Retired // Work

I didn’t mean to cater to my son.
Nanny, I thought, private tutor, personal life coach.

“Resigning,” I told Mr. Tuman. “Son,” I explained.
He nodded, squinted, and said, “You didn’t want
to stop working because of children.”
“Before I had a child, sure. Now it is this way,
Mr. Tuman: I see pure love, a need for me,
a wonder at life, a deep curiosity
towards commonplace matters. I want to learn
from him. I want to share this time with him.
I have enough to get by, yes, we have enough.”

I didn’t say that to any real sort of man.
I haven’t worked for fifteen years, and
this imagined dialogue reminds me why.

Now my son works, and I am home at nights wondering,
What are you learning? What do you see
while sitting there in the gas station’s store,
playing solitaire in the flickering street light
that blinks and twitches through the window.

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Simply to Find

To be called and then simply to be.
I would say, “It’s been a while,”
I would say, “Long time no see,”
I would say, “Where have you been?”

To be heard and then simply to hear.
If your words made sense, that would help.
If your stories added up, I could understand.
If your face was not covered in sticky
marshmallow, I might believe that you never
ate the marshmallow. Metaphorical.

To be found and then simply to find.
I missed you, but now I understand
that I did not want to find you.

I watch as you lick stickiness
from your lips, as you try not to
smile, since you know that that smile
would confirm
the extent
of your guilt.

Surprised by Pine

“Yes, the sap does imply that she’s been at it again,” I heard
Mom agree with little brother. Oh that little brother.
What business is it of his
to tell Mom I am a tree climber?

“Sammy, sweetheart, would you mind stepping outside with me?”
I looked at Sammy with my eyebrows up. Who knows what Mom means
by this. “You too,” she said to me.
We went outside.

Mom walked us fifteen feet away from the house. The old pine
with low branches was our stopping spot. Mom slipped
her feet quietly out from her sandals.
She relaxed her shoulders. Her hands reached
for the lowest branch. She pulled herself up and
up and up —

I had never seen anything so beautiful.

Hoped For: Snow Patterns

He placed his hopes in the microwave for three minutes.
At a minute and a half they began popping, expanding,
showing how his hopes had contained more than he had hoped.

So we see that a thing can exceed itself
despite the limits it sets on itself.

One thing he hoped for was a snowstorm. One that
would cover office buildings and then cover itself
with more snow. He would go sledding. He thought,
I would be embedding paths, winding and multiple,
through my hopes fulfilled. I would be mapping
the snow, my own desire.

Song

Sit long enough to feel something.
The last train for the night leaves,
smooth-swushes away, slowly into the tunnel like
a bee crawling into the dark green leafy shadows of
a thick hedgerow of Japanese Boxwood. A song
with a note long enough to be felt, you sing,
and the stone block walls sleep so they push
your notes back and further back along the arching tunnel.

The final two notes are those of a minor third.
They can be heard only together, and they wrap
around each other, tethered in harmony in winglike
synchrony, but untethered in the cool dark space
where you sit, where you wait for the sound of bees
to come with sleep, so you can imagine a train ride
through open countryside, where you used to take naps
and drink wine and meditate on soft unwritten songs.

Previous Year

The year before the year we fell into the drift
of puffs of snow of winter’s sneeze that
billowed out from roller-coaster wind. I remained
untouched when the junkyard car slid.

The year before: Sunshine winter, snowing only
when I wasn’t looking. We did everything,
always with your enterprising legs learning that
they are in fact legs, and your wobbly head nodding
with the irregular gait: step stretch leg step ground is
closer than you thought, and too far.
You had
whipped cream dried in your left eyebrow.
You had chapped lips, and you push-smeared lip balm
into that brown-pink skin. In those days, you got
the scrapes and bruises that are inevitable when
following a toddler’s whim. I loved the spreading smooth motion
of placing bandaids over cuts. Your smile as you copied me,
as you patted my arm, as you looked at my arm then at my eyes,
as you said in a humming voice, “All better, momma.”

The Restaurant Hiding in the Wind

It is cold, it is cold
Her hand brings warmth
The wind is drowning me
The restaurant breathes life
in orange glowing ovals on the wall

If mother were here, she would tell me
whether or not these roses are fake
Aunty peers over the menu, mischief in her eyes
“I’ll order for you,” her words flicker, her
amaranth lips rest slightly open and gleeful

The still air is drowning me
Aunty sees something in me, half
her mouth  falls out of  her smile;
she comes round to my side of the table,
holds my right hand like dad holds
our rescued, half-starved bird,
and pulls me round to sit by her
on the plum-coloured cushions of
the booth. Our food comes and it is
mystery and it is distracting and I
am distracted by a new light. A light
kindled by rosemary drenched in butter,
a light I locate in Aunty’s soft palms,
in her glittering half-smile eyes.

Green and Shines

Father, figure this for me: Did the silver of the knife
catch light or throw it
as Michael sliced melon—
What happened with the light, anyway, what ever happens
with light?

Happens and happening: slice of honeydew drops
from the splintering picnic table.
It gurgles it.
The melon, it gurgles light and I remember when
the sun asked me for swimming lessons (I was six) and
now there is a drowning and a flourishing of sun
in honeydew and I thank the Lord for the sticky glimmer of
sugar and water trapped in rind, suddenly exposed.

Mountain Forehead

Not pressed flowers, exactly, just a forehead kiss (more or less
the same thing), like lupin pressed and gentle, more than
wild, it was warmth refusing to be contained. Forehead was less
like a forehead and more like— No, no, it was precisely a forehead.
Think how a brow is soft and holds a face’s character,
how skin responds graciously to lips that love it.

A cloud, internally confused by colour, milk so white it’s blue then
shadowed with translucent shadow, wizened with that hint of grey.
And the mountain does love the cloud. And the mountain becomes
more or less alive with the cloud’s blue huff-glow breath-of-a-kiss.

Tinting and a Hint to Change

Ah, yes, the blood did look like raspberry juice, smeared that way.
Typical prickster, the metal finger that helped me dimple the clay.
Remember the way wet clay smears over dried clay? How it looks
different from itself? That is how I describe my conscience when I
am addressing old ideas. Bright moving material modifying shape
of the readymade shape.
Patterns we make with matter in a different state. Blood, like
raspberry juice, gives new tint, too, to the clay, to the old way
of thinking.