Suddenly the leaves change, and I am ancient and a child
all at once, grasping their fiery, brittle bodies
between my fingers too tightly until they crumble.
Everything that ever has been or ever will be
laid to waste in my hands.
Do you remember last October
(or any October, all of them),
when we sat underneath a full moon and you
(or anyone—you could have been anyone)
told me it would be like this forever?
Like a child, I believed you. Like an old saint,
I knew I would love you even if you were lying.
And so I chose to believe you, like a child.
Everything that has been or ever will be
sits incarnate on the brim of the chill of the air,
so fragile, so impenetrable—a phantom,
and yet it hangs there, eternal.
I will spend all my Octobers believing you.
A checkered powder blue dress on Sunday morning—Easter
Red, the color of a leaf in autumn, tied up with a matching ribbon
Little white shoes cradled on small feet, not quite touching
the carpet under the wooden pew
Notes of a piano began, my feet swinging
and swaying inches above the ground,
Back—What can wash away my sin?
Up, Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Back, What can make me whole again?
Up, Nothing but the blood of Jesus
The music carried me on its wings
Pure white curling around me,
Tickling my cheeks with silk feather tips
I fall into them and let myself soar
I sit here staring at her because I am afraid to say the words that will prove to her that I am fully alive. Why must we move through life with such formalities? We are catching up over coffee, using other people’s words to talk circles around each other so that our conversation holds a kind of pathetic absurdity. I want to say I like the way the tenderness shines through your eyes and the syntax of your sentences; I like the way your frame moves when you walk so much that I wish I could fall into perfect step with it and feel it as my own. I say, “It’s good to see you,” but what I mean is that the shape and sound of her voice feel something like a weighty summer breeze, and when I’m with her I can’t help but to pay extra attention to what it means that blood is coursing through my veins. “How are you?” But what I am really wondering is if she feels this, too: does her body somehow also house an incompressible galaxy that feels all at once like an unending expanse of sky and a dark, empty room in which you can’t see your own hand in front of your face? And if it does — I want to believe that it does — why are we behaving this way? Why aren’t we planting fields of wildflowers just so we can lie in them, or holding each other constantly, or singing, loudly and without fear, because our voices and every other part of us may as well belong to each other anyway? Her hands mirror mine as we reach for our cups. Knuckles brush. “Oops,” she says.
Clouds have never moved
more quickly than here
under the blaze.
A child’s laugh has never fallen
on softer ears than mine, now.
I watch her spoon pasta,
painting red her lace bib.
The water never cooler,
as condensation on a glass
of spiked lemonade.
Stone never felt refreshing
on bare feet, as here in this city.
And I miss you.
Your hands were rough,
But they made sturdy dreamcatchers,
pointing out shapes in the clouds.
I imagine the father you would have made,
better than mine, I now know.
But I didn’t want two girls and a boy,
even if I could’ve given them to you.
Our martini nights so quickly turned
sour, like the salted limes on glass,
It’s funny how we called it passion.
To write poetry is to keep watch
over your dwelling in a dark forest:
It isn’t often that some creature
catches your eye — most nights pass
without as much as a rustling in the trees.
But when it does, it grabs you, wrestles
you to the ground, and demands something of you.
Sometimes a few pennies, sometimes a warm meal,
and sometimes, it seems, your very life.
Sometimes it is the angel, holding you
by the hip, tenderly but with a strong grip,
and it is your great privilege to hold it tightly
and whisper sharply between your teeth,
I will not let go until you bless me.
And only when this scrappy bandit
of a creature is speaking the words over you
as you hold a knife to its throat
do you realize, as the morning sun
is finding its way through the trees,
that you are staring yourself in the face.
The summer before college
my mother invited me to her house for tea,
but I know she only drinks whiskey.
My tires hit the gravel,
sliding down the narrow driveway,
the whirlpool in my stomach spinning,
something more than tea is waiting.
I turn my key in the doorknob,
surprised it still fits.
I call her name;
I haven’t said “mom” since the day I left.
Silence echoes back,
but I know where she’ll be.
I step onto the back porch
and there a cigarette floats
circling fumes escaping its head.
At first, I think,
nothing has changed
but my eyes travel down,
her growing belly,
stretching out from her blouse,
contrasting the rest of her slim frame.
“She’s the size of an avocado.”
I watch a ring of smoke.
“I’m due in February.”
I remain frozen, entranced.
“She’ll be named after your grandmother.”
Her eyes beg for some response.
All I can see is the cigarette.
Another child born with lungs of ash
She draws another breath.