Day 18

You can be allergic to something delicious
like an avocado or a slice of watermelon
and eat it anyway even though you know
your lips will swell like Brigitte Bardot
but you’re practiced at eating in front of a mirror
or anything that will stare back; the yogurt
you’d spoon into your mouth head tilted back
just so, wide smile sated ahhh I could do this, y
ou would think, be in movies or commercials at least,
selling satisfaction and magic – somewhere
in your head is Carol Channing croaking
“your mommy hates housework, your daddy
hates housework and I hate housework, too.”
You could lose yourself in laundry, perfect
a creaseless fold until all of the man shirts
were sharp enough to slice your palms open
what starch, you would smile, and what could get
this blood stain out, anyway. There is no code
for failing and you get a twitch in the corner
of your mouth whenever you lie so it was a dumb
plan to begin with. Still
part of you wonders how you could have been
good legs on a stage if not for all that self awareness.

Day 16

Those were the spare years. The years

of silence. Allow them that

space. Allow the years to collect

like the rain water

on top of the blue oil barrels in the yard

and allow the office light

a chance to flicker instead of that constant

burn   as if it were doubtful

its own existence a filament in wait

be an open mouth, endlessly jawing

be a full pitcher, endlessly pouring

 

There was a four am in that house

that arrived with wild turkeys, deer

attic mice and mosquitos, worry dolls

in pillows, an asthmatic beagle

I thought you had it best

because you could leave me, but I could never

leave me. Those were the bare years. The years

before secrets. Allow them to be heard

now, allow them to occupy a synapse,

one next to the memory of your mother

be a prayer bead, endlessly clacking

be a river stone, endlessly shrinking

Day 15

Mid April snow      early afternoon         this is how I will die
on my way to the foot doctor                 At every red light
I brace myself for an impact that never comes
hum along to this Nirvana song           Would fourteen year old
me have fathomed thirty six year old me
forgetting the words to “In Bloom”       getting molded
for orthotics             Tomorrow’s root canal on top of an old
root canal, it happens                    all these diskectomies, laminectomies

My brother was in a car accident when he was sixteen
and no one knew, not until my mother drove home
from work              annoyed with the traffic            then, there
my brother’s truck on its side         broken glass, metal
wrinkled, blood                                      The woman who hit him

was drunk          was not insured         was a mother
who died shortly after

I’m a mother now, too
rubbernecking the rubble flying past my own windows
knuckles white on the wheel               against the ice
This is how I will die                               motionless
bracing myself for impact

Day 14

[apparently I am not done writing about the burial trees in Tana Toraja]

The tree absorbs the body by pieces.
First the tops of the baby’s toes, pressed there against the fourth ring
the slow rush of sap, climbing, filling empty cells, leaves, floating
then the feet that never walked, then days later the thighs, hips, the child’s trunk

then the arms branches
the fingers flowers each piece its own working part
then the face, the eyes, the entirety of a soft skull, still separated

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

The tree holds the body inside of itself, grows around the wound

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.

To keep faith new, open, the wound of the tree she has to believe in the wind
the lullaby on the tongue is a sprout, wash the finished baby to seed, if only to extinguish the cramp of loss, to press fingers to a borrowed bone.

Day 13

The pond who dreams of a salty sea
the lilies who don’t know
what their own roots look like
the crimson shoulders
of blackbirds: Spanish moss
like a veil, runoff like a blessing
mud like a pact. Quickly

down the hill
like a thick icy snowball
the end
is here

this prairie this ornamental grass
this wind this caterpillar has lived
without regret, without error –

then my spine singing its rearrangement
knees sighing from the weight
of being alive lungs exaggerated
commas, a pause.

Day 12

Crooked teeth, fueled by nervous energy; Mary knocks.

She is there, her mother’s name on the mailbox;

stepping on the concrete like it’s littered with glass.

We all know her. We shovel her walkway in winter,

I salt her sidewalk, get her mail, call the police

at ten pm for wellness checks when her cousin can’t

get her on the phone. I’m so embarrassed, she yells

 

from the doorstep in her flowery housecoat. Was your mother

a kite once? Paper glued to popsicle sticks, fitted

shoelace tail, Mary, did you make one when you were nine?

Did you lie in the middle of the yard on your back

in sunshine and stare down floaters? Were the clouds

shaped like sex organs or cotton candy? Were the worms

in your own eyes sliding away when you tried to pin them

with a stare? Was your body slight then, too? Did the kite ever catch

 

in the elm? Your father’s voice booming from the kitchen,

your mother’s wash drying on the line, would she have guessed

at her own bitter fear? Taste it on her lips like iodine? Did your father

feel his own heart giving out with cruelty? Or was that Christianity?

I stood in the living room and watched the fire trucks park

at the curb. I stood in the living room and watched

them wheel her out on a gurney, the same flowery housecoat

You now wear flapping between the straps. I stood in the living room

 

and watched you panic. I stood in the living room and watched

you come home later, alone. I stood in the living room and watched you sit

in the grass and glue a new kite. All that beautiful in the yard we share

with rabbits and squirrels. All that you come from.

Day 11

On an Indonesian island a tree grows slowly, weighted with hope and rope. Blessed wood boxes swing high, bump into each other in a breeze. Heavy wind chime of small bodies. This is a meditation for mothers. Grief shared is grief diminished; is it so terrible to be an empty cup among the full? When a woman grieves alone, we call this disenfranchised grief. When a woman buries a still child in the trunk of a tree, we call this faith. I write this while she hollers next to me, rips a page from a book before I can stop her. Once she was my body, moved in my body like a puppeteer and the space of not moving was terrifying breath. She crushes the page as if rendering it back to pulp, as if the paper recalls the tree it came from.

Day 10

In summer the evening is short.

Wild asters flirt with warm wind

and everything grows, even

when you sleep: the distance

between the moon and the earth

your hair when you die

the price of gasoline.

 

Would it help to know your body

is essentially something other,

how you become a nesting doll

stuffed with every version? Even

the one who takes pleasure in sterile

regrets, the one who takes a secret slice

of her life and spoils it with language.

 

Winter teaches you to turn your tongue

seven times in your mouth before you open it

to know what hunger tastes like: pear cake

and mushrooms, nettles and jimson weed.

You have been weathering a domestic storm

one replete with diamond dew on a barren web

but this is not a space to cultivate hope.

 

The echo in your memory’s cathedral

is brittle and you heard the voice in your head

when you grow up is your mother’s, and this

makes you sorry. Little will grow

without direct light. Happiness is not an ideal

of reason, which is good for the wild aster

who will welcome any reliable pollinator.