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One Red Handed

 

 

trying to pickpocket

the universe—it turned around

and gave me everything

 

One Out of Place

 

snapdragon in the rose bed

thriving and in full bloom—

pulling it anyway

 

One Monopoly

 

 

 

hotel on boardwalk—

the thimble would rather

play charades

 

 

 

when I was young and read Lord of the Flies,

and when I read the part where Piggy dies,

I screamed out loud, You got it wrong. No!

As if Golding could hear me through the spine.

Perhaps because I also was a geek.

Perhaps because I didn’t want to know

how cruel the world can be. How kids like me

could choose, in fearful times, to kill our friends.

 

My son detests the book, but not because

the boys are cruel, because it moves too slow.

I try to reconcile his callousness, his good

and tender heart. He’s grown up in an age

where killing is a part of weekly life.

How strange for me to grieve the loss of grief.

 

 

for Shawnee

 

 

This time the goodbye is in the kitchen,

me running off to the next thing,

you at the counter with morning tea

before you drive away.

I give you a hug from behind

and a kiss on your cheek and thank you

for coming to visit.

 

I want to tell you I love you,

but the words have never

tumbled out easily, not because

they aren’t true, but because

I don’t want to frighten you.

Strange to feel I must hold you at a distance

in order to keep you close,

like a mother bird

who monitors her nestling

from a neighboring tree.

 

I never was one of the mothers

who worry about fatal things:

car crashes, avalanche, infectious disease.

I worry more about the most

terrible thing that could happen,

that you could be alive and not know how

much I love you, fiercely, unfoldingly,

worry my longing

to keep you at ease could

make you feel pushed away.

 

Driving from the house,

it is not the sun in my eyes

that makes them leak,

it’s this knowing that I

have made for you a nest

in my heart where I hold you,

but perhaps what you needed all these years

was for me to hold your real hand,

to wrap my real arms around

where your wings would be.

 

based on The Guest, by Anna Akhmatova

 

 

I felt the way he looked at me across the room.

Hungry. A bear in spring. Glass of red wine

in his paws. His gaze hooked into me

 

as I parted the currents of the crowd.

I found a window, stood in its chill,

felt his heat arrive behind me. Scent

 

of tundra. Sweet grass. I did not turn

to him to speak. What do you want,

I said. To meet you in hell, he said,

 

his voice layered in honey and shade.

I met his eyes in the window, saw him

on his hind legs, rippled, as though through a lake.

 

You mean to have us both destroyed,

I said. Watched through our reflections

the falling snow. Tell me, he said,

 

how men kiss you. Tell me how you kiss.

My lips wanted to show him, Like this,

but my mouth formed in a silent O,

 

round as a wedding ring. In the mirror

of the night, I watched his eyes linger there.

And the gold on my finger slipped off

 

as my hands transformed to fins. I knew

some part of me would die. I knew

I would choose to swim.

 

 

 

I wanted the artwork hung on the wall, a slip of paper with bright splattered paint. I had no tape, no tack, no nail. But strange, in the corner I noticed a small brown mound of shit. And strange I could not smell it. I did not know how it had come to be there. Did not know how long it had been on the floor. And for reasons I can only explain as urgent, I considered its sticky properties. The possibility clicked in before the revulsion. By then it was too late. I took my naked hand and smeared a brown arc on the wall, then pressed into it the art. It held. It occurred to me to be embarrassed. It occurred to me it was gross. Unhealthy. Unnormal. I was repulsed. And slightly proud in making due when resources are few. There was some pleasure in the way I shocked myself. Not with what I did, but with how I dare now to tell the truth.

 

**Dear friends, this is, of course, from a dream. 

One Sermon

 

 

 

beneath the meadowlark,

the fencepost turns pulpit—

praise, praise, praise

 

 

 

There was a time when I’d pull his hair out

if he sat too close to me on the couch.

Now, I curl into his right side,

lean my head on his shoulder,

feel the trembling of his chest

as he weeps. How good it feels

to be close to him as we grieve.

How familiar, the shape of his head,

the heft of his hand as he reaches for mine.

How deeply right, this leaning

into sorrow together.

 

 

 

but I would rather write poems about kissing,

beside the wild roses, for instance,

with nothing between us

but perfume and shadow.

Or kissing riverside

with waves frolicking into

our sighs. Or kissing anywhere,

really, a parking lot, a stairwell,

the front step, in a plane.

See how this urge turns

everything into a love poem,

even this, which began

as a poem about loss,

has found gardens inside it

with long rows just perfect

for kissing, slow kisses

both bruising and sweet.

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