip.

The car pulls away and they turn and wave through the back window
Aida mimes a tear on her cheek and I brush at my own.
They wave frantically as the car heads down our street.
It is like a fucking movie.

We got back inside, clear up the beer bottles.
We sit on the green couch, in the thick silence of their absence.
My husband places a warm hand on my knee
and reaches down to fetch the wine bottle,
my hand already reaching for my glass.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Moon Prayer

Yesterday
in that waned
or waxed time of night
on the long walk home
with the moon hidden
so hidden
in fact
it was just a smear
of white under more white
the way the sun can be at times
both blotted and blotting us out,

I said your name out loud
without expecting you to answer.

And for a moment I was more than less.
I could be that indifferent element
that charred wood,
that spark of flame,
that bubble of water,
that small breeze,
that rustles the back of a single leaf.
Or more, an atom
a muscle strained, unstrained,
strained again.
Something simpler.

Praise to the child king
and the walking stick.
Praise to the warrior girl,
the tallest trees,
praise to the mushroom,
the hot hot sand and the wettest sea,
praise to the next life,
praise to the train tracks and leaf blades
to the molecule splitting,
to the whale, floating weightless
praise to the moon.

Praised be.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What the Bridge Says

They leave things behind,
junk and garbage sometimes,
but also books
the pages wrinkled with dried rain
and blotted with ink.

One time also a baby bird,
pulled too soon from its shells,
wingless
her eyes glistening now
with everything she doesn't see.

This is what they left behind on the bridge.

There was a bible once
and a ceramic Santa Claus. Marbles.
A box of baby clothes, moldy and stained.
Wishes are left here too, whispered from dry lips
falling from tear stained cheeks
tossed like coins down into the exhaust of the cars below.

If this is where we say hello, then also say goodbye.

On this bridge they leave love notes
and dog collars,
stenciled drawings
empty chip bags too but also
parts of his soul,
bits of her heart.

I have walked this bridge twice a day for four years
so I know that
I am leaving parts of myself on this bridge too,
so that maybe someone
else will see them,
and then we will know I was real.
These are the sacrifices we leave.
Cheap tokens of our existence
so that maybe we can have one more day,

of searching, of dreaming
of reaching through the wires
of love, yes, of fingers almost touching
but also one more day of hope.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dying Cat

She’s thin
and getting thinner.
I watch her wander to the table, rub up against it,
the sad concave of her sides.

I turn back to the cooking food,
pull out a piece of chicken,
crouch down,
coax her forward.

Eat, please, just eat.
Eat and let it stay.
Eat and stop the matting of your fur.

Eat and be better.
Eat and don’t be dying.
Because all I want is for you to be better.

She takes the food,
opens her mouth
pink tongue,
squeaks out a nearly soundless meow.

Like a thank you.
And I fall apart,
because I can’t save her,

I’m so afraid there is something I can do
and I’m not doing it. Something simple
something overlooked, something
like a miracle.

I can love her,
I can clean her and hold her
and pet her and hope but
I can’t save her

and it's killing me.

because she is old
and sick and
because she is dying,
but also
because she is one of my only friends on this awful planet.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What the Cicada Showed Me

Because there was nowhere else to go,
I ran down the back staircase
after the rains came and went
and left nothing clean.

Outside there was a dead cicada,
its legs curled in like it was doing yoga,
the Child’s Pose,
its big segmented eyes
watching
but no longer watching a million versions
of my movement.

I watched it in its stillness
the way you watch a painting
searchingly,
not the way you watch the television
vacantly.

And its leg twitched slightly,
flexed and relaxed and flexed again
and I thought, my god,
it’s still alive and with a stick flipped it over.

I thought maybe it was just stuck
like a turtle, unable to turn on those wide wings.
I thought I could save it, still
the way I couldn’t save myself.

But then tons of small ants
crawled out, little red things
so tiny they needed a million to be seen
the way a mob works,
and then the cicada stopped twitching.

Then I knew the truth: There are things,
eating us from the inside out,
licking us clean till there is only a shell
and then after a hard wind
not even that.

I want to not be afraid.
I want to go back to the earth
fearlessly.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

During the Hurricane



During the hurricane, there were tornados
and just before, an earthquake.
Nothing major just a tremor,
a shudder in the sleep of a planet
suddenly chilled in deep space.

We wonder what next?
Locusts?
Plagues?
Has it been so long since the last
swath of disease, bounced lighter than air
down our throat, warping our blood,
changing our lives, permanently.

In the end, we flip the light to make sure.
We turn the handle on the faucet,
we flush the toilet.
We want to make sure that the life we lived
when we went to sleep
is still the life we wake to when night has passed,
when the hurricane has passed, tiptoeing through
lower Brooklyn,

leaving only a few downed trees,
like giants felled,
across the lawns of the very rich
and the very prosperous.

I tell you it could have been worse
and you nod and shrug,
kicking at fat twigs shaken loose
during the night of the hurricane, a night

when I slept, fitfully
my head on your chest,
dreaming of water,
too much black water,
and an octopus that wouldn’t let go.

This is how we pass the days, now,
stepping from one disaster to another, narrowly missing
true tragedy but I wonder how much longer can we go on?
How much longer, my friends, can we last?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hospital

These are the people who tend to the healing,
my mother says, the mending and setting of bones,
the cuts, sutures, fingers in rubber,
thread through skin
plaster and metal against muscle and wet organ.

