on every skin that envelopes the body—
Dress, touch, glance; brief kiss
that nicks at the hinge or join;
welt fine as lace or flushed
as copper in the fire.
“… dusty fields. A white sun above. All this road, going.” ~ Dorothee Lang
The line is a thread. The thread is a piece in a weft of fabric. The thread pushed forward and back by the bobbin, from a pin, from an implement that pushes the furrows and turns the field into rows and rows. Today I listened to the radio story on two sisters, factory pieceworkers in Bangladesh. How the older one was married off to a man chosen by her parents because they thought he would be able to provide. The reporter said she didn’t laugh anymore. She is maybe 23, has a daughter, 7 years old, cared for by others in the village. But she talks about not wanting to visit the family home because she is angry at her parents who have ruined her life. The reporter says I am sorry, I made you cry. The younger sister did not have to do the same thing— by the time she hit her teens, there was one other choice besides arranged marriage: go to work in the factory. I see in my mind’s eye hundreds of girls like her, thousands, washing in the commons behind the building, twisting their damp hair into knots. Think of shadows in the alleys interrupted by the fluttering flags of laundry hanging from tenement windows. The soot on the walls from their kerosene lamps, the meal they will share, sitting on their haunches on the floor. A curtain doubles as a door, doubles as a wall, a screen. But there is a TV. And a cellphone. They talk about how they make T-shirts: what stitches, what seams, how the collar must come to a point at the bottom of the V. Endless days like these. Like a road they hope will take them somewhere better. Every now and then a torn fingernail, close brush with the needle and the cutter. One of the girls thinks with a start of the thousand bodies folded and crushed, thin as cloth beneath stone. She was only thinking of the rhinestone earrings she bought at the market stall, of wearing it on the next free day, an outing at the coast.
Dark heap on the snow where a squirrel husked a walnut.
Scent of Pine-sol lingering in rooms not yet filled.
Half a pair of chopsticks hidden in the knife drawer.
Garden rake on a store shelf of soil cultivators.
Vent hole beneath the eaves through which the house might breathe.
do not be disheartened by the appearance
of yet another detour: that there is road work
suggests this path has not been abandoned yet,
or that it is time to look more closely
at the establishments that line this section
of the map— Not everyone perhaps is an hija
de puta, a heartless bruja, a bitch only waiting
to trip you up or put you in what she assumes
is your place. So she was born with a silver
spoon in her mouth, a blingety-bling in her nose
ring, her father’s stocks to cover her precious
behind? Ya qué? Remember what your grand-
father used to say about their kind: just close
your eyes and think about all the ugly and unkind,
all the beautiful, snooty ones who live in their cold,
drafty mansions with no one to love, no one who loves
them back except for the miserly crumb of a saltine
cracker beside their bag of tea; and think about
how everyone on this earth is reduced to that common
denominator of skin beneath these artificial layers,
how the fat around the waist dimples then folds
as the body strains on the pot to expel its daily
load of crap— Take a look around and see who else
is on this pilgrimage: you’d be surprised at how many
are inching along, making clearings, hefting their dollar-
store supplies, their thrift store finds, their non-
designer bags filled with an assortment of viable dreams.
In the night, yellow
bloom of a witch hazel
in the architecture
I can see you,
your furled banners,
of startling gold,
the city streets
of the usual traffic;
the heart its own
into open space.
I tried to teach the children
about prayer, that discourse
similar to poetry: except I too
find it often difficult to make
my way to that door cloaked
in the rotten hedges, its wood
smelling faintly of apples,
its many branching tunnels leading
back and back to the stumbling self—
don’t stand uncertain in the cold dry field
looking up at gathering rainclouds where the wind
could untie your snood or ruffle your wattle. Don’t
open your mouth and drown in the rain. Don’t streak
the black, hairlike feathers on your breast with tears
or thickened gravy, don’t get so worked up to change
the colors on your head— Don’t worry about what
might be moving in the bushes, closing in from
a hundred yards away— You had ten million years
to get to this moment, you might as well go out
in a beaded flapper dress, doing the turkey trot.
Don’t watch anything except in high definition
color, because at night everything turns black.
And when you go to bed in the trees, don’t
startle at the first plaintive call, don’t
have a random heart attack; don’t let any
little thing keep you from clicking.