This month of your birth
has crept in upon me again,
slipped over the window sill
and into the corner of my room
where a perfect square of moonlight
seems to have up taken residence
and, outside, where the birds,
a whole choir of them, whose names
you never bothered to learn even when
mother recited them over and over again
as she pointed to the secret places
she thought they were hiding
under eaves or in the tangled branches,
are singing their hearts out
as she would always say then
and where now the boisterous cicadas
are joining in that twilight overture
This month of your birth
One can never prepare enough
For such surprise visits as this
One that must have flown in
Through a window left open
By mother, or was it me
Or by both our common longing
To see the ones that we missed
At such a time so punctured
By distance and an unquiet kind of silence
Which weighs more than all the burdens
That keep us keeping our lives and loves
She’s tethered to me, I’m lashed to you,
you’re snapped onto him, and he’s
gone, all gone.
I suppose we’re all goners
in the Let’s-Make-An-Us game,
no longer able to start a match anew,
toting our baggage along—
or unreal ideals that we steal
from the stories we hear.
The need to pair starts at the atom.
We’re just adhering to nature—
free-radical reactions taking what we need
from what we next rub up against,
You never know people
till they die
you gingerly page
through their privacy
Those fresh, fateful photos:
mothers in mauve miniskirts,
fathers frying hash browns, wearing floppy hats
After there is nothing at stake,
you find out all that you could have given
you are a small thing—
a slight appendage to the astonishments of the universe.
But to me
your slender, silent testimony,
your sheltered winter sap
sticky with promise, your fullness:
they seduce me.
I want to share
your slow, secluded breathing,
breath in my breath;
to search, to caress
your leaf scars,
your lenticels, your shy buds
I once positioned my outpost on earth –
at the time, within earshot of owls
and a lake’s short waves –
to be the center of all communication
beaming in from everywhere, out
to all the warped, rounded corners
of this universe. I was hoping
to fool that alien sense
I imagined as native to many,
that I was actually practically cut off
from the prime gist of being alive.
The woodchuck’s paw prints led to the hole under
our house in Maine. We saw him sometimes
in summer: a bowling ball of brown fur, rolling
across the backyard, grown fat on our flowers.
He ate the heads off the orange poppies,
then lay on his back as if having opium dreams.
At first, I hated him as I hated his cousins,
the fat squirrels who swung from the bird feeder,
gobbling seeds meant for the chickadees. Yet,
after a few years, I grew fond of our woodchuck,
imagined him as a character in a children’s book;
an elderly bachelor in a waistcoat.
The moon is a scrap of paper in a leftover sky.
Trees drip the dawn in a lachrymose morning.
Little winged seeds stagger, wind-driven,
as the last of love disappears.
Crisis lowers itself on its belly.
Vineyards are burning. Children
are dazed with hunger. Tragedy
waltzes in, turns into tango.
Clutching threadbare sweaters,
the populace huddles indoors.
They eat the last of the rice for dinner.
The sun never rose today,
and the voices of the crickets are stilled.
Fortitude and forgiveness are tested equally.
Skin, breath and heartbeat drop away
as the landlords arrive for the rent.
The world outside had turned into a forest. She had not been out in weeks and had not known, but she was running out of all food, so she tied a camo tank top over her face and stepped out. It was quiet. She walked down the stairs and outside and into it: tall trees stepping into the sky, moss beginning patchily on the street like an early beard, small red beetles, decaying logs, mud and unknown puddles of water. The supermarket was a hothouse, flowers lining the shelves. There was a purple flower that she thought had risen up from the inside of the earth, exposing the inner, shivery part of earth, the fullest and most muscled part. She held out a hand to pick it but pulled back. She went home again to open all the windows, in case the flowers would grow in themselves, perhaps winding around the radiators, up the walls, the curtain rods, nesting in the cool dank space under the sofa and behind the refrigerator. She locked the door behind her so that they would stay inside, maybe, so the secret would not overflow into other apartments, though it was all over the world. She put her keys in her jacket pocket and left.Read more "Green at the End"
In a small clay pot,
glimmer of leaf
light from my bed-
I twist-tie the mother
to a toothpick
the daughter at her foot,
a miniature version
of her miniature self,
the succulent I almost
had not noticed hiding