You wear black
now, move to apartments with
people I’ve never met. We drive
through Brooklyn to keep
the date you made
to give marrow to
I can still
feel the child, heavy with sleep, clinging
to my neck, one fist wrapped
around a hank of my hair.
At the hospital your sturdy
legs rise out of blue paper
slippers. After tiny needles,
you take too long to open
your eyes in this room of
worry and wailing.
When you were born I reached
to pull you out, easy as
a slick fish.
At three you hid,
afraid to show the jagged
line of hair hacked off
with will and your own
A doctor watches now.
I hover and stroke
your cheek until
a strong pulse returns.
For months you wonder
what this giving and
taking may have wrought,
the limits of blood.
What if we stopped tweeting
and texting and started listening
to the dead. Put your ear next to
the screen where night air
blows in, under the chair
where dust gathers, inside
a milkweed pod before it bursts
and scatters. Listen
for what to pick up and what to lay
down, what to begin and what to end,
who to follow or abandon. At first
you may not recognize voices
stripped of pride and doubt,
speaking in tongues and ringing
like morning bells because
at last, they have nothing
When he called her high-strung, I imagined a horse
rearing up white-eyed, not the woman who dusted
down walls every week and sprawled on the floor
braiding strips of wool into a rug.
When I answered the pay phone in the hall, he
stumbled with the news -- break-down. I saw
thin wires snapping, her still body in a white
room. Because you moved away. When I moved
further, she offered the rug and wrote a letter,
because you were a cold child. Now I change
her diaper, trim chin hair, bring a cactus with
one yellow flower. She calls me angel, my angel.
Families in matching t-shirts stake out
spots. Men hang from windows,
sip drinks and flirt. Queens strut,
blow kisses for Marilyn, Tina, Barbra.
Night air smells of salt and
Obsession. Bare chests and leather
cause wives to hold their men tighter.
Are you plain, boring, too pale?
Overweight or outrageous?
Dress badly? Turn every head?
All is forgiven.
Suddenly, the lights go out all over town.
A sharp, collective cry. Laughter turns sour.
Parents who let go of children’s hands
panic, run past each other in the dark,
gone too far.
Call a name:
Sandy? Frank? Hey, babe.
Voices echo like owls.
Circle back, look a stranger in the eye,
give the one who answers your true name,
unmasked, before the lights return.
Your name, a lover’s whisper,
will flit up and down the dark pines
when snow and windfall drifts the yard.
I await your quick visit to
lighten a Sunday grown dull and heavy
from my banquet of grief.
Come, little panhandler, I’ll give
whatever crumbs you ask –