On My Eyes a Water Strider

The light swirls and becomes a motley
of oranges and browns. The light is mixing
into itself and is consorting with darkness.

Be careful to mince your words. I broke
the pestle yesterday; you’ll need to use
the heel of your hand. Smash them. Words
smell best when opened, broken soggy shells,
releasing an aroma thick, wet, deep-reaching.

Mince your words and put them on my tongue.

The light swirls from inside you, falls
onto my eyes like a water strider—dancing,
glossy, quick, uncaught, uncatchable, teasing,
glancing, seen more for movement than for mass.

Circles That Free Children From Time

I told John and Stepa they were satellites.
Each child chose a spot of grass and
each made circle after running circle.
Stepa’s little laugh tumbled down the
hill; John’s bouncy chuckle spread wings
and took to the sky, making the clouds seem
whiter, the sun seem brighter.

If teleportation were a viable option, we would
have gone further, faster. But I do not want
to go faster. Haven’t you noticed the rapidity
with which we move, and haven’t you learned to
despise it? Don’t you want to tell Earth:
“It will be all right, dear; take it slowly, and
slower.” To tell the rest of the system to
slow down, too. I wish to tell Physics it really
ought not demand such speeds from such constant,
hard-working bodies. Could you, Physics, please
take a vacation? Take time with you. Then the
children can run out of time, run outside of time.

Let the children slow their circles, trip on
dragging feet, fall onto backs in the grass—
while crickets begin a nighttime rhythm and
vision spins with the whirling memory of running
in circles. I hear the quick-breathing lungs relax,
I watch the dizzy hearts smile at a slower pace.

Orange Juice Son

Remind me of the time we took a weekend drive
to the orange tree. You said I was in
no condition to drive, and indeed I wasn’t,
and I said I would be fine but you drove, remember?

The right tire was flat and I felt it
beneath me wobblingly. We always release
the dearest bits of our souls during the quiet moments when
we pretend we are not paying attention. My son,
if ever you discover time travel as I have done,
return to this moment. And when
you smell the orange zest buzzing through
the air and saliva glands gladden,
do not change the moment but swallow it
completely–orange juice dripping down your throat like morning
drips open sky, the newness of
day, a breath of liquid citrus hushing,
rushing down your throat.

Time Is a Colouring Book

She scrutinizes the difference between one minute and the next.
Has change truly occurred.
Why do we mark time. Are numbers the best symbols for time. What if
we used colour: Ah, it is blue–time for tea. Or: Good morning, darling,
it is yellow already, time for breakfast.

We use numbers. Twenty four of them. Divisible by four, conveniently;
we can break the day into four parts.
Also works in two halves, two sets of twelve. That’s how some
organize their day. Twelve and twelve. New day! Again, twelve and
twelve. And again: what is the difference between one minute
and the next? They are the same to me, but these numbers say,
“Something’s changed. It was 2:25, now it is 2:26.” Big deal, clock.
As if we could fit ourselves into numbers. They were meant to represent
the gradation of time, but we do not understand this gradation, do we,
so it seems sort of silly (and pretentious) to assign numbers to this unknown
meaning. It is red, time for sleep, let the minutes softly creep
as they will, but I will not change for them.

I do not know what I mean by that. I like change. But I do not
want to change in order to match a clock. I want
my change to be from me, within me, reaching out of me. I don’t want
time to change me, or to change anyone. I would like us to change time.

I’ve Forgotten What It Is To Be A Giant

If we fall away, or apart, we can know
we were once part of something.

Facing a tree, the bark is grey and dark–
no, it isn’t really dark, but the twilight makes
the light grey appear somber.
Facing the light grey tree and leaning forward two inches
so my forehead rests on it. It seems like I am standing upright,
and the tree is the one leaning, onto me,
bowing its weather-beaten body to my forehead, which I imagine
is also weather beaten. I imagine I never
was out at sea with the other Odysseus-men; but I was, of course.
But not on course. I was off, and I never did rediscover home.
I was told I needed to remake home. Could be simple if
I could remember what it was. It’s a concept, isn’t it?
I’m too tired to reconstruct concepts. Too tired to
move away from this tree. Too tired to finish my own thoughts.

Windful

Wind chime in wind storm,
careful cries of chime tumble like apples in
grocery store when curious child grabs
the apple at the bottom of the pyramid.

Tumble sounds, winds rumble till
they melt and so winds gurgle and
glisten in light of night.

