There was once a child, and he strolled about a good deal, and thought of a number of things. He had a sister, who was a child, too, and his constant companion. These two used to wonder all day long. They wondered at the beauty of the flowers; they wondered at the height and blueness of the sky; they wondered at the depth of the bright water; they wondered at the goodness and the power of God who made the lovely world.
They used to say to one another sometimes, Supposing all the children upon earth were to die, would the flowers, and the water, and the sky be sorry? They believed they would be sorry. For, said they, the buds are the children of the flowers, and the little playful streams that gambol down the hillsides are the children of the water; and the smallest bright specks playing at hide-and-seek in the sky all night, must surely be the children of the stars; and they would all be grieved to see their playmates, the children of men, no more.
Merritt watched Amrita lift her arms to the flock of sparrows heading south and mouthed the thought that clucked at her every day since their arrival in Toronto: I don't want to be here. The birds skimmed over the roof, wheeled, and faded to a darker blot in the clouded sky. Her daughter's slender hands, unmittened, trembled in the cold. Stirred by the birds' passing, the purple, gold, and silver ribbons tied around each stick-thin wrist fluttered upward. They were wings, Amrita explained as she scattered breadcrumbs across the tangled weave of frozen grass and weeds, wings to fly her home.
Charlie and me were just about to head out when my wife Kim gave me an ever-so-light kiss on the lips and then whispered, "Don't go." She pulled back to look at me the one last time before she glanced over my shoulder. Charlie was there leaning up against his blue Ranger. At the time I thought she was ashamed or something for trying to keep me home.
"I can't, you know that," I said. I wasn't lying, either. I couldn't've stayed home then no more than I could've gone to the moon. We'd made these plans weeks back and I'd been hassling Charlie for months before that, just to get together. "We hardly ever see each other, man," I'd said. "We only live ten miles apart. If Ma and Dad were alive they'd…"
"All right, all right. Jesus, just don't cry," he'd said.
"Please make love to me," I said, struggling not to plead.
My husband Dan jerked his chin to the right, meaning no. He picked up his Rubik's Cube from the nightstand and quickly solved the puzzle three times, his Holy Trinity. I gave him the puzzle on his last birthday, his thirtieth, shortly after they came out.
"I wish you'd play with me instead of that cube," I said. I'd been off birth control pills for a month and was ovulating.
"I'd love to, but I don't want a baby." His expression was regretful but firm. I considered seducing him, but assuming I was successful, I knew it would only worsen our situation. When we married a year earlier, we hadn't resolved the issue of having children. Now, at twenty-five, I felt a fierce, animal-like desire to have a baby.
"I don't mean to be a dick," he said as she drove them west on I70, "but in this light you really look your age."
She was older by five years. Their ages faced off over the line between twenty-something and no longer twenty-something, but he looked like a boy still in college whereas she had matching but fading bath towels and a beaten-down couch in a home that she owned.
Jennifer wakes to the cat vomiting. The sound makes Stephen, the man trying to prove his potential as her kids' fill-in father, jump out of bed like he did when the neighbor kids lit firecrackers in the alley—like trouble, something to reckon with. He's naked, and she tries to swallow the slight nausea she always feels at the sight of naked men—even beautiful naked men, which this one might be said to be, by some.
"It's the cat," she says. "She always vomits when I refill her food bowl; she's the binge-and-purge type."
He laughs, like he does, at her wit, an unsure laugh that says, I'm not sure that I get it, but I'm good-humored, so understand that I want to get it. I'm trying really hard to get it.
He's already pulling on his shorts and t-shirt. He's careful not to let the kids see him without clothes—"Wouldn't want to give them the wrong idea," he says.
The first time I had intercourse with a boy I was twelve and he was sixteen and our union was consummated atop a station wagon, pulling out of a dirt road, accelerating down a paved highway, reaching a reported speed of 96 miles per hour.
5 February 2009
The weeping women cause a scene at the post office.
No one stares,
exactly, but no kindness is shown. No door is held open as they struggle to exit.
2 February 2009
His heart was colorless
until he discovered the cavity's
lavender cadence and its wildflower
breezed shapes, streaked with cool
witch hazel poultice.
O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June:
O my Luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune!
What if I say I shall not wait!
What if I burst the fleshly Gate—
And pass, escaped—to thee!
15 January 2009
Each day less
room less water. What I wouldn't give
for roses and thorns for
roses. We drew straws
and she cried
that glass shod bitch birches
follow her home…
2 December 2008
Why so much stone here?
How far did we ride our habits
& with what weight of stubbornness?
At least our children shone & grew
to be tall doctors (not rock stars)…
5 December 2008
I wore my pretty blue choir
skirt as I was told to
look past the accident
to find my double glass
shape of flute within the frond
light gladiolas flap glass
so to be polite, to capture
shyness back (most mornings it works…
it is 7:30 am on the 4 train to the bronx we are heading fast uptown doors swinging rough out from their sockets rush of burnside fordham road kingsbridge terrace old armory dirt and trash mark the concrete below me rip of train i sit next to a woman with the number nine on her chest sprawling her breasts stretched her baby sleeps below sound
She watched my arm's arc as I heaved the stick.
I plumbed her eyes for something, and the dog retrieved the stick.
At the abandoned mine she put her hand on mine
To guide me first to second; awkwardly, I learned to drive stick.
22 January 2009
I wanted a war in the sky.
I wanted to see the weak
slip through the air like dead
birds to the tempestuous water,
not that pathetic confusion—
the stupid shapes they make.
11 December 2008
I'm nurse, nurturer, old
knife-girl drawing the moon like iron through the far skylight. The vents sliding
temperate breaths through metal.
I love an animal that'll open
like a girl—
8 December 2008
I shoved naked photographs of me
into the sewer
after the breakup, to prevent
them from appearing
near adds for cello lessons
pinned in our grocery store.
14 December 2008
The sycamore mark on her inner thigh is a continent
about to divide itself into the angel
that sat in the votive light
of a fourteen year-old's cigarette, and the angel
that was never there…
12 January 2009
I am telling someone else's story.
This is not my magnolia
tree, and these are not
my shelled pecans.
I eat them anyway.
6 January 2009
Quails don't have chicks when it doesn't rain,
but I had you in a dry year of war when we fed
on bull nettle in eyebright and meadowsweet.
The footage is from Lebanon this time. You ask
if they fight the buildings down, and why.
Tonight, lightening amps the A-frames,
tilts the drone of my fridge and A/C—
surrounded by the daily buzz,
wonder if I percolate to the same
watt-worn beat. Lights go out,
storm pruning the trees, dark kitchen
good for thinking how too many shallow
currents run me.
27 February 2009
i dreamt i couldn't find
my spanish class like you
who have that dream of
finding not and failing who
i just the same
dream the i
& leave it out
but left is what
and what is who forgetting
The birds I hear don't sound like opera, not
like flutes or piccolos at play. They sound
like birds. Sometimes the birds are all I've got.
There's nothing grand but wakefulness, the ground
I jump from; nothing but the shining air…
Growing wild and rank, out in the grass. They asked me to bend down on my knees and rip the dandelions out with my teeth. Not just me. The group of us. Bend down, they said. Your teeth, they said.
again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers…
You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don't even know what songs
would please you.
21 November 2008
Say the pelvis is untested, you're rookies,
the cervix ripening when the mucus plug
unglues. Beware a false labor. (All work,
no pay.) They will measure descent by plus
or minus from the zero station. Inform
your provider. Let inhale volume equal