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STOMACHING

It was at night that you broke, Mother, climbing from slumber

like a trout raised from water, its edges dipped in salt,

how you descended the stairs

to spin wet clay into vases,

their bowled bodies taut with beginnings.

They said you’d been sleepwalking.

With closed eyelids rimmed in shadow,

you turned & turned your way

out of a life you didn’t want.

 

 

PALEONTOLOGY

Imagine my husband resurrected as a mammoth,

his tusks fierce with the milk of marrow,

how the floorboards bow beneath him.

And I, like Saint Catherine of Siena,

trying to make up for all he has given us.

Each day I lessen.

Moon hanged over the field in a quiet panic,

one night my hipbones rise,

the next my shoulder blades.

Everything about me salt.

Catherine starved to death on communion wafers.

One day there will only be bones

for him to feed on,

myself

the new extinct.

 

 

MEMOIRS OF INFIDELITY

We have forgiven each other for the flood

neither of us wanted, the poltergeists

it left between us who closed their mouths

like thieving crows

when asked to speak.

Her hair still in my bed,

its whimpered red rinsing my sheets

with the appearance of bleed.

Every evening a decision of and/or:

sleep together or sleep apart,

& sex, or the two of us avoiding one another

like exit wounds.

Still the rain comes, & still

when I am beneath you

I imagine you imagining

her face.

 

 

ARLINGTON COUNTY, 1953

Once as a child you believed the graveyard shift

meant whole cemeteries uprooting themselves &

passing like ghosts through cities

to some other hills

that would accept them as they were,

would take them in

with the grace of an unhinged door.

You loved as well as anyone.

Better than a mortician,

with your softness of throat & unending want.

The way your blood sang in all octaves

like the wings of a sparrow

still curled in sleep.

 

 

ALMIGHTY

All day the men speak of the best way

to put a horse out of its misery.

Where to place the bullet,

how to fold the legs beneath the belly

& carry it to the river.

It was a tearing of the mare’s insides

as they stretched to let the colt through,

everything hole & wound,

open & red, so thick it stilled the tide pools.

The whole time

they come up with new ways to end it

I cannot help but think

of my mother.