This is the land of recreation,
of doctor’s plates and metal tables.
This is where we wait and wait, 1983.

But at only six years old this too
is the land of under-chairs,
of shoelaces
of finger-counting, alphabets and books.
This is the land of the beep beep beep machines
of funny nose-tickling smells,
of pretending penny-farthings,
of the inside outside upside
of dreams and naps
summer-drying up

of tears and more tears and what high
tall tables and what hard bread.

where all things are made and unmade
and remade again,
what shiny tools,
what clean floors,
what time-travel
space ship dimension
naturally, a family
but still no because
what lips
of my mother shushing, shushing me
pressing my head to her leg
hold still, hot hand to cheek
what tall
what lips thin line of the nurse
saying words that are just letters
strung together,
and she says
the man with the funny smell is dead,
we’re sorry,
but he’s gone.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lullaby Girl


- for Anneliese Helen

We do not hear the phone ring
over the noise of Manhattan
so we did not know
yet
that you were born,

that you have already
been held,
warmth and light
and kissed,
soft and gentle.

That you had changed
those people,
from husband to father
from wife to mother

That you have already
stretched two hands
two feet
toward the light
on these bare and bold first hours.

Already you have dreamed
as your parents have been dreaming,
fluttering eyelids and wonder.

Later there will be home,
and later still, growing
and someday you will read
these words yourself.
You will race and tumble and
grow bolder and braver.
Someday you will board a train,
cross an ocean,
see the world,
and then come back to us with a suitcase full of stories.

But that is later,
that is what will come,
here, it is quiet,
hush now
here, there is just this,
the strong thrum of your heart
hands waiting to hold,
night in New Hampshire.

Sleep, little love.
It is Midnight,
and all is well.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

To Live

If there are people dying
then there are always people to write about the dying
to lift the shovels and dig for the dying
to preach about the dying.

Even now
there is my grandmother
gone four years
and I raise a glass on the couch
to Joan,
and think four years, my god,

what have I done?

This is how we keep track of the dying,
by what we have or haven’t done
in the time they have been gone
as if that adds time to our own old clocks.

So Joan, here’s what I have done:
I have paced hard floors with dry cracked feet,
I have written
small things at night in secret.
I have been to Europe and fallen in love
with sad girls on Spanish street corners,
with the whores on Grand Via
with the waiters at La Rotunde
with the bard’s grave and church stones.

Joan, I have fallen in love.

And I have tried, so very hard
to breath each day,
to make tea,
to catch a sunrise in Brooklyn,
just to live, Joan.
To live.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Forty Four

Today you would have been forty four,
with all the complications
and beauty of forty four
this double digit life.
I wonder
what you would have looked like
if you would have had another child
how much you would have hated these wars,
but loved your birthday,
and seafood,
and surprisingly early autumns.


But no,
instead you are gone,
like you were
ten years ago,
a stone left behind,
a carved name,
to remind us
as if anyone could forget.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

These Days are the Days of Long Wanting

These days are the days of long
wanting, of shade-less stretches
down Lexington Ave, of swirling
blue and green and flat trees you can touch
only maybe.

These days are the days of nowhere road,
going nowhere, coming from nowhere,
entering the part of you that is still
nowhere and unseen and hidden.

These days are the days of the dying,
of the lifeless tubed rattle breaths,
of the choked hysteria, of the bed
with just a key in the tenement over Third.

These days are the days of living,
of heat and saliva, of ocean water
salty foam, boys in shorts, with hairless chests,
of kissing and finger twirling, ache and spasm,
the ripping seer, the bold woman, naked
with the light on.

These days are days of movement refined,
of packing for California, of bent backs arching
and the curve of deepest knee,
of leaving and staying and going and remaining,
of paint and text on paper and pencil marks,
and new poets who are old poets, their bodies
already wracked and broken underground with the rat kings.

These days are days of you, twisted glass scars,
cold glasses of beer that you hope come and keep coming,
of movies, of Spanish lilting phrases and songs, the
chatter of fast moving tongues and cold bedroom sheets
eager for calves and heels and feet.

And these days are the days of me, too,
and perfect pancakes and hardwood chairs,
of old hips and myself, turning ever so slight
to the left, a new light, to be a person you thought
you have never seen.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Garage Sale

They start out small, nervous with detail,
labeling with a felt tip marker
the price on each little china plate.
The ink bleeds and floats like a plant root
digging through so much soil paper,
spirals
like a seashell
a sensation.
What a memory,
this life,

What agony,
what history laid out on the cheap
plastic tables.
No one wants this, he says,
lowball offers on someone else’s
memories. Save your money,
he yells to the woman with the felt tip.
This is overconsumption.

A breath between

the things that we want
and the things that we fear we need.

A breath we think might save our lives.

I lift the doll from the table.
Trace a finger over her pursed lips
her plastic needles form eyelashes,
half missing,
lost somewhere in the backyard,
her chipped finger
un-stichable body tufts of grey wiry cotton loose.
What desperation
what soft hands,
Tilted her back,
so often
wordlessly
cheap plastic pursed lips,
one eye closes
one stays open
staring right up into the sun.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Inside the Waiting House

Somewhere inside me there is a house,
with the windows thrown open.
The floorboards are split where the roots
have come through.
And both the sunlight
and the moonlight
make their home here together.
They do not argue
or vie for attention.
They bow and wend up the stairs,
polite,
with bent heads
and gentle words.

