Kissing-kissing, she said; pah!
What will it get you? Ruin.
She wasn’t the first
to warn of such perils.
Another asked, What difference
is there between a mouth
and a snail? I shrugged,
thinking of other things:
the changeling moon, the eyes
on the wings of a moth
tuned to whatever strobe
light rudders the dark.
What kind of poverty is amplified by stacks of moving boxes?
Somewhere in the depths of one there is a pile of unpaired socks, a spoon without its fork, a book whose frontispiece is missing.
In the grooves of the madeleine pan, a memory that sticks and will never come off.
Are the simplest things the best? In her mind, she subtracts one piece of furniture after another.
He has a turkey sandwich on wheat every single day. She can’t. She needs to mix things up, so her taste buds remember the yellow of pineapples, the bright bitter green of kale.
Where posters were once held to the wall with little bits of putty, now there are oil spots darker than the paint.
Once, as she stood in front of a shop window, the blur of a passing truck wrote letters in reverse on her forehead.
In response to Via Negativa: That lost gesture.
that gave of its leaves, bountiful
though tinted antique green, dull
as verdigris. In the morning,
she explained: these must mean
greenbacks, crisp bills that guests
would pin on the skirts of the wedding
dress she was sewing for me. I knew
it wasn’t really mine, but each time
she made trousseaus for the town’s
fairer daughters I wondered
if she was practicing too for me.
Drawing and measuring, she pinned
the fabric down to the tissue shape
of shoulders, placing her palm flat
in the rigid valley above the heart.
And yes in time I married, even
carried flowers in my arms. But I never
danced around that maypole of a tree.
“what cheating rogues we are
already married to time…” ~ D. Bonta
When it rains two days without cease
moats grow in the small plots
between our houses.
It takes time for the water to find
its way back beneath ground or
downhill through channels.
Even faraway thunder
fills a small space
in our hearing.
Some arrivals depart
as soon as they pull in.
Some burrow deeper, carving
a kind of niche.
The medicine cabinet hides
its small army of orange pill
containers. When I go through
rooms to clean, I look at the dates
to see which ones I can throw away.
In response to Via Negativa: Your cheatin' heart.
Such a homely thing
you are, they’d said to her—
Decades now since
those summer visits from great
aunts and other ruthless
relatives. Now only the wind’s
voice roams in the long
gallery of years.
In response to Via Negativa: Emptying.
The last time I visited, you took
from the folds of your purse, from a knotted-
up square of linen your earrings, your ring,
your necklace with thin hammered links. You poured
these into my hands, saying only Take them,
take them, wear them when you teach, when you
go to do battle with the day. The pearl on the ring
glowed bluish silver, like the eye of a god
that knows more than we do but keeps it all
to himself. Tiny crystal chips trace the edge
of each hoop I’ll fix on my ears: they’ll remind
me of you, remind me of me when I forget
the grammar of my name. I rush disheveled
through stairwells and doors, drinking
my coffee on the run. I snag my sweaters
on the afternoon’s light. When bees stumble
back to cluster in the hive and leaves
ring down on the pond, I’ll give each stone
that glistens with rain your name. I’ll teach
myself to grow still in the cloth of my skin.
In response to Via Negativa: Taking attendance.
was I supposed to take
in the middle of their arguments;
or later, those times I learned
I could test the edge of my
own voice against theirs?
I could hardly bear to watch
their hysterics— my mother
collapsing on the floor
and wailing that he loved
his mother more; my father
mumbling something about women
with two mouths, then clutching
his chest as he exited out the door—
When I think about these now,
the details blur and crease
except for a few things
still life-like from that stage:
long-handled butter knife
that sailed to the floor, shrill
outline of the coffeepot
boiling away on the stove.
In response to Via Negativa: Fool the eye.
In the crawl space under the roof,
a taped-up box with the last
DVD player we bought. In the deep
recesses of a kitchen cabinet,
a crock pot with one wobbly leg.
Now whenever I can, I gather up
the bits and pieces of our life
so far— So much that fills
to overflowing clear plastic
and cardboard boxes. Oh!
I must have said once, lifting
a bowl of polished wood, a clever
piece of crystal, a trinket
from a shelf. Now I want
the silence of empty spaces
to sing back to me.
In response to Via Negativa: Fitness.
I read the books and faithfully did
the breathing exercises, memorizing
a different rhythm of hold-and-release
to counter anticipated waves of pain.
But when the sheet beneath me swelled
with damp, and the smell of something
like the sea woke me at dawn,
I did not immediately connect it
to what happens when the body
begins to enter labor. So I rose
in the dark and groped in the kitchen
for a bucket and the handle of the mop,
wanting only to make sure I could dry
the embarrassing pools I’d left
behind in my wake. That’s how
they found me, worrying
about the floor, worrying
about what I thought to be my
incontinence— just as my first
child made her way into the world.
A house sparrow touched down
on the corner of the roof.
Ordinary brown, leaflet of no
great importance, bringing no news
to the heartland or the outside world.
Inside my car, engine idling,
I listened to an interview
with the young imam
from the mosque in Iowa.
What is this confusing
intensity to our days,
he said. I want only
for my two daughters
an ordinary life,
a happy life, one
in which they shouldn’t
have to defend themselves
or what they might believe.
In response to Via Negativa: Among royals.