12 I am in love with the color of hydrangeas—blue on blue, blue on purple; purple on white, along with the scent of gardenias just before they brown at the edges like books left too long in the sun. Sandpipers leave hieroglyphs on mud flats. Silk from golden orb spiders wrap around a body like steel. I can profess such love for things regarded as mostly inconsequential. I can grieve both the rising tide and houses collapsing in slow motion along the coast. How fortunate to believe in small annotations that might still make it possible to inhabit a different kind of importance in the world—
11 You wrote or read a thing that bent you, bowed you. To fix—with a slab of wood the teeter or tilt of a desk, a cabinet, a refrigerator. To stare. To match you up with someone parents think is suitable. Little sibilant, little plosive. To finish. To finish you for good? To fix—to mend a seam, encircle or darn with bright orange yarn. Lie down, they say. But one doesn’t make or unmake alone. You are untutored in XML or other kinds of code. Do you have a chance at the future? When a student gets it, sometimes they all but jump up and clap their hands.
10 We brought food and flowers to the new neighbor. She said she was so happy to have found someone who looked like her, here in these quiet streets, leaf- spattered, drenched with pink and white crinkled blooms. We laughed, comparing how our tongues slid over the name of the city, where to voice or glide the fricative, when to energize the sonorant. At the naval station, 14 piers and 11 aircraft hangars; carrier strike groups, submarines making up the Atlantic Fleet. Wind moving through the trees sometimes makes a liquid sound, as though a school of unseen fish is making its way toward the bay. Everything’s a history lesson, a document leaning slightly against the stones, the furniture. Even the rice cooker in our kitchens: what brands our mothers will or will not buy because some are made in a country that went to war with them.
9 The Lessons: duty before desire, the self consigned to the rear of every undertaking, except in service to others. Follow me, said the mayor. Follow me, said the governor. Follow me, said the congressman. Histories of compliance turn memory into amnesia or repetition. Dictators thrive: no one remembers when or how.
8 What I didn’t know then and what I know now can be summed up by the same question: aren’t we all born of some catastrophe authored by other bodies? What did we have to lose but our early sense of self.
7 Tumult of deployments: where a life takes you. In the city, she could be woman instead of girl. Already she knew beauty as danger; wary but growing expert at what it meant. Amid the clatter of cocktail glasses, he stumbled toward her, his desire and its curved arrows. Did she smooth her pencil skirt, arch her eyebrow higher? I am still learning about my own capacities.
6 Whoever her consort was that night (it was in the old days before pronouns) was feathered by her, or flowered. In any case she was the hourglass, narrow waisted, through which grains suddenly gathered their small torrent: one end provincial, her father’s farm. At the other, a future possibly enhanced, perhaps even exciting.
5 There was a photograph from my mother’s high school prom: one row of girls in pastel dresses, frothy as flowers. A second row of them dressed in shirts of sheer pineapple fabric and dark trousers, hair pomade-slicked like gallants. Perhaps some felt born to play the part. But that part of the reel is broken or scissored out, or was never meant to see the light.
4 Or the mouth keeps opening in sleep, dreaming of bats with indigo wings opening and closing, closing and opening with the uncertainty of miniature parasols.
3 The tonic of raw egg beaten in warm milk and sugar hasn’t helped if one keeps revisiting the scenes of old wounds and dreaming about them.