Left alone, cold and bitten fingers now colder,
now tight and dry. Smitten, past participle
of smite. Smitten by you like
trees smitten by lightening.
Tough luck, pushing these bottle caps
off this table. Glued, gripping, grapple with
tongue-tied trappings, words
un-worded because twisted; twisted
because it was supposed to be my birthday
but the calendar stuttered, fell behind.
Coriander is like a bug but it is a seed and
is not alive like a bug. Sprouted, we call it
cauliflower. No, no, wait, the name
Because of the wind’s precious prayers
blown against my skin, hair, loose sweater –
because of the wind’s caring, battering and
confused communications – because of it
I shudder and shut the car door.
When you come inside, I know you are
protected from the wind, and I know
I will learn again how to feel lightening
as something fresh: the electricity, not
the burnt scar left behind.
Count the chips in the blue paint of the trim that
rounds the house – trim on the inside that would be
like wearing a girder around the inside of your waist.
This is not about approaching. This is about standing
still, to feel and know silence’s haunting thesis statement.
Six chips in paint. And the hurt
is not due to increasing need
to repaint. It is that I cannot
paint over them! not yet. I know
I will not keep a separate record,
so it is trim or nothing.
A sixth chip, after that conversation. (What is
the attraction to throwing cutlery, anyway?)
I blow my nose and hear it so keenly
that I stop before having fully cleaned
my sinuses. Again, not an approaching, not
meant to be collision. It is something chipped,
it is stillness after noise, and I will not paint
over the feeling and the vision of something
A drainpipe is
brightness collected, channeled.
In it, rain falls the way sugar falls
from the large spoon auntie uses
to make Jamie’s coffee.
Water: a personality test for light. Right now,
light is glimmery and perplexing,
a joyful 13-year-old. In the drainpipe,
water rushes and light slithers dark
at the drainpipe’s belly and melodically
on its back.
Important to open the cocoon without looking.
It’s to see the funny white stuff that sometimes
gathers at the top of the cocoon. I’m no scientist,
but I pretend to be. I don’t know what the white stuff is,
but I pretend to. I pretend
it is ashes from the caterpillar’s miniature
cigarette she was smoking to bide time between
worm-ish body and butterfly.
Yes, to open the cocoon without looking
because it is heartbreaking, heartbreaking that
you are stunting an event so haunting.
It was twenty years ago when I asked Cassie if she loved me.
She was, at the time, in the process of falling in love,
and me asking her was me breaking into a cocoon that was meant
to be left untouched for another couple months.
There were white ashes, something pure, now dead.
Relive disgust and confusion, opening up cocoons.
Little hands and face slam pressed against the window.
Frequent enough that I should not be surprised but
I am surprised, every time.
The fingerprints (and nose and lip prints) left from
pressure and moistness. Runny nose, sweat perhaps,
and whatever grime was lying latent on the pane, waiting
to mix with little boy slime.
Hesitant to wash those prints off, you know, but I do—
not because I want them gone, but to have a fresh canvas
for him to encounter when he comes back. I listen to
perforations tear, like dominos of air, and I bring the paper towel
to the living room, and I wipe and lift off those swirly marks.
You know how Chuck Close made that portrait of Fanny using
only fingerprints? It was something, the fuzzy grey fine lines
and smears and smudges creating a recognizable identity.
It’s like that, with this boy. Half the art is his, his marks
on the window; half the art is mine, how I see in them an identity.
What is the age where germs are taught at school? And what
is the age where the children realize that means no licking
windows? I watch the bobble of backpack bypass my yard and nod,
knowing he won’t come by today, smiling with hope for tomorrow.
Istanbul—think of it as a colour. Think of it as
a word to say when you don’t know what to say.
Imagine every human is a two-dimensional shape, and
imagine all of us fitted around each other to form a
picture. A nose fitting in the crook of an arm, feet
slotted in the crook of a neck, hair sprawling into hair,
legs sliding alongside other legs like teeth of two combs.
Slide down the carpeted stairs, your toes hanging over the lip
followed by the arch of your foot, then your heels, and then
thump, you are on the next stair. Think of the vibrations
you send beneath you, how stairs have felt many feet, how stairs
perceive a person through the thudding impact she makes.
I am small and incomplete. I have blonde hair that
I pretend to treat indifferently. I have seven toes on
one foot. I have a stutter, but I can say Istanbul. I
am incomplete, and I know how to know people by
the thud of their feet when they descend the stairs at last.
If you are a human and you collect words, then
you are also a raven and you tap on the thick
wooden doors of troubled poets.
Differentiate between moist and wet. Differ in
colour, in texture, in sound. Between me and you
a rock sits there, wet, and I pick it up.
Beneath it lies moist soil. Antics—a compound word
for ants and ticks. Both were under the rock.
If words tapped on your door, which they do,
would you open to them or would you gently
close your eyes? Closing eyes, a kind of opening.
Like lifting that wet rock,
we find life beneath shadows.
And the wetness transfers to fingers—
no longer wetness, but moist,
and we walk away with more than memory.
Well, my darling, every good and perfect gift is like a bag of sand
in which you find particles of glass and stone and rocks.
Gently, tell the jeweler, gently now because my eyes are
delicate and if you let too much of the sand slip away I may
cry. Gently. (Oh, what am I saying? I am not a gentle creature,
as the man who gave me directions knows.) Cover my eyes.
When the day by the lake diminished – the large lake so hidden – yes,
when the day by the wild laughing dandelions that were still
so very yellow, yes, when the day tilted back its pale blue head and showed
a fragile blue marble neck with white veinal patterns and I saw the softest sky—
I carried pocketfuls of sand back to my car where the sand sat in a
cupholder until yesterday when I gave it to the jeweler and said, Gently,
darling, gently. This is a lake rubbed raw, this is earth that has seen
open sky, has seen the sun’s hair pulled back and known light
as something to kiss. I mumbled something more, and cried.
Some days, sitting, 200 years old,
confused and that is all.
If the tulips would stay put on the hearth,
that would be great. But Jasper keeps
nuzzling them down. Jasper is my dog’s nose.
My dog does have a name, yes, yes.
Where has the time gone? Sitting here,
300 years old. So old, so aging,
I no longer know individual years.
I know decades. Only 30, you know, I’m only 30
when I count this way.
Every decade I choose to remember
certain days. Every memory carries
things I do not try to remember. Not even
thickly lathered time will do away with remembering how
you’ve hurt someone. The face they make or
choose not to make. When they are noble
in response. When they say, “I forgive you, Grace,
really I do.” And when you hadn’t even apologized.
When you never apologize. I am old and I do not wish
to forget this, but who can live with remembering?
How we are often done giving before cats are done receiving.
I fantasize that I am petting my cat until she is done and walks away.
How I know time is a curtain swept to the side of the window but
still obstructing part of the view. How time is given us, and
how we spend it.
Talk to me in the living room, in a low voice, with constant words.
I will stand on the top landing listening to your incomprehensible murmur.
I will accept the sound of you, interpreting it as distance and as comfort.
The cat purrs. I slide my fingers away, letting white fur
gently resist my movements. The friction, transfer of energy,
the choice to use time.
What it will mean when we rip the curtains from off our windows.