Options While En route
I've been held together by less. Try penny nails
and Krazy Glue or thread and a butterfly clip.
We stayed long enough to hear the chairman's report
expressing gratitude to his hordes of subordinates
and their assorted kin, especially the wives who've made
their small sacrifices. It's all for the good,
but were our names mentioned? I don't recall.
Listen, no matter where you eat them,
apples taste the same. You wouldn't think that true,
but if you don't believe me, drive to Oregon
and find a fruit stand. You'll return to me convinced.
I never was someone who latched onto promises
or predictions. Too many times I've seen it rain
when the forecast called for sun. It's better sometimes
to wall yourself off in a room where the bed is covered
in netting as fine and white as lingerie. You can take
the wrapper off the chocolate Tootsie-Roll
and bite off chucks while reading Mrs. Dalloway
on your stomach, your legs meeting mid-air
to cross at the ankles, or you can
slap down a few dollars to the boy
who carried your bags in from the car.
You can ask him to stay.
Until our names appear
in the sawdust covering the floor
and the doves outside the window
go quietly to their nest
and black crickets
in low bushes
sing songs of protest
against the relentless rain;
until the lilies on the table open
and the crusty bread
turns drier still, and the blackberries
along Macon Road bloom again this summer;
until the streets glaze over
with the waxy colors of mudslides
and hailstones and scattered stars,
and the librarian declares all fines
forgiven and books for keeps,
I will not leave this bed
where you are sleeping.
I will not stir until the fever breaks.
If you could hold a conversation in your hands
like a globe, you might spin it until you found
the words you wanted to hear, spoken
by the person you wanted to speak them,
only they wouldn't belong to you anymore
than that white balloon
you snatched from another's child's fist
when you were seven and occupied by thoughts
of dim stars penciled into the sky.
Always in that hour, the world turned black
and made your mother melancholy. She taught you
not to be reckless with words, and yet
at school, you wrote profanity on the blackboard,
smearing the chalk before the teacher saw
cocksucker beside her name. Even now
you think of that balloon, deflated
and cold and shaped like an apology,
but like a conversation put on hold,
no one hears a word.
Outer Banks, 1987
Kisses open wounds like flowers
and a memory erupts in the bold manner
that is the sun's custom in places where
the horizon fills with water instead of land
masses or condominiums. Convinced
you might cleanse his prints
from your skin, you have walked
the shore in winter and let
the cold rain soak your clothes.
For awhile, you felt redemption
sink into your bones, replacing marrow
with uncertainty and a desire for
brighter stars. There are signs of hope
all around you. Look at these gulls
swoop towards you, willing to take
bread from open hands.
In the distance, a girl that could be you
holds a shell to her ear, listening.
couldn't carve a shape from wood because I saw nothing in it,
or perhaps I was afraid of anything that static.
bend or yield except when a blade is used against it.
Wood is like the asphalt roads I traveled to your house last winter,
a thin membrane of ice on the surface, adhering like skin.
In the woods of my childhood, branches
fell during storms, and afterwards,
we walked, surveying the damaged trees
as if they were houses or barns, as if
these were places worth inhabiting.
I knew then that the god who toppled trees
had a reckless streak. He was the kind
to bludgeon a row of young pines, the kind
to take to the road in the middle of an ice storm,
daring the vehicle to skid off course.
In Alberta, we met a blind man who sold
wood sculptures from a roadside stand.
He convinced me how heavy a load I carried
filling my bones with doubt. Sometimes
I want to ask you if those praying hands
still occupy the table by your bed,
and did they bring you what you wanted,
did they bring anything at all?