There is music playing
softly
something on violin
and it wavers in the air
like a memory
just about to surface.
There are also mice
and bent blades of grass,
there are flowers,
dew to drink.

But also
and most importantly,
inside this house
there is you and I,
untouched
by everything that is happening
outside
where I am lost miles from you
and you are thirsty
with the straw bent in the water,
slowly
too slowly
dying.

Inside this house
is the night that I made up,
the day that I pretend,
the you I didn’t know,
and the me I should have been.
I remember the day you almost died but didn’t
and the feeling that came with that.
I thought it would last longer.
Longer than this night, at least.

Inside me there is a house,
and we wait.
We touch, lightly
and we wait.
We do not speak
and we wait.
And I want this house
to be real,
the way the song is real
the way your voice
used to be real, higher than mine, thicker.
The way
I am still painfully real.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dreams

I am collecting memories
like souvenirs from a recently dead man’s room.
I will take the chair, the lamp,
the baseball t-shirt
and the trip to Madrid.

You can have the sweater,
the shoes, and our time in Paris.

I take the ballpoint pen,
the one that doesn’t scratch the paper
because I believe in the tools.
I will take the memories of the funeral
You will take the pencil
and the birthday cards
your mother’s letters to your father.

We are scavengers now, crawling
through the landscape of a life,
crawling over our own history,
trying to keep what we can.

You pile things on your back.
Steady.
Steady.
I reach for the tickets to our first play.

Leave it,
you say. You pull at my hand
Leave it. We’ll come back.

Here is the story:
Your life is a molecule,
stretched over a vast space
and time
the way the river runs down to bigger water
always bigger.
You need to know this.
There is so much the body cannot contain,
so much it cannot carry.

That is the life inside you. That is the real you.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Es Mi Culpa

It is 10:00 in the morning in New York
But my watch says 4:00 in the afternoon
because it is 4:00 in Madrid.

This is my fault,
I know that,
trying to carve something
out of nothing,
trying to keep some part of it with me
because back here,
all the news is bad and
there are moneylenders
inside our temples.

The sun in Madrid doesn’t set
till 10 or even sometimes later,
when we waited at Finnegan’s.
Where the bartender told my friend
that my husband
has a good kind face.

I think it must be easier to fall in love
in Madrid, with it’s language and it’s laugh,
with the way she tosses her hair and says
excuse me and goodbye.
She hates Picasso and for that,
I love her with her sunglasses and her beer mug.

Maybe it is just that there is more time,
in Madrid, more time to sit and talk and be told
We are not Americans. More time to make them understand
why the poor choose leaders that abandon them.
Why the poor believe the lie. More time
to teach them dirty words in English and
learn them in Spanish.

Maybe time is slower there, a lazy winding river
so that when he pulls the waiter aside and
orders more beer,
we are saving second, minutes
we are keeping them in our pockets
we are storing them under our tongues.

And the days are not doorways
we pass through blindly,
they are things we eat and keep
and carry with us, onto that plane,
and over that ocean.
It is 4:00 pm in Madrid,
the sun is high
and it will stay that way
because I know that at 10
or even later
that sunset, better than any sunset
I have seen over Staten Island,
that sunset in Madrid,
will break your heart.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Flight to Madrid

This is the life we have written.
We chose carefully, drawing second by second,
as we move through the airport,
our luggage in hand,
our eye on the clock.

We stop for beers
and food. And then another beer.

We walk down the ramp,
our ticket scanned,
the flight attendant says
hello, with a wide smile
but she doesn’t look at us,
as we inch
slowly
though
tight
aisles

and sit down, prepared for this journey.
This is the life we have written together.
The buckle snapped,
my water and journal with me.
We line up, the plane rolling for so long
I wonder aloud, are we driving there?
You smile, and take my hand

and then the worst part,
the speed and wobble and pressure
and I think to myself
most accidents happen during takeoff or landing
and then I try not to think about that.

This is the life we have written
and I say to no particular god
if it is going to happen, please
let it happen on the way home,
after I have already laid a hand on
the crumbling stone of an ancient church

after I have already tasted and drank
and kissed.
After I have laughed and talked for hours
with old friends, now real.
After I have already watched from
the train window that city leave me
and the country find me
after I have already climbed those stairs
and fallen into bed exhausted.
If it is going to happen,
let it be after,
I pray
to no particular god.
And no particular god
doesn’t answer
but later there is a hot sunrise
over so much blue ocean,
that I don’t care anymore
about anything else.
This is the life we have written.
What will happen next?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Christ, he said, I’m so sad.
So very sad.

And he’s right,
there will be no more
toasts, no more sitting
on the little hard stools
of Finnegans, his favorite
Irish pub in Madrid,
no more “What did you do today?”
as we tell him about
seeing Guernica
and the dibujos
madre con hijo muerto
and the one with horse,
his tongue like a dagger,

or when we went to Toledo
and told him about the winding streets
that belonged to el Greco,
how we got lost even with a map,
but found a little cerverceria and had a caƱa

or when we tried albondigas and drank wine
back at Cerverceria Alemana
where just days before we had all
sat outside,
our skin getting redder, our laughter getting louder
as Oscar grabbed the waiter and ordered another round.

