The birds were feeding
and on fire I swayed
on hinges blue
November light poured from me the stones
of my teeth dug from shallow earth
My mother died
her eyes the color of a Brueghel field
I looked out one window the great heart of earth
no longer beat
Moonless and close I ate by the door rose to be blessed
in a room not my own
I was bright fruit
unbroken til then.
We misunderstood our luck
growing up in that house —
third from the corner, where the forsythia
bloomed, as though to mock us, and my brothers hurried
down the street with a handful of bees in a jar,
for father who had a thousand demands,
who did not easily love, but was loved, who put the boys
in their place with a razor-tongue — afraid to let go of them,
yet keeping a distance — who lacked the know-how to father,
who struggled—feeling diminished in their world as they aged—
who held in his pocket the several sorrows of the world
when the boys grew older and first one, then the other died.
My father, who refused to hold shiva, though he sat fixed
for a week beneath the shrouded mirror. Friends
came anyway, pressing against us like broken stalks
under an impossible weight, some hugging casseroles,
others with bouquets, surrendering the bare-throated
flowers, a continuous loop of murmured comforts
feeding the machine of our grief. So many things
disappear in the world: lilacs. Even the bending light
leaves, though the windows linger.
Unaccounted for, the long-numbered streets.
A river that once flanked our city.
And father, overwhelmed and immovable,
withdrew, watched as those who could leave, left
the wreckage of our home. But the world
demanded, go on.
I Never Wanted It So
after Carol Ann Davis
It was summer.
It was summer and the aloe wanted none of the rain.
It was summer so the fields gave the finger to the sun.
It was summer, air, thickened by heat, gave in.
I heard a breath from my lungs corrupting
the air, maddening June nights
only to displease myself. Because I never thought
that was a way to settle me. Summer was a bitter sham
in my bitter mouth. Summer was everyone standing
in the standing room. Though I hunted,
no one came my way. My impulse cowered.
And in the corner, summer’s darkness, by chance,
gave me away.