Zip your legs together, which form your sapling trunk,
While naked heels and toes push into the carpet.
Gather living green things, like a scrape of moss
Or spade-shaped grasses. Collect a cupful of earth
And fill your glass bowl terrarium.
Paint a stone, a shell, a pebble, a seed
With your grandmother’s clear nail polish, and
Tap on it like a turtle drum.
Fish your red sweater from the cedar chest,
Pull its sleeves over your palms.
Slide a metal spoon over the ball of your foot,
Envy its frank coldness, then thank it all the same.
She says it’s called “crocodile breath” and we should
Move onto our stomachs, flat, so the tops of our feet
Press into the floor.
“Breathe in,” she says, and I imagine my
Biting, fuming crocodile mouth opening
Showing my teeth, jaw like a vise squeezing
My history under my tongue.
“Feel the breath in your stomach,” the ribs
Full against the yoga mat, against the carpet,
My crocodile’s tender belly also full of argument,
Anger, an egg of fury.
“Now push it all out,” she says, meaning our air,
But it’s the unsaid words, dislodged,
That spill onto the sand.
On the other side of the fence.
Look through the links, stick your toe inside,
And push. Me with my Converse,
You with your saddle shoes. We’ll land
On the other side, on concrete that still
Holds heat, sticky with Coke and orange popsicles.
The water, still as glass (and as silent), is
Tired of children.
If we slide in, ankles, knees, hips,
we won’t wake it. We’ll be its deep night dream,
It’s teeth-chattering, goose-bumped memory
That swirled and kissed,
Dripping wet when we climb out again,
Before midnight turns the gate into silver birds.
Tie the Headband of Fear,
Equip the Charm of Fortitude,
And set out.
Follow the yellow bird.
Write a haiku.
Reflect on grief,
The rest of your clan run through on the beach.
Tap square to assassinate.
Rest at a Love’s, though on the way
You may encounter a bear, a roadblock, an ambush.
L1 to parry, tap triangle to break shields.
Free hostages and buy fast food fries to
Earn the Charm of Invisibility.
Tie it to your yoga pants, stride into the hotel,
And bypass the front desk.
Play your flute to change the weather.
Become a ghost.
My New Jersey purse:
A cassette containing hits by Expose, Miami Sound Machine, Enya, and that boy on the couch who smoked
My Indiana purse:
North Dining Hall card
Matchbook containing the embryo of a drinking problem
My New York purse:
Pack of Marlboro Lights and a Zippo
Matte brown lipstick
An invitation to loneliness, printed in charcoal Art Deco font on cream card stock
My Illinois purse:
Two face masks
Burger King coupons
My daughter’s high school track meet schedule
A Chinese take-out fortune: “Look how far you’ve come.”
Enter dialogue with that which is ineffable, intangible,
Interloping, such as a dog, a toddler, or God.
Take notes on what is said, with words or symbols,
Purple ink a bonus.
Say “yes” to travel.
Lay your head down, purposefully, then draw a line
With your nose that looks past the ceiling,
Past the shingles on the roof.
This will be the outbound, and also the return.
Form a cardboard box behind your brows
Into which you sweep that monstrous memory.
(You know the one. Yes. That one.)
Fold its flaps, tape them down.
Loose what’s left upon the world.
There is a woman in my yoga class
Who some might say is too old for tank tops.
Her silver hair, a cloud of jasmine, springs from her forehead
Rebellious and shining.
(I’ve never seen someone so beautiful.)
I can just imagine what that raven crown,
A shock of strict and serious black,
Must have looked like at forty, at twenty-seven, at twelve.
(How is someone so beautiful here?)
Her body responds, breathes, folds over,
Bends, becomes round, luminous, and transforms
Into a pillar topped by a waterfall,
Torso spilling over ground.
(You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.)
Bury the cigarettes in the junk drawer,
Or better yet, in the yard behind the tool shed.
Lift the chest, spread the collarbones,
Fill the ribs and let them shine, no longer invisible.
Take a glass of warm milk before bed.
Define the usurper, the pirate, the impostor.
Let their names flow out of your bloodstream,
Through your fingers, and onto the page.
Set that on fire.
Roll the wrists, circle the pulse, and
Whittle down it’s secret drum.
Do not be alone.
Pretend it’s your birthday, and blow a green wish
Into a balloon tied with your grandmother’s yarn.
It took me fifty years to realize we’d wrecked.
I should’ve known by the sound of the waves,
By the splintered bow, the fractured mast,
By the shore’s angry undertow.
I broke the window so we’d have a knife.
I tied the rope so we’d have a lead.
I gathered scraps of sail to sew
With a fishhook needle and tendon thread.
I walked a line in the sand
While the birds cracked shells
And picked at the soft tissues inside.
They caw their half-century song,
A hymn we can’t agree on.
Where you hear praise,
I hear only mourning.
But I do know that creature,
Asleep in the field beyond the fence.
It’s easier to turn my back.
Why should I look directly at it,
Search for its liquid iron mouth, or its accusing brown eye?
I’ll stay on the bank, hoping it doesn’t
Slither through the grass and
Pull me down by my ankle,
Or prowl on selfish red paws
Close enough to pounce on my shoulder.
That would be our miscarried conversation,
Violent, wordless, ferocious.
She lived in me until she didn’t, and now she’s
Out there, unburied,
A scent my dog can catch on the wind.