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
but no longer watching a million versions
of my movement.

I watched it in its stillness
the way you watch a painting
not the way you watch the television

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

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?
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


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
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.