He knew you by
the colour of your shoes, always pairing
red Vans with black socks.
Almost forgot
he had a name, but of course he has a name.
His name sounds like: Caught-You-Off-Guard-Didn’t-I?
You could never forget his name.

Wind pushed in hair. He liked
that your hair ignored gravity, chose to obey
wind instead. You smiled and said, Have you
ever given your whole body up to wind? And
when you said that, the wind washed into words,
sound dispersed, poured and pouring into everything.

That was it, given up to wind, both of you.
You could never forget his name.

Is This Shelter

Somnolent fields lay closed their heavy eyelids,
old railroads hold still a cold quiet,
black beetles pretend they do not exist as
they push-crawl beneath folds of fallen leaves.

Little girl leans over her feet. Her knees
bend suddenly when she thinks to bend them–
the eager obedience of a young body. She shifts
dry leaves side to side like sliding the score-keeping
beads on a foosball table. “Hah,” she gasps when
a beetle retreats to another leaf shelter.

Sari would have flicked the beetle. Mom would have stood up
and left it alone. Tumba the dog would have eaten it. But
this little girl does not like eating beetles. She bites her bottom lip.
What to do, what to do with this beetle in sanctuary.

She reaches out long long long, stretches arms then pulls
leaves together, a pile, and more leaves and more beetles
scurry, there is a hurry to find crispy shelter. Enough.
Onto her stomach and puts the leaves onto her back and
she giggles and she smells the stale weather and she
feels the papery parts of leaves curling into tangled hair
and she feels her tummy press against the cool earth whenever
she breathes in and she lets her heartbeat slow down, slow, and
she is like a happy beetle, a beetle fallen under the spell of
forest’s twilight, a twilight that kisses her brow and tucks her
into bed, into a beetle’s cool, delicate slumber.

Samuel Asking

In the hallway on his way back from the bathroom going to
his office, Samuel Terrin suddenly addressed the question
WHY in relation to his job. Why did he check those graphs
so often? Why did he straighten up? Why did he then try
to slouch slightly? To look casual, relaxed? He was not at
ease, to be sure, so why pretend? Why did he make sure
his pencil was sharpened and straightened before he used
his computer? That last WHY especially puzzled poor old Sam.
He wasn’t even using the pencil yet sharpen it he must!

He sat down in his swivel chair, scratched his left eyebrow,
and as he mindlessly picked up his pencil to sharpen it,
he smiled, stopped himself, and put the pencil upside down
in his half-full coffee cup. Just to see what would happen.

Afternoon, Translate

Too terrible, as always. As never
before you guffaw at me and tap my
nose. Nosey. That’s what Teepa called
me when we were seven and always singing.
I called her Teepa because I saw
she hoarded teapots beneath her bed.
Which is why she called me Nosey.

As never before you try to translate
this look I give you. What’s funny is
I used to have multiple reasons for this look.
Now the reason seems always to be:
I know this look will baffle you.
You’ll wonder what I really mean,
what I’m really thinking. You’ll wonder
and assume and ask and I’ll smile, enhancing
that look just to heighten your bewilderment.

I do this because I love that look, your look
of bewilderment. It’s terrible because
unresolved; wonderful because I caused
the unresolve. It’s a nonverbal game we
effortlessly slipped into, and I don’t think
we will ever slip out.

When Conditions Change

Stray dogs know the girl who keeps chicken breast in her pocket.
She finishes at the sandwich stand, sits on the curb,
and her little hands wander into her pockets and pull out
raw meat. Her pockets are always moist from the meat, and she
hardly notices, except when she puts paper in them. Then she
scowls at the way paper, permeable and absorbing, warps into wilty slime.

The dogs used to glide by, inconspicuous as satellites, once or
twice before drifting closer to the girl, before pausing briefly near her, before
sitting and facing her, before cocking their heads, before pressing their
muzzles submissively to their forepaws: please please would you mind, we mean,
could you give, we mean, the meat is in your tiny fists and we smell it.
The little girl so happily fed them those first few days, they now
saunter to her, dauntless, still submissive.

In these conditions they come to love her. So yes, conditional love.
But if the conditions were to change, if the girl could no longer
spare what was once extra chicken, if she too began to drift over the streets
as an inconspicuous satellite, the dogs
would still come.

The dogs do still come. They press their muzzles onto their funny,
mangey paws and whine a little: won’t you, we mean, you give the sweetest pets,
we mean, there is so much emotion stored in those closed tiny fists and we can sense that.
The little girl smiles and relaxes her grip on nothing, reaching out,
petting the dogs.