They haven't stopped running
their hands through the grass,
springing the doors and windows
open, pinning feathers and bird-
talons to the rafters like bunting. This too,
we've been told, is the language
of their love. In the midst of fevered sleep,
I hear them discuss the geometry
of natural disasters, how we who don't
claim immortality can only see
the blade edge of a storm as it bears down,
and not the remote majesty of its eye
whirling in darkness. They haven't stopped
beguiling me with the stippled language
of light on water, the bronze backs of oxen
bowing beneath the unbearable
softness of sunsets. I can't always tell
whether they've thrown me into
the maw of a magnificent desolation,
or a quicksand of joy which I fear
will drown me before I can churn
its currents into a talisman. before
I fulfill another impossible task to make me
good again, free of debt, in their sight.
Like a wake, but no one has come
to sing karaoke, play pusoy dos or
mah jong, drink rum and warm
coke. No flowers with funerary
smells in the living room, no
curling satin ribbons, names
inked in permanent marker—they
are not the only things that bleed.
There are no votives or pictures
in frames on a mantel strewn
with White Rabbit candies, shiny
tangerines, saucers of food offerings.
But there are things that, when they go
from your life, feel like a death, a mourning.
Long road of grieving, no headstone in sight.
Late spring, bordering on summer.
Bunnies at twilight come to eat the clover.
They have no fear as long as we are
behind glass, though the blinds are open.
Down the road, people are walking
their dogs and children run ahead in that
way that leaves their voices behind.
We pluck the darkest red berries
from the tree in the schoolyard: saskatoon,
shadbush, wild-plum, shadblow; otherwise
known as serviceberry—herald announcing
when shad swam up coastal rivers in spring.
And in an older tongue, blow could mean
in a state of blossoming, also during that
time of year when the soil had softened
enough after a hard winter so bodies
could be laid in the ground. Traveling
preachers held a service under the trees,
while birds filled themselves with sugar.
The child struggling to name big
feelings has been heard to cry
when he is sad, Make me happy.
What makes him sad? A small
turn in some expectation, or a more
momentous change: moving houses,
his school closing for the summer,
familiar routines supplanted by new.
We all want to feel we've not been
abandoned—that the one we love
has merely stepped into another room
to brush her teeth or take a shower,
put the breakfast plates into the dish-
washer. How does one learn to forgive
happiness like a paper airplane, crisply
folded, that lofts but holds only seconds
in the air? How is even just a momentary
sadness a revolving door? Stuck
in the middle, we panic at the thought
of glass panels closing in, while
everyone else who's passed through
goes on with the rest of the day.
Like the English A, alpha is the first
letter in the Greek alphabet; and omega,
the last. When I was ten, under a blanket
and armed with a flashlight, I devoured
those baroque prophecies of apocalypse
in the Book of Revelation. They were
so cinematic; somehow un-Biblical, dense
with special effects and angels blasting
trumpets that rained down fire upon
the earth, thunder, lightning, earthquakes.
A star falls into an abyss, loosing a tribe
of locusts with human faces and lions'
teeth. Wars and dragons, the old
heaven and earth and multitudes
scorched by fire or pestilence.
What remains at the end is the infinite
that always was, and always will be—
forbidding vision of a future inscrutable
as fate, terrifying as nightmare.
were never one to believe
that anything marked
The End is truly an ending
— always, something interrupts
a line or repairs the breaks
the surface of the lake
and a lattice of echoes
reorganizes the sunlight
When flying, it's possible to carry
the cremated remains of a loved one
in a TSA-approved urn that can be x-rayed.
Usually it can't be checked in with the rest
of your luggage. Some companies advertise
that you can send them miniscule amounts
of the cremains, which they'll turn into
cloudy lockets tinted like amethyst or
polished like pearl. You can simply
put them into a pouch with the rest
of your jewelry—more precious now
than any resin or silver statement
necklace. Why not just keep
snippets of hair like the Victorians did,
my husband asks— to the end, wary
of rules, penalties, the red tape of forms. Or
consider a record company which will press,
for a fee, your ashes into a vinyl album. Moving
over those places in the grooves, sometimes
the needle will jump and make static, crackling
sounds: your voice from the beyond, or simply
the sound of matter (your own), poured
into a sheet of PVC which could take
a thousand years or more to decompose.
I think it was the teething— molars
erupting through the gum that wracked
the first two of my daughters with such
new pain, they refused food or milk or water.
After the seizures, the doctor concurred: likely,
dehydration, followed by momentary chemical
imbalance. Then the transient, excessive firing
of neurons in the brain. Months of fearful testing,
every little twitch and blanket-kick in the crib
constricting my throat and sealing my tongue
in the tomb of my mouth. Decades later, considering
the wonder of them from this space, I recall the first
tremors and my helplessness; and light pouring in
the windows, charged with its own electricity.
When I looked into your eyes
after you arrived, I saw galaxies.
I saw the eternity of indigo waters
through which we were all somehow
pulled in our own time; through which
we all magnetically traveled, pushed
or pushing toward that wound of a door.
I saw that timelessness which doesn't
keep to one name, its old-young face
wrinkled and wizened as if already
spackled with a biography of years.
We held out our arms to receive
you. We trembled from the joy
and terror of what we pledged.
We drop it into every pot of stew,
scatter it like a fine mist on a mound
of rice as it fries. Its chrism touches
our foreheads and grazes our lips,
before our mothers run out the church
doors to secure our berths in that cloudy
kingdom beyond this one. When we cry,
its crystals trace a path down our cheeks.
Whoever comes to love us will taste
that flavor on our shoulders, in the sweat
bronzing the hidden clefts, the flame
warming the pulse at each wrist.
Meat or fish roasted in the fire keeps
whole beneath a packed, hard crust.
Break it with your fingers to remember
rivers, to find what's been made tender.