Christ, I’m so sad, he says again, shaking his head.
I hug him and don’t want to let go.
This is goodbye.
Keep writing, he says, pointing at us,
before he walks through the gate
of the Biblioteca Nacional.
I watch him through the iron bars, his shoulders slumped,
his head down and think,
this can’t be it, this can’t be the end
before running down the sidewalk to the next gate,
and calling his name,
Oscar!
Oscar!
He looks up, a small sad smile,
Adios, I yell,
waving frantically,
because I don’t have any other words
Adios!
Adios!
because the ocean is about to stretch between us
Adios my friend.
Adios!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Literature

-for Aida

She asks me to say the word again,
watching the way my tongue touches
the back of my teeth and then the pucker of lips
the open sigh, then the kiss again.

Lit-er-a-ture.

It’s my favorite English word,
she tells me, tucking her hair behind her ear.

It is late in Madrid, but still
early enough for more drinks.
We are standing on the street corner
as her boyfriend rolls a cigarette
ducks his head down to light it.

I love that word, she says again
and I think how much I love the word
love when she says it, the heavy A sound
as if here, on this side of the ocean, love is stronger,
something that will take hold of you
and drag you down.

Yes, let’s go, her boyfriend says, his teeth holding down
the thin paper cigarette and we cross
the street, weaving our way through the warm night.
I reach back,
taking my husband’s hand in mine.

Overhead there is a plane,
and I try not to think of the people,
seated in the little seats,
reading or sleeping,
covered in red blankets, their heads tilted
to the side,
so high above us,
that we four, on this street,
are only fiction to them,
only temporary
because I want this night
and this week
and these stories we have shared to last
much longer than I know they will.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Being Alive

This right here,
this is
everything I know about being alive.

You stack dishes, like luggage,
you lock doors,
you lean against them,
push
push to make sure they are closed.

One day your friend will die,
and it will leave you sad and weary
with thousands of tears still inside.

One day you will realize you never
got what you wanted

or you will get it
and that could be worse.

This is everything I know about being alive.

You will walk through Monday to Tuesday
and then it will happen again.
You will dream – those long late night dreams where the egg is in your hands
and the ocean spreads before you separating you from the land and you wait
on this little raft knowing the water is safe but you don’t climb in.

You will fight and talk,
you will hold hands and remember the hand of the man
you held 20 years ago
and then you will stop thinking of that.
You will remember the days that passed
and then try to forget them.

If you are lucky you will see another country,
or create something.
And then you will sit in the chapel,
waiting, your hands together,
waiting. The casket up front will shine, just a little.

This is everything I know about being alive.
Tomorrow I’ll tell everything I know about living.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bloody Ocean

It comes in buckets.
It comes in rainfall
dotting the sidewalk.

It comes in the tide,
the blood in the ocean.

It comes out of the faucet,
the tap,
out of the drinking fountains.

Our fingers and faces,
and also
their fingers and faces
stained pink
and red, the color of the desert sky
the color of the sun setting
over this broken city,
the color of starvation and hate
the color of the blood on the cross
in every clapboard church
in this country
and every temple in that
and every mosque in theirs,

and here
now
again
dropping
one more body
into the ocean,

like
a stone
down
a well
that
has
no
bottom.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Turning Thirty Four

There is food in the pan,
simmering,
and the smell fills the house,
making my stomach growl.

I walk barefoot
one foot in front of the other
down the hardwood floors

from the kitchen
to the living room
with you

and we remove clothes,
my mouth finding yours
our palms
come together
and apart

and together again.

The soul
tells a story
that no one sees,
the tale of
these two people

over time stretched like an equation
carried from point A to point B

Point A when I was only twenty,
an abstract thing and now

thirty four

the skin freckling, the arch of the foot,
growing flat.

Two people

Yes, over time.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Book of the Dead

In my dream
the crocodile ate my heart,
right off the giant scale,
just like the Egyptians said he would.
I watched his scissor teeth,
jagged and miniature, thousands of them
slice through the meat of me,
his mouth filled with my blood.
He ate my heart and inside me, now
a beetle, it’s twitchy feathered limbs tickling my skin.

This was the bitter end.
The feather, the scale,
this was not going to hell,
in the Book of the Dead,
this was the vanishing.
No redemption, only the horror
of ceasing to be.

But this was all symbolic
as the Egyptians knew
and you know
and I know and I woke
with the steady thrumming in my chest,

and the knowledge of this:

Your life is happening again,
You shall emerge each day
and return each evening,
the sunlight on your chest
and later,
a lamp lit at night for your guide.
You will be told,
Welcome, welcome
to the house of the living.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Photograph

-they say young is good and old is fine and truth is cool
but all that matters is you have your good times.

-Seth Avett

I was shown a photograph recently
of myself when I was younger,

and you were in it too,
and I was shocked at first

seeing the vacant look in my eyes,
the slack mouth, the cigarette dangling between my fingers.

Who is that girl?

How could it be that we stood at that
place and said those things
and been those people?

But then I remembered that
was when I was young.
And being young is different,
leaner.
Things moved quicker
with a death-defying ease,
when you could run full tilt
straight off a rooftop
and land on the ground
one step,
two steps,
and shrug and walk away.

