Message from Home
All that August the house seesawed
between heat and wet. Bedraggled
relations in souvenir shirts wondered
if they’d brought enough clean underwear.
We exchanged gifts
earmarked for the junk drawer.
The front door swelled shut
and I cased the window like a thief.
They split into cliques, filling blackout hours
with clannish grievance.
I wondered why until my head ached.
When mornings cooled and we recognized
the coffee steam for what it was, we divided
snapshots, reminiscing already, energized
by the idea of parting.
In the wake of kissed air and reconfigured goodbye,
I stood at the door waving, long past the hour
that would have them turning back, frantic
with apology; and rushing into the house,
convinced they had left something precious there,
something they would recognize if they ever saw it
The tech’s wand slides
down a jezebel breast.
A spiked fist shivers the screen
its cells vying for immortality.
As if danger can only be known
by its face
not shape not shadow.
The room goes cold
with underwater voices:
"We won’t know"
until the biopsy
the labs come back
we get in there.
much worse will come--
the mass unzipped and appraised
the scar’s mad map
burning skin inward. And later
when you unbutton your blouse
for yet another white-coated crowd
like the nude at Manet’s picnic
no longer listening
to talk of cure and recurrence
risk and benefit
prediction and the probability
that all this is necessary
because we just never know.
The nurse came in, thinking
I was asleep, and started to pray.
I wanted to throttle her words,
rob them of their power, but it was late
and I was weak from opening and closing
on a steel slab all day.
When I heard that blessing again--
its cadence a flatline static, its breath
the false thunder of rattled tin--
someone was reading it aloud like a poem.
Faith sometimes comes across that way--
sliding in beside you with a blue mask on
wild with sound and sense, and you have to
let it have its say.
I stand guard over your fitful sleep. Heat rises, mixes
with your sweat while I watch your fever rage.
It’s almost midnight. Planets blink, offer neither clue
nor compassion. The hour’s breaking shivers with sound,
draws me to the window below the shingled wings
of the sloping roof.
A bird tunes its throat, swells a single pitch
from the quavering source. Shapes from a far branch
answer, the motif embellished as if caught in a lie.
Notes loosed into an imitation of flight remind me of all
that must not happen in the dark: a soul slipping away,
all vigilance forsaken.
I turn back to you, pulse quick with dotted rhythms
and count out the time left to us
under your vein-mapped skin.
Light-fingered at first
by the time they are
everywhere they have
to loot the body
and douse what’s left
At night I wake
to ransack sounds
I beg them to stop …
I can’t lose any more
but my voice is already among
the lost things.
The dream a dive
to the bow
of a sinking ship.
Fearless deft diver
scalpel in his teeth
gleaming under white sails.
Fearless deft scalpel
freeing the prow’s carved woman
from a ship already sunk.
She shivers awake
to find him
holding her glass fingers.
"I’m still here," she whispers.
Her surprise cracks
over words too small for him
to pick up. "Where else would I be?"
as if he hadn’t run for miles
with her pulse in his ears. As if
she hadn’t already said goodbye.
A man rounds the corner, zigzag
shadow reaching for the woman
who steps out of it.
He’s a late-comer, can’t catch up
to the lady strolling through dusk
that blazed gold only this morning.
He’d pulled the quilt over his head,
begged the clock for ten more minutes
but she’d already pitched forward
into events no one can plan for.
Along straggling streets that will never
connect them, the woman moves on.
Behind her, the man elbows through
the crush, searching all the places
where a door is left ajar.
A wedge of light spills onto steps
falling from the house into the hooded evening.
He’d have followed her the way she wanted,
but night curves without warning, the stars
do not touch, the road stretches down to the sea.