Why travel somewhere
to have broken-heartedness served
à la carte—why visit when you
live there? A hard candy,
the earth’s crust, heat
trapped and vistas
of Himalayas pushing though
countries of human
collision. Mountains rise
as if ice began there, a hissing
taste for one another.
Magma, lover of all time
once lived around here
and gave so many the precious touch.
We imagine generations dying
in cycles, all on schedule.
Why travel to have confirmed
what you always suspected:
buried landscapes show us the heart
divides, not in half, but close enough.
Walking in April
This began with dreams of moving:
big house where we would begin again,
open doors and pride the details,
an archway, the moldings.
A year of dreaming
new homes, and I find this place: pile of rocks
by a small lake until now seen only from the road.
Sun glazes the sky into spring, the season of moving
forward and there is no way around.
Still frozen, this water.
Squinting at the sun’s sharp angle,
I am in this together with the sky,
sun, lake, bones that carry me. And
a pale moon heart, rising, waits
Dreams no longer bring me houses.
At night I am shut inside
cupboards of sleep,
no pictures or doors.
This poem is for you.
You, you, you. See
I said it was for you, sweet
you. I’ve never met you
not formally though you appear in my poems
regularly, always you. Who else?
You adore me, abuse me, take me
to a carnival to see the balloon man’s
hands, wizened and blue.
Every poem I write throws a different light
on you. Sometimes you’re like a shadow,
others, a brilliant you. You remind me
of an old love, or another—the one and only,
or my mother. Our relationship takes many forms
and mostly I recognize you.
For the most part you
are so predictable; then,
you turn up gaudy, or worse
clandestine, in poems
by people I never knew you knew.
She is picking basil when I call,
in garden dark, barefoot
over a lumpy yard—swales
in Midwest plain, migrating and rolling.
My stepfather calls out the window:
“Kid is on the phone.”
She listens to lapping wind sounds,
shell of Illinois sky hollow
arc over her ear. Lightning bugs
spark a path to the house.
Maybe she thinks of me, other late Julys.
She’s about to make pesto,
will send some, frozen.
“It’s hot as hell here, is your fan
working?” After my news
the line clicks and she’s out again
treading earth, loving the light
as it leaves. I turn up the fan,
think about pasta with bitter greens.
My mother’s shorts and top, red and white,
float, a buoy in lapping distance.
Not a House
she’d cotton to, this, though she makes
the best of it: taupe walls, industrial carpet,
faux gilt around one doorway, Lysol pockets
drifting in a cool hall. I am dreaming.
Mostly underground, the split-level ranch,
a home incompatible with loud music or frying eggs.
My mother and I gaze out the window from an empty room
at golf grass, short shrift this stuff.
Her distaste for the lawn
creases her face, and to cheer her up
I say, “It’s not as if it’s a graveyard.”
I remember that she is dead; that’s why
she’s been acting so weird. Days after the dream
I drive past a street of dark houses, wishing the dead
pretty light fixtures, radiant heating...
My mother’s house would be on a Florida Key—Islamorada,
her favorite. Inside, Caribbean styling everywhere.
“No getting away from it,” she’d say, pleased,
tossing another pelican sunset pillow on the floor.
Palms and egrets grace the shower curtain and paradise
in flamingo pink is etched on a wall.
So many winter vacations at rentals just like this, our escape
from winter—frond-rich, saturated with light.
Green and glistening, otherworldliness amused her.
After space-manning around the yard
all afternoon, my son eats a crescent cookie
on our walk downtown. We return in dark,
he mad-dashing to corners, waiting for me
to cross. At home his head drops
on my neck, heavy bones and feet hang.
“This is gravity, Mom.”
Most of the time I am
these days pushed away from kisses,
the old sneaky looks—Oedipal longings
on the decline at one end. Tonight
I pointed out Orion the warrior,
trying on the male perspective.
Carrying him up the stairs
is almost more weight than I can bear.
At seven, Noah knows one black coat
from another by smell. “This is Mom’s.”
Another time, his nose to my mother’s watch:
“That’s Grandma’s.” Her death has not fazed him,
He wishes we could find for Orion
a head in the sky. I try to know why
my mother’s free will failed, apparently.
“If you kept going would you get to the end
of the world?” His Columbus
to my catching up, a couple whose days are numbered.
Noah’s tan neck, a place still tolerating kisses.
Ashes ashes, we fall
and darkness woos me to bed.
My mother’s watch ticks, Orion’s belt
glows in the night heavy with stars,
the lights we can’t see. My son sleeps
in his room and in the hallway the moon
blazes with white wakefulness.
Your Thirteenth Summer
The apple orchard’s heartbeat
pounds—green, red, yellow red.
We pirate wildly, biting into tart
or too soft, some fruit coupled or tripled
on the branch as if it had to be.
I pull apart pairs and you take a picture
of “a fairy tale,” an arched gate, folding trees.
Later, while you pluck and smash—pitcher practice,
I hear a per plum, the sound of falling: an ending unseen.
Your fingers are bent—the pinky a seahorse crook
I remember from your infant hand.
A man in a Subaru pulls up and says we owe
eight dollars. Inside, the white dog, shaved
to gray, ignores us, pants as if the day were hot,
though it is cool. All summer, cool.
You slide into the car ready to go, though
it is not exactly home calling you. We could be
inside the ocean, the way the world feels slippery,
the ground lapping at my feet. Fall—
still weeks away.
His Long Dive
From February to May
around Monterey, Grays show themselves
or they don’t. My son and I on a tour boat
wait for flukes. Migrating from Mexico
to Alaska, Grays travel in heats,
mother/calf pairs follow others, stay close to shore.
Noah rides in front, I sit in back,
we signal when there’s a splash or a blow—
a burst of air that is “heart-shaped.” Now he waves
as a sounding—a tail rising—breaks in the distance.
A few seconds of seeing the same un-landed thing,
a breach, a sky hop.
A calf raises his head, retreats.
Not a single photo taken. Invisible,
the Grays’ underwater timing. My eyes fix
on dark water, a glimpse or two through the long dive.
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