Now, older,
I am just thankful
for all the things I can’t remember
that I might have done,
or said,
or been,
back then,
all the things I’m not doing
or saying or being now
and I remind myself
while I tie my shoes and head outside
to not look at photographs anymore.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Summer Lake, Late Nineties

-for Maureen

It was not the trees or the light
or the sound of the leaves underfoot.

It was not the lake
or the moon or the joints we had smoked.

It was not the child’s swing set
or the giggle of girls when their bras were undone.

It was not the sound of sex
the hush and need of desperate release.

It was the simple conversation we had
of all the things we were going to do
and be before we even were anything.
It was the slow creak of the swings,
the hushed voice
or the occasional braying cackle
that split the night and betrayed our hiding spot
that let me know,
in a way you usually don’t ever get to know
that we were there,
in that moment,
and we were young
so very very young
even though we pretended we were old
so young that we could still hear the
steady thrumming of our hearts,
the shiver of bones that stretched
in skin tightened by the lake.
so horribly breakable young
that some of us will stay that way,
Too young to really realize that
this time was mercifully
not going to last.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Baseball

Last night we watched baseball,
after dinner,
a drink in our hands,
our mouths tired now,
from all the talking,
our minds tired now,
our souls, quiet, for now.

The grass on television looks ultra green
and the white of the uniforms
snap like clean laundry.
This is spring coming,
I tell myself, watching the fan on the floor whirl.

The window is open,
and the faint trace of smoke
and the slow steps of the old man
making his way up the street,
tell me again, this is spring.

There is a homerun and we cheer.
We talk about going to see some games this summer,
about maybe my old father and my old mother coming too.
We talk about Coney Island,
and you squeeze my hand as if to say,
yes we have survived this long winter.
Yes it is spring.

And I watch you watch the game
and think about how it is almost your birthday
and I’m so glad we had this year together.

One more year together.

And I turn back to the game and watch the pitcher
hurl the perfect final pitch
and paint the black like Picasso.

Friday, March 11, 2011

City

When I was a child,
back in that small town,
with crickets and bats
and all the other things that small towns have
I would wake at night

just to sit in the quiet of the living room.
I would worry about someone
or something, a snake maybe, being in the
basement, or the garage

but I would be too afraid to go see.

It’s like that now, too
watching myself roam
from room to room,
in this little apartment,

wondering how we fit
our whole life in here,
each day
without the walls bursting,
without the windows smashing
without the water
flooding into the street.
How have we not run out of air?
Packed on the buses and the trains,
I wonder still
how we can even stand to touch each other
even accidentally.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tiny Revolution

In the dream I had last night,
you appeared in the hallway of my old house.

We had not spoken in a year,
just as we have not spoken in a year
in this life.

And I was so thankful to see you.
Relieved, like when you can exhale
after holding your breath for too long.

And I told you that you should have
called and why didn’t you call

but you didn’t speak, as if there was some law against it.

And then later we pulled back my childhood bed,
moved it away from the wall
and there was a fire under it,

just a little smoldering thing,
hot coals like cherries
ready to pop

but also broken doll heads,
finger bones,
dead dogs,
broken glass jars
filled with dying plants,
rabbit fur
bent rusted nails
split wood,
Venus fly traps,
church pamphlets
seashells,
toy guns
a mason jar of dirty water
pens and paper and ink and paint
and hot wet melting crayons

and right then I knew it was a dream
and that in just a moment from now,
I will wake, and we will still be in the midst of this tiny revolution.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't Try

They keep trying,
one after another,
lining up like some lottery
to hand out bad news,
like a diagnosis of rotten blood
they want me to know they don’t care
about what I care about.
They don’t consider it.
The rest of the world,
they tell me,
doesn’t care either.
There’s no point in waiting,
they tell me, nothing is going to change

And that’s fine,

cause I’ve got a pocketful of rejections here
and a whole lot of time.
I’ve got some classical music on the radio
I’ve got a stack of library books,
paper and pens
a window to the past when the line
was easier to follow.
I’ve got stretched canvas and a scissor
to cut open eleven year old paints.
And that has always been all I have ever needed.
And sometimes not even that, sometimes I need less
sometimes just sleep
your arm around me
and sometimes,
sometimes
nothing
at
all.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Big Bad Wolf

We can hear the wind howling up the street
rattling our windows and doors
like the Big Bad Wolf come to life.

There are things we should do,
I know that. Things that need to be bought,
food, for one,
to fill the cabinets,
sick cats to care for.

There are great books to read,
writing to get done,
novels to finish or un-finish,
newspapers to read and discuss
journals to catch up on.

The wind is howling down our street,
rattling our windows and doors
like the Big Bad Wolf come to life.

But I’ve got a stack of movies,
Woody Allen mostly,
sitting here.
I’ve got a bottle of wine on the counter,
and another unopened.
I’ve got the classical station sailing out of the radio,
a nice number, Sibelius, I think.

The wind is howling down our street,
rattling our windows and doors
like the Big Bad Wolf come to life.

And I need new shoes,
boots that don’t leak in the snow that will come.
Presents for people,
bills to be written out and mailed
poems to be written down and lost,
wine to be had.
Books to be read, dog-eared, underlined,
quotes to be copies into journals,
genius to be found between the couch cushions.

