hush and hum

the poem is a

prayer

 

you write all alone

in your closet.

 

it fights

you;

 

it demands

a blessing

 

from the

shit.

 

inside time’s

attenuated tip,

 

you wrestle

with the

 

wooden chest

of your heart:

 

all the

kindling,

 

the hush

and hum,

 

the red

sharp,

 

the perfect

death.

 

deeper still,

you move

 

through the

electric blue

 

darkness, the

great lost-ness,

 

a tiny sign of life

hunting another.

 

you see the

silver sparks;

 

they brush up

against you—

 

but you cannot

feel them.

 

you are here

but not here.

 

you remember

your father saying

 

every thing is

going to be okay

 

with his ragged

breath and big

 

chemo eyes.

even then,

 

on the edge

of death,

 

he was full of

hills and hopes.

 

now, the

big banyan

 

and creeks and

deer and wolves

 

tell you: it is time

to move into your

 

own life. it is time

to stop inhabiting

 

family history,

family religion,

 

family memory.

put whiskey in

 

your coffee and go

out into the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

close carry

i used to fall asleep in the car,

riding home at night after a

 

long outing. i remember the hum

of the road, the flashing head

 

lamps; i remember the sudden quiet

of the engine cutting off, daddy scooping

 

me up in his arms to carry me in. some

times a shoe would slip, a mumble, a word—

 

a hint that i wasn’t completely asleep;

but he would carry me up the stairs into

 

the house, up the stairs into my bed.

i don’t remember what was said: just

 

the strong arms around me, the

scent of man, of capability, of love.

 

later there would be times i would try

to recreate this safe feeling, this

 

extended touch, this close carry.

but it was never the same.

 

and the creeks don’t rise

in every dream, a house;

in every room, a hole: a

broken floor, an exposed pipe, a

gaping window wanting to be a door.

 

at the end of a life, last words

are overrated: i’m so confused;

i’m in trouble; get the hell away

from me. it’s not like the movies.

 

you better hope you made your

amends, exchanged embraces,

made your love known while there

was still clarity. the last gasping

 

moments are not made for love.

 

 

 

 

 

forever

some words are too small:

daughter, mom,

 

boyfriend, blood.

some are too big,

 

especially early on:

god, love. we keep trying

 

to fit them on, but the glove

won’t succumb. it’s a

 

game of time played for-

ever and rarely won.

arrive alive

20150718_172909

always driving,
always moving,

running to meet point-less
dead-lines, absurd expectations:

rushing, rushing to our graves.

this time i happen
to be headed south,

past neon signs with casualties
counted and engraved:

657 so far this year;

past the severed alligator, under
the glassy big-brother eyes,

funneling down to the edge,
straight into the heart of

gun-shaped dread. i’ll wait until
i get there to start drinking,

numbing away all the things waiting to bite,
until the laughing takes us right into the

crying. it’s all the same out-
pouring in the mind’s eye,

tucked up on that cloud
shelf in the revolving sky;

just harder to put your finger on.

pieces of memory paste themselves
together as i maneuver in and out of states:

last words, last touches, collages of conversations
from ten, twenty years ago, from count-less lives ago—

before we knew what we were be-coming;
before we knew how it would all end.

i keep looking over at my girl sleeping safely
on the seat beside me. my eyes are wide prayers.

the bittersweet dark is settling in as we
arrive alive under the last exhale of sun;

arrive to your absence, to the stomping pulse
of grief running through your girls,

to the very same places where we
once romped and rallied for joy.

20150718_173350

Encrypted Happiness: or, What I Lost on Martha’s Vineyard

I lost a roll of film once on Martha’s Vineyard. I had spent all week capturing little pink cottages, and ice cream carts, and sea birds, and cliff faces, and ocean breaks, and cotton-candy sunsets – and, of course, all of us holding onto each other in the tide, smiling wide in tank tops and beach hats and sunglasses – enthralled to be so far, far away from home.

When it was time to go, to leave this enchanted place named all those years ago for a British explorer’s baby girl – I panicked. I could not find the roll. I thought I had placed the long, looped disc on the dresser.

‘Help me pull this out from the wall!’ I yelled to my sister. It was heavy, an old-fashioned wardrobe with a large, beveled mirror that ogled you even after you had left the room. My parents were busy: tidily clearing the cottage, efficiently packing the many suitcases into the car like puzzle pieces, checking every last nook and cranny for their own possessions.

How could I have lost something so valuable? I thought about it falling out of my pocket and into the street, the narrow, black-knobbed body being kicked underfoot by tourists as they milled about seeking lighthouse ornaments and island delicacies. What if a stranger found it? Would they be curious enough to pay to develop the pictures? Would they try to find me? What would I do if I found someone else’s film roll? I thought about it falling into a gutter, buried forever in rain and mud and eventually snow.

I closed my eyes and willed as hard as I could to know it, its dimensions, where it was hiding. Why couldn’t we just know these things? What had happened to our fellowship with concrete objects? I heard the ocean crashing outside, and I thought about the roll being tossed about in its white waves. I saw it dropping miles and miles through the blue-green-black to the very bottom. Maybe it would get caught up in a current and be pushed and pushed along until it found its way back to the mainland. Maybe it would even arrive ahead of us and our seagull-covered ferry.

My dad was shaking his head in disbelief that I could lose something so important. ‘At least you didn’t lose the camera,’ he said as he loaded the last bag into the car. Was that supposed to make me feel better?

It was a Kodak 110 — a long, slim, rectangular model that fit nicely in my hands, in my back pocket. The film was easy to load, and there was a long, black string attached for carrying and swinging as you walked. It was my favorite birthday gift. But what good was it without the pictures it had snapped up? It was just a flat, plastic, black shell.

‘We can’t leave!’ I shrieked. At least, I was shrieking on the inside. Outwardly, it was barely a whisper, with a tiny cry attached. ‘I can’t leave without it.’ I pictured the little roll bobbing away on the sea, out onto the horizon and of sight.

I was convinced that all of the best moments of my life – of our lives — had happened on that roll, and that I desperately needed it in a way I had never needed anything before. I had been entrusted with those magical scrolled memories, a guardian of those keepsake hours the five of us had spent together — away from the TV, away from the exhaustion of work and school, away from the rattling radiators and runny noses and snowy weight of winter.

I stood in that vacant cottage and listened to the echo of the sea through the open windows and smelled the salt as it settled onto the hardwood floors and furniture and stripped beds. It was an emptiness I had never felt. I tried hard not to hear my heart beating faster and faster as my dad started the engine.

Years later, even after losing so many more things — both concrete and abstract — I am still convinced that everything I ever needed to know and understand and remember was on that lost roll: secrets of childhood, hidden messages, encrypted happiness.

turret syndrome

in concentric circles

these sun-saturated planks

 

constrict the heart

of the house,

 

make it feel — over

and over again.

 

in slippery socks

you walk the ranks

 

you know so well,

eyes shut.

 

floating far above in a spiral-pocket

of deadening air, a hair of respite

 

plucked from the hard

wick of existence.

circles