It’s perfectly normal that she’s on the balcony,
Topless, three floors up,
She does a back bend over the railing,
Wine-stained smile to the night sky.
“Sincerely,” I say. “Are you listening?”
Of course she isn’t.
I’m not sure she ever did.
In the smoke I am set aside, categorized, dismissed.
The picture I take of this moment
Is developed at a pharmacy, later, back home.
Her breasts in an envelope with
The Bateaux-Mouches and The Bastille.
The landlord is concerned we won’t pay our rent,
But there won’t ever be a drug as potent as her skin.
I rolled over on it, half-asleep, and thought I’d been stabbed
Or stung by a bee somehow resting among the sheets.
It belongs to Helen.
Yellow shirt Helen, Helen whose hands are bigger than mine,
Helen across the table, who I couldn’t look in the eye.
She’s a throw-her-head-back-when-she-laughs woman,
An I’m-strong-enough-to-hold-you-up woman,
A leave-in-darkness-before-you-wake woman.
I tasted her earlobe, fitting the gold post between my teeth.
It yielded to my tongue, slept in my mouth,
And bit me good morning.
When I shuffle the cards, I
Think/dream/conjecture/feel my question,
Though I know The Universe already hears it,
Already knows my confusions and curiosities.
I make my hands soft, nestling, permissive.
When I cut the cards, they
Break themselves into stacks of information,
Lined up like visitors at a funeral
Each with their own message for the
Living and the dead.
When I lay out the cards, we
Remark upon the first to show its face:
the luscious blue pool with a woman floating inside.
She is The Universe,
Holding my intentions up to the light.
Give it your best shot, at fifty, with
Seventy-four bars of alto octave notes
Ranging from “Blest Be the Lord,” to
“Eyes Without a Face,” and “Unshaken.”
String a lapis crystal around your neck,
Hang it on a wire, hold it between your teeth.
Write a letter, which you then read aloud
For four days straight, to each direction,
Eat blueberries. And seaweed.
Swallow an idea, which then grows a vine of
Words which might explain, if they were only
Said, instead of hummed on the other end of the phone.
Once again, rise and sing.
Give to me your mouth.
It fixes me as if with a hammer and nail,
Abruptly, with no denying.
Your tongue polishes my voice,
Your lips fashion a chain clasping your breath to mine.
Give to me your hips.
They push the world,
Grind and level with their insisting sway,
The invisible language of currents
Caught by my hands.
Give to me your hair.
That darkness, that commanding forest
Untethered by ribbon
Is silkened by an exhalation of water over rocks.
Breathing on its own, deciding.
Give to me your elbow, eyebrow, and ear,
Your full throat of gasping bliss.
You speak of my breast as a clock,
With it’s cancerous tumor at noon.
Or is it midnight?
I’d rather talk about ten-forty-five,
The spot my cat uses, while I’m asleep,
For a stepping stone on his way to my stomach;
The U shape from three to six to nine,
Where underwires like chain mail
Left dents along my skin;
Five-fifteen, where the heel of my husband’s palm
Rests when I’m on top of him;
The center, pink-brown bullseye
With precise, invisible clock hands spinning,
Where my daughter latched, pulled, and fed milk
From the duct you’ve named noon (midnight?).
The train yard painting stands four feet by six, at least.
Listen here. It’s simple.
There’s a gravel railroad bed
a white clapboard shed (green vines creeping)
And three black fuel train cars
All under a pale sky with a corner storm.
We decided we need to have it, though
No wall in our home is big enough.
It will persuade
It will overtake
It will draw us through its signals
There will be a whistle and the slow whine of wheels
And we will be travelers, tic-tac-toeing,
Climbing the ladder ties, riding the spine
Through the wall, away, non-stop.
Tell your mom not to worry.
I’ll have you back by sundown.
It will be hot, but
I’ve got lemonade in the cooler,
And there’s a shady spot at the edge of the field.
We’ll take the tractor.
Put your hands on the wheel, and I’ll work the pedals.
It’s loud, I know, but I can still hear
The music of your throat,
The pulse in your palm against my hip.
Let me lift you over the mud puddles,
Boost you over the fence.
You can wear my hat, if you want.
I’ll take your handkerchief,
Secretly, from your pocket.
Your birthday is coming up.
I think you should get me something.
I think it should be an impossible gift.
I think you should get me a do-over
That’s years long and a whole state wide.
I think I won’t rest until you present it to me,
Negative space, pressed into a wrinkle in the
Space-time continuum, stretching out
All four of the dimensions, poised to
Erase and remake each unbidden memory.
I think it should be wrapped,
Not with newsprint or comics,
But airtight, so not one bit
Of the old way we were with one another
When you asked for volunteers for the “Worship Leader” position,
The child inside my mind saw
The nun at the end of the hall,
Pale as chalk, lips like a bird’s beak,
Who called us “dearie” instead of learning our names.
The priest striding through the parking lot,
Black-clad and stalking his way into my bicycle dreams.
The child saw a rosary, fought over,
And a candy cane thief.
The child heard a voice without identity,
Cutting down one who called them by name.
“Let me know if you can help.”
The child, watchful, lets the beads scatter.