The wind is howling down our street
rattling our windows and doors
like the Big Bad Wolf come to life,

and I hear you in the kitchen,
the drawer sliding open
the sound of the opener,
the pop of the synthetic cork.

You come back in with glasses in one hand
the bottle in another.
“Let it go, baby,” you say.
“We’ve got three days off.”

I think you are right.
So Sibelius and poetry and Woody Allen
and shopping and food, new boots
all of it will have to wait,
as we sit
quietly
my hand resting on your thigh
and listen
to the Big Bad Wolf blow
and blow
and blow.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bandaids

What age is it,
I ask him sitting at the bar,
my fingers ripping the paper open
and pulling out the bandaid,
sucking the blood off my finger,

What age is it, that you finally become
the kind of person who has bandaids there
and ready just in case you cut yourself?

Who are those people
and how do they pull it off?
I ask wrapping it around my bloody fingertip
and throwing the wrapper back in the shopping bag.

Who are these people? How do they manage?

People with kids, he offers.
And maybe that is true. Maybe once you have a child
you live in a space where anticipation is air and necessary.
You have to be ready for any little thing.

I have no bandaids at home.
When I slice my finger on your razor, I have no bandaids.
No Maalox on the shelf for stomach ache.
We must put on hats and coats and trudge out into the world
hot churning stomach and all.
No extra package of tin foil
when the current one runs out
mostly
but not completely covering the leftover pizza.

My life is fits and starts,
epileptic and sleepless, wrapped tight in the sheets.
I do not have any bandaids,
or an extra jar of sauce if we want to change up dinner.
I do not have napkin rings,
fresh arugula,
or extra pillows.
I do not have a spare bedroom,
or a variety of coffee,
candy or tea.
I do not have enough tissues.

But I do have all of Beethoven’s symphonies
as well as Dvorak’s. I have a new set of Proust,
and stacks of books on the floor
(because I do not have enough shelf space)
I have a box of oil paints,
3 beers in the fridge
a bottle of cheap scotch
and some empty canvases
which also,
catch blood, quite well.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Motherless

If you ever ask me about your mother
I’m not really sure what I can tell you.

Maybe the sound of her voice.
Or the way she tilted her head when she smiled.

I have some letters to show you.

That might be it.
Also you look just like her.

Your father can tell you about the pain.
About it coming in waves and her
bobbing on the surface, rising and falling
and still rising again. A thing adrift on an endless sea.

He can tell you about the late nights
and the pills lined up like soldiers,
and about how in the end,
he just wanted it to be over
even if over was death

and then it was,
and he went home
and you were only two
on the floor, wide eyed
already downy haired and motherless.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Because This Country Isn't Getting Better

I want to move to Manhattan,
to a big wide loft,
with a freight elevator.

and hear my steps echo over the floor
count them and it will take more than five
to cross the room.

I want to move to Manhattan
and care for the sick and the lame,
bring them armfuls of white and pink flowers

and clean up after them. Tell them, what
a nice day it is outside
and open windows.

I want to move to Manhattan,
and have a car so that I can
drive all the way up Riverside Drive
without hitting a single light.

I want to move to Manhattan
and meet friends in Central Park.
Or sit on the bench, alone, but happy.
I want my parents to come down and stay in the spare bedroom.

In the morning we could get coffee and bagels
at the shop on the corner and there will always be empty seats.

I want to move to Manhattan
so that when you are sitting with me
on the couch in Brooklyn

and you say, we should move to Manhattan,
it will already be done.
Then the loss will be over, the hard part,
we would have pulled it off, somehow, just keeping
our heads above water in this winter.
Really I just want to know how it ends.

I want to move to Manhattan. Or, even, Paris.
Yes Paris. That would work too.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saturday Morning

Tangled sheets,
which seem to take forever to get unwrapped,
and I feel you pull me,
like a toy,
like a young, light thing,
towards you
and I’m surprised we have slept so long
so late
in this bed,
that we have had now for years,
the way we have had each other for years,
and for so long and so late
and I never ever get tired
of finding your mouth
and how each kiss feels
so very much like the first,
all dizzy and lightheaded
my hair covering your face,
and love,
I never knew.
I wanted it to be true,
the things they say about what love could be like,
and it’s true,
oh it’s so true.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Two Girls

We spent so much time in that basement,
sitting in those bar stools,
playing grown up.

So much time, watching television,
sleeping over, kissing goodnight
she would slip closer to me, her arm draped down my leg
and we would lay like that all night
and never speak of it in the morning,

because in the morning we would talk about
the boys we loved who loved us back
with abandon. We called them and they came over,
all hot confidence and wet teeth.

Her parents were never home,
so we had all we needed,
cheese sandwiches from the fridge,
vodka boosted from behind the bar.

We can live like this, I thought,
and nothing will ever change.
I will keep my little red car parked in front of this house.
I will never go away to college
and leave you, I nearly whispered into her hair one night.
And your sister will never die and shatter your family
and shatter what was left of us.
We can stay like this, right now.
The way we are when we are young,
still growing together and apart,
the days stretching straight into the sun
with no end or sadness in sight.
I promise.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Spaces for Silence

It was as if we stumbled
back through a doorway into the past,
the wine bottle next to the bed,
our feet

and hands and head resting, finally.
The music playing next to us,
and you said,

We’ve been listening to this woman sing
for 13 years.
and I said, Yes. What a good small thing
I thought, to lie here, still, after all those years,

our heads against our pillows,
our elbows just occasionally touching,
as if to keep us tethered to the this moment in time
to each other.

Outside the snow might have fallen
or it might have not. We were incapable of leaving this
bed, our raft, our little pink heart, floating out to sea.

“Don said everything changes. He said it was the one thing you always knew,” you said.
You are remembering something that hasn’t happened yet,
replaying it in your mind.
In that second you can feel yourself changing, your bones chipping, your hair lengthening.

“Don’s right,” I said.
And then we don’t speak, the woman still sings
and we still believe in the integrity of words spoken but also
the spaces for silence.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Angela

I found your letter the other day,
stuffed in the box where we kept the wedding stuff
and old tax forms,
the things we group together,
the things that are deemed important and must not be lost.

There it was,
typed out like a little book of secrets.

It was old, from the first time I moved to this city,
when the streets were still too narrow
and the people too wide. When I felt each day
they were eating me alive.

Something had me in its mouth and was chewing.

You told me it’s okay to stop writing.
That it’s okay to stop taking ourselves so seriously.
You told me about the pure joy of domesticity,
a meal well made, a curtain sewn by hand.
You talked about the beauty of women’s work,
craft, and how we all had it wrong back in college
when we tried to be like men.
Tried to write the way men write.

I read your letter twice.
Then I stood at the window,
watching the snow coming down again and I cried
because you left and I never knew why.
Because the space you occupied was real inside me
and since then nothing has ever felt real again.

And it’s stayed that way,
when I see my friends now, I watch them talk and think
someday they will leave too. Like you did. They will just be gone.

We stood together in the woods, by the river when
you were married,
and I read your vows, helped to usher you into this strange new life,
not realizing that when you walked through that gate,
you wouldn’t come back.

Not fully. Not to me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How the Family Happened

There is no What Happened?
Like a question.
There is only Happened.
Like a series of facts.

It went like this:
There was a woman and a man
who became a mother and a father.
And then they weren’t.
Just like that.

And they had a girl who
was a daughter and then she wasn’t.

The not mother went away
and the not father went away
and the not daughter waited and waited.

This is the past and everything there is still
and two dimensional. It cannot change its stillness.
There will always be leaves on the trees
because this is July. These people are not people
they are pictures of people. Small cardboard cutouts
that no matter what they do they always follow the same path.
They cannot change it. That is the past.
For instance,
there will always be the not father getting into the car to leave.

And there will always be the moment
after the birth
when the girl who is not a daughter is taken from the hands
of the woman who is now, rendered, not a mother
with her not a mother milk in her breasts.
Later, not much but still, later
the man and the woman
who are no longer father and mother
will come back together to be husband and wife

and that is what the girl who is now
someone else’s daughter
will never forget.

They moved on,
together
without her.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pen Pal

I think you have a pen pal, he says,
when I get back in from the cold.
McCartney still singing through my headphones.

And he holds up the letter.
Another little card.

She tells me she plays flute too. Not just piano.
And about all the snow they got in Connecticut.
She thinks being a librarian is the coolest.
She tells me when her birthday is, as if I didn’t know.

I read it twice. Then I give it to my husband to read.
For a second I wonder if I’ll ever see her
before I remember the fine act of patience
my hopes like stones I have been laying each day
a path back to the sea
and how long it took to get here
these long ten years.
This time I don’t think about the dead,
except that I was close to her age when I got my first letter from her mother.
I still have it, that awkward introduction.
No, today is not for the dead, instead I think about the living girl

in her house, which I have never seen.
I picture her up in her room,
her posters,
her swimming medals,
the things she keeps on her dresser,
nail polish, the case for her glasses,
maybe a picture of her dog that died,
the drawer she keeps these cards in,
if she leaves her clothes on the floor like I still do,
her voice, high and clear, when she yells, “Coming”
because her parents called
and dinner is on the table.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wake

The dead do not occupy the space of our kid fears.
They are not in the dark woods,
or the abandoned house.
They are not in the murky and inky sea.

They do no leave us on battlefields,
or street corners
or on beaches.

That is where the living are.
The dead,
leave us in clean places.
Neatly stitched lines of tiny flowers
on the stiff fabric of couches
and the cool metal of hardback chairs.

They are here in this room where the air is pumped in,
under the slick shine of a casket reflecting soft light.
In the plush perfectly vacuumed carpeting.
Neat lines.
No lint.
Hushed voices.

The dead become another object in this room.

It is here that you feel the heat of your own skin
flushed and pumping,
the quiver of the heart in that stillness.
It is now that you feel the nerve of your existence
against all these unsoiled lines.

It is in these sanitary starched places that the dead,
pass through that gate and leave us
and we sit, stupidly
and we watch
and we wait.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Car Accident, 1995

Yes there was the scraping of metal
against asphalt
and the heavy low thunk of the Ford
lilting and tipping no longer bound to gravity
and then dropping with the combined weight
of all of our teenage futures,
but in stories I make it sound like it took so long

when in fact, it didn’t.
The car was turned over in a fraction of a second,
sooner than any of us even had time to think about

and in reality I turned my head
to see my first love,
twisted and hanging,
limp against his seatbelt
his long hair over his face,

unmoving.

and I thought how young he looked.
How young we all are.
How young and bent and over.

