like a sweet-sharp hammer against the throat: for maya

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that sunday,

three days before maya’s passing,

we had planned to wake and make bacon

and don our ironed church dresses and ribbons

and drive to holy communion where our secret shame

would be washed clean as fresh snow, and we would know

we were safe and loved and sacred and full of dove-tailing freedoms.

 

and then our parakeet died.

 

she had been singing and flitting

and pecking and strutting in her upright

cage for days; calling out to us and

to the wild birds at the window:

 

hello! hello!

 

chirping out her notes

like a sweet-sharp

hammer

against the throat:

 

i’m here! i’m here!

 

we had not planned to have any more caged animals;

the thought of being trapped in a cage is agony.

our rat, lizard, even chinchilla had not seemed to mind –

perhaps because their desperation was quiet and wide-eyed;

 

but the un-clipped yellow, white, and blue birthday parakeet

chiming out her presence like a continual clock

was too much – too much holy happiness

for such a confined space; too much awareness, sadness.

 

we could not forget her.

 

we could not forget ourselves:

breeding her in a cage, perching her on a stage.

 

and now, in a little shoe box, taped up tight and still,

her brittle body rests: quiet, empty, de-willed.

 

her spirit has flown up and away where her body could not;

her song has gone before her, trilling into the clouds.

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spell a-m-b-u-l-a-n-c-e with me,

e-c-n-a-l-u-b-m-a if you see it straight on,

if you see through the dusty tower-piles of national geographics

stacked into a blue house at the end of the wood-lane:

 

where all the cars turn around –

or, in winter, get stuck trying –

where the circle part turned soul-studio

plays out its beautiful record.

 

(did i pay the bill?)

 

in subtle starts we become afraid of the very

things that make us happy, the too-cheery things

that make us smile — giddy, open-mouthed —

that make us forget mirrors, deadlines, grids, mortality.

 

(may you always free-smile holding pointed-paper-cone-cups.)

 

spell a-m-b-u-l-a-n-c-e with me;

do not think of the blood, the yellow-painted glass-paned door,

the chase at the top of the stairs, the forty-eight stitches —

the hundreds more to come that you know not yet.

 

like a jolt — the rooster lamp crows alive

with white-gold glow; in the hum — connection

chum — the books close; the radiant piano

reverts back to silent furniture.

 

alive: for dad

i keep trying to crawl into that photograph

of you in your uniform, of you in your

 

youth-prime, proud smiling on your mother’s

arm with the crinkly eyes of your future daughters.

 

after the flagship burned,

and the wheelhouse turned,

 

you became good at seeing angels;

yeah, you were all right.

 

when asked how you were doing,

you said, well, i’m alive.

 

and my mirror cells replied,

well, that’s every thing.

Dad and Grandma

holding forth the word of life (or, brown eyes: here comes the storm)

we were in the pale green parish hall;

there was bright pink punch and stained

teeth and rain and an abundance of estrogen.

 

you were reading my poem

out loud with such viscosity

you made me choke up.

 

how do you do that? i asked.

it’s easy, your laugh tinkled like a

wind chime, your poems are full of glass.

 

now someone is singing

his eye is on the sparrow

and i’m thinking everyone probably saw it but me:

 

the way i was calmly lured in.

how could i have known?

i’ve always loved both glass and stone.

 

i go home to write the first lines

(the best love stories are always retroactive) —

brown eyes: here comes the storm.

all the places i have lived

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i take a break from the boxes —

the glaring bare walls, growth

 

points, formative life-joints

of this little house on the corner —

 

this little space carved out of time

that could and could and then just couldn’t.

 

i walk under a canopy and over a carpet

of breathing pink petals and think of

 

all the places i have lived;

all the places i have loved.

 

i think of all of the grace-gifts:

 

laughter, love, moments together,

change, pain, pets, work, healing, play,

 

terror, longing, dreams, excitement, story,

music, art, panic, hope, crafting, change.

 

all of this somehow gets turned on its head,

fits into a ten-foot truck, moves down

 

the block and into a new set

of circumstances, circumvented.

 

some things travel well:

 

the cat; the books and

games behaving in their

 

crates; the rolled posters

and padded paintings.

 

other things are stubborn; they do not want to be moved:

 

the great white upright;

grandma’s formal dining table;

 

the parakeet;

the lava lamp.

 

some things cannot be moved, cannot be reinvented:

 

the six years of school days; the child-hood charts &

doodles on the door frames; the fort-corner; the kitchen island;

 

the cave-closet and sacred bathtub and holy dishwasher and

ringo the rat buried in the backyard that goes on forever.

 

i think of where the sidewalk ends, of where this life-span

twists and turns and comes out on the other side.

 

i think about how the next house could be the last one i share with my daughter.

 

i think about the four years of school days to come;

the continuing grace-gifts; the white dogwood

 

in front of the new house; the two white-tailed

deer come to greet us in the back.

 

i think about the marvel of a crucible —

 

how a house, home, heart

can hold so much.

 

upside down

13 going on 30

the questions begin before the

womb and continue in perpetuity,

like brazen-string confetti in

an infinite sand storm;

 

ever colorful, ever messy, open-

ended wanderings, wondering — who am I?

how did I get here? where am I going?

why is the sky blue? when will I know?

 

words directed at no one and every one,

belted out into the night, up against the

pelt of longing stars — shooting back down

and into us like missile wishes:

 

wanting to know, to be known,

to see what others see when they

look at me; to crack the mysteries

of the two-way looking glass,

 

the four pulsing chambers,

the four chords pulling us

into the stubborn harmony

of our dissonant selves.