If that’s you, in a different bedroom,
In a city with different night-sounds,
If that’s you, glaring sightless until the
Ceiling creates the footbridge,
If that’s you I hear, heels clicking on stone,
Or wood, or iron, or slipping over muddy turf,
If that’s you, tasting the drop of
Whiskey left in my glass, licking the sharp feather
Of desire on my shoulder,
If that’s you, with snow on your lip
And word-pearls in your pocket,
Then I’ll let it be;
My cat will leap over your reckless ghost,
Believing he was tricked,
And land soundless on the bedroom floor.
The library in winter smells like our front hall closet,
leather shoes and coats that have dried from rain.
But the magazines in their shiny plastic covers
Crackle like summer with pink lipstick,
Electric blue cars, and sideways glances.
The one I want is as heavy as granny’s Sears Catalog.
I take it to the corner table near Large Print,
Under my arm the way uncles carry bibles.
I flip, study, dog-ear. Every shoulder,
Every neck, every matte mouth and merciless incisor,
Every wool, fur, and drape comforts me.
I’ll choose one to fold, like a ticket,
Into my pocket.
In basic training
We were taught how to shoot,
How to march,
And how to fall asleep anywhere.
For the shooting, you need a gun.
For the marching, boots.
For the falling asleep, you need a letting go,
Which lives only behind your eyes,
In a canoe on a lake, flightless and floating.
Both the unknotting of joints and the uncoiling of ligaments
Ride in the hull, along with
The unhooking of the tongue that allows
Heat to slip down your throat.
Unlace, unclasp, unbind, unravel.
Dip the shoulder of the paddle
Into the lake of sleep
Ten weeks across.
Your walk to school has chapters.
The first chapter tells the neighborhood story,
Streets named after girls,
Where you Big Wheel and roller-skate and
Kick horse chestnuts with the frigid toe of your loafer.
The second chapter tells the city story,
With its gridlocked traffic square.
Conversion van, station wagon, or Chevy Camaro,
They pay you no mind.
The third chapter tells the public school story,
Where the high-diving kids go,
The ice cream eaters, the ones who wear jeans
And spit on your knee-socks.
Chapter four, finally, is
The story of your daily invisibility
Behind the tall brown door.
The trail from my house
To the pocket pond
Is made of X’s.
My boots stamp them in the snow
To make a treasure map
(Think of The Goonies or
That pirate movie with beads and buckles).
Who have no idea
What has become of me,
Who track their own paths
Folded in creases on the maps
Of crumpled memory.
If you turned it just so,
I’d reach iced spaces upriver
With waterfall names like
Minnehaha or Bridal Veil.
But here, home, eye-level,
My dog sniffs from print to print,
And eats the ones he loves.
I have wire crampons for my boots
That help me walk in the snow.
In the spot I thought they’d be, next to the shoe rack,
Was a manila folder of recipes
That had slipped off the shelf
And spilled its contents on the floor.
I found Neiman Marcus Brownies,
Turkey Divan, and Cold Peanut Noodles.
I found the wrinkled, yellow legal paper with the heading
“Classic Stuffing Recipe!” which was my mom’s,
Lost for years.
It burned my hand.
I filed it with the others, back on the shelf.
It doesn’t help me walk.
I dreamed this mirror was a portal
To the all-girls dormitory bathroom on the second floor.
I could see the before-me,
Watch her with her shower slippers and plastic toiletry basket,
A portable drugstore shelf of cheap lotions
That smelled like mint or apple.
Mirror to trace, mirror to face.
Before-me would step out onto a square of rules
And rationales, and absolving religion.
She could not see fifty-me,
Could not conceive of living through the scheme.
Mirror to allow, mirror to choose.
Reflect the shine of your gloss, the fur of a false eyelash.
Mirror to promise.