Then I crawled on all fours out the busted window
like a sinner
away from the wreckage before anyone could speak.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Walking to the Lake

You said there was a giant tortoise in the lake at the bottom of the hill
and when we walked down there I use to peer over your head

just to see if I could see something
anything that might be close to what you said you saw.

I waited to see the round mottled shell crest the water,
like a prehistoric thing from another time. I wanted it so badly.

How was it you got to see? Always you.

Our mothers wrung their hands
watch the road, they said, their voices high and tight.

Other children had been killed there, on that
slick wet pavement down by the lake.

We stole someone’s boat. I know that now, but then
it belonged to us, to everyone in fact. We just chose to take it.

The oars dipping into the water, the boat turning round and round,
my eyes desperate to see a fin, a hooked beak, to find the creature.

Instead, we will find your dead dog on that same stretch.
After that, my father will be pulled over,

troubled by the cop for his accent, accused of drinking.
He will speak softly and politely, eyes wet and averted.

I will not see the turtle, not when I got my license,
nor on my wedding day,
nor on the way home from your father’s funeral.

But I will keep looking, even after we have separated,
like kids do, racing home, in the last seconds of light,
not looking back. Not once.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Real, right now

The size of the kitchen grows and shrinks
attempting to fit us,
and all our new expectations.

I want to cook together,
you told me,
after an argument.
It was supposed to be a way to find
each other
after thirteen years.
I want to cook together, you said. Something new.
At first I was surprised,

and then I thought about the home,
how sad it could be,
carved by the hands of the last to leave,
the dust on the floorboards,
the books not put away,
the bed unmade,
space unoccupied.

And I understood the need to make something,
to be in this room,
the gentle tap of the knife on the cutting board,
the hiss from the oven when the sauce
boils over onto the coils.
The music of making,
a dance of making.
This could be the beginning of happiness.

To create, in each space,
and then to fill that space,
with flowers and books
the newspaper left on the floor.
objects to prove I am there,
I am still alive for now,
in this moment and it might all work out.
My disappointment shifted towards the dark.
Hope like a switch I can flick
late at night,
moving from room to room
and know it is all real.
Right now. If nothing else, there was this life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Art of Letter Writing

There is still letter writing.
There is still the moment he enters the room,
his hand behind his back and says, “I’ve got something for you,”
a wide, nearly giddy, smile on his face,
and he gives it to me,
and I want to devour it,
her wide young script,
still so young,
and the stamp,
the seal of the envelope,
the way the paper splits,
around her return address
the card,
the smudged ink of her thank you,
her hope to see me sometime.

There is nothing like this.
And there is no way to talk about
how I know her, how I knew her mother,
but there is still this artifact,
that I tuck in my drawer, with the others

and think, immediacy is overrated.
Nothing beats waiting for it,
opening the tiny door of my mailbox,
like a door into her world,
and seeing that letter laying there.
Waiting after its long journey from her home to mine.

We haven’t lost that yet
in this world that we are changing too fast.
Soon maybe, in my lifetime,
but not yet,
like a piano solo, the soft depression
and release of keys,
the pen to paper,
the journey,
the proof.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pillow Talk

He’s telling me about his grandparents,
the ones on Denny Street in Lawrenceville,
how he used to go over there all the time
and how close he was to his grandmother.

I know this. I’ve heard and seen it. Seen it
on the mornings of the anniversary of her death and birth.
But watching him here, now,
laying in bed, over wine, after sex,

I think that it must be nice.
It must be nice to be able to stir up that emotion.

I think of my grandfather,
who died when I was six.

Things I remember:
his smell.
Now, I know it was beer, but then it was
just the scent of the only other man that came to our house.
That he ate mayonnaise sandwiches
and my mother wouldn’t let me have one

and that he wasn’t going to see my kindergarten music show,
so I sat on the floor of my kitchen,
drumsticks in hand
and I sang at the top of my lungs, about Indians and the Old West,
and I did the pussywillow rhyme,
and beat the sticks in rhythm on the
cheap linoleum of my parents kitchen,
knowing it sounded better with the whole class on the hardwood of the stage.

There will be the things I find out after,
the cruelties that family can do to each other,
his sickness,

but that is not the same, that is someone else’s telling.
These few moments,
these are the things that belong to me.
It was 1982. And he would be dead by the following year,
and this will be all that I carry after that.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sort of Easy to Die

In the day to day, it seems harder
but out here, on the endless highway
that no one has plowed

miles still from home,
it seems sort of easy to die.

I watch the speedometer and then the cars
in the other lane slide into the guardrail.
I think about speed.

Just hours before we had been up in New Hampshire
for the holidays but one by one we all left.
We were last. Your brother kept talking out loud about the storm.

Now in this small space we are talking softly,
about water, which we didn’t have
and speed, we struggled to control
and snowdrifts that refused to move.
I tell you that we’ll be okay as long as there are no hills.

and I’m thinking this blizzard might be real after all.

When we get home, I will thank you for not killing us,
and we will laugh,
exhausted on the couch,
our hands still trembling from the clutching,
our hair still beaded with sweat,
the car outside an umoving thing,
rocking against the wind and snow that barrels up the street,
demanding to be heard.