Passing