Day 24

We can only talk of permanence so many times
before it becomes a part of our make-up, a dialogue
that gets carried like a pail of water on a young woman’s
neck, all that that weight to change the shape of bone.
A frisson of tumult: she hands you impossibly small shoes
and wants you to slide them over her impossibly small feet.
Later, your head in my lap, your body racked
because this is the truth of whole loving, that fear gets in
like a sliver in your palm until new skin grows around it
tougher. And what can I tell you? You can spend life
mining data with a secret poppy field that exists only
for you and you can be undone a shoelace or you can find yourself
eating lunch alone in your car under a pressing, gray spring sky.
When I laugh and tell you not to die and leave me
with your toy collection to sort what I mean to say is never leave.
We can only talk of our basest fears so many times
before it becomes a part of our routine, like coupons
and recycling and Good Will donations and painting the deck
every other summer. Even the therapist pushes us
to be less insular, to be less afraid, to be in the moments
that punch us in the stomach and leave us gasping. How many times
can you look at someone and feel the expanse of love
in your heart before it begins to cripple you with its intensity?
And we say we are lucky, because when my neck is too bowed
yours is there to bear the weight and that is what I can tell you
of love, this adjustment of your body against water.

Day 23

2.] Some scholars believe a very famous poem was written in Lewis County.

a) Name the poem.        b) Name the author.      c) Name the well known location where it was (supposedly) written.

Hint. You have heard it read (or recited) many times, and if you are a parent have probably read it to your child.

 

*

 

I seem to be agonizing over a legacy, or am I ignoring it?

 

*

 

A little guest book filled with notes. Details of the visit. Lauren wins at Clue. Lauren wins at Sorry. Grandma wins at Sorry. Joel eats apple pie. Natalie eats a Peep with Grandpa. Good conversation. Great food.

 

*

 

If I wanted to open a can and peel out a new family, I would layer them on molasses bread and slather them in fig jam. Maybe there would be goat cheese, piquant. Maybe near the refrigerator there would be a vision board with pictures of women’s midsections and maybe it would say LOSE WEIGHT. If I could rip open a plastic family and eat my mother, I’d start with her head and savor the filling. Or I’d remember eating my brother’s Hostess Ding-Dong in my bed, under the sheets, like that was ok. Like it was my birthright, too.

 

Then I imagine kale. Then I imagine a smoothie. Then I’m sitting at my husband’s family’s table and there is Wonder bread with dinner, a wooden bowl of fruit for dessert. Grandma’s pickled beets are incredible, despite the New York earth. Then I belong. Then I fit.

 

*

 

For Family Genealogy Buffs

 

The McCues and the Meyers lived “next door” to each other (adjacent farms) in the very early 1900’s. (They were married in 1914). What was the principle income source for each of the two families?

 

*

 

This is fifth grade and I am standing at the chalkboard and Mz. with a Z Lomen asks me to talk about what it’s like to be a flower girl and can I tell the class and I say it’s not a big deal because it’s my third time being one but I did get to get my ears pierced because when your parents remarry for the third or fourth or fifth time, you get to call the shots. No one asks what it feels like to be sitting on the couch with your mother reading the big book of hot air balloons when he comes home and she gets up and leaves you looking at an expanse of cerulean alone.

 

*

 

I am going to spend my life watching the people I love leave.

 

*

I am going to wiggle my tongue against a tooth until it is dislodged, separated from its root. I am going to wait for a new tooth to replace the younger tooth.

Day 22

The chickadee clings to the top of a two-story shrub in the wind
sways like a wave with claws tight knuckled against the grain.
Oh that, the dentist laughs, they fly into the windows up here
at least twice a day. You should see the patio deck below littered
with their bodies. Birds are not the smartest animals.

Last night while you picked out pajamas for our daughter
and rubbed her damp hair with a towel, I stopped at the door
of the bathroom where the imprint of her small, wet feet
glowed on the white bath mat in the steamy darkness.
I could feel my own hands curling for something to hold onto.

Some rainy nights when I come home at dusk, I smell wood-smoke
and acrid leaves from neighborhood fires. I hear the bells
of St. Mary’s ringing, the chuff of the freight train, and I am stopped
by the presence of the fat, mother rabbit in the grass
who watches me, unblinking, and is unmoved by my being.

Day 21

And how shall we speak of love? – Mary Oliver

the quiet egg
warm
in the nest

its life mapped
on the cream interior
of its shell

dear yolk become
life or food or loved
or tolerated

sold or traded
bred or bread -
what chick stops

in the yard to think
of fate, to feel a chill
on the breeze

to ruffle herself
into being – how
should we talk of love?

with spring’s mouth,
green and awake
with its coral petals

like tongues lapping
at the air all relief
and longing

Day 20

We have built our house around a cupboard of ceramic
dishes shivering to be handled, to feel useful

The shingle and the moss become one
touch each other under an open sky

No reformation, heart is coming from this place
when there are windows to consider

What does the escape route look like
from inside the pine? Rushing sap

pinioning to bellowed, smoke in the sky
like a signal. Even fires have to be fed

and we have been stoking the hearth
for a few years now. Each doorway

is crowned with an alarm who cries
its existence when the oven gets too hot

we have built a house around a campfire
that cleanses everything it touches, we can

make a pact out of any promise, walk the dog
like we own it, kiss the child like we mean it

mow a lawn, flush a nest, mend the rent
every time something rips – and they do, they do.

Day 19

I dig deep with a baby spoon, flick shadow soil
to get to the meat and the therapist says
deeper so I tell him about my root canal on top
of an old root canal and then everything is a metaphor
for my avoidance and denial but then it’s me
rehashing suffering that finds me even when I sleep:
I’m holding the massive head of a decapitated pig
who has been boiled to remove his bristle
and I have to pull out his teeth one at a time
with pliers but when I twist the first incisor
it screams so a man hands me forceps to pinch
the pig’s septum and this is what finally quiets it
as I extract the teeth. Some teeth are made
out of nail polish. Wait, nail polish? Yes, corals
and crimsons and when I pull the wrong tooth
there is a burst of color. My brother had a baby.

And then I cry for a long time and he lets me
before turning me around by the shoulders
to look at the excavation. You can spend half a life
with a small spoon kneeling in your dirt and never know
how deep the hole is you’re standing in, breathing in.

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
just so, wide smile sated ahhh I could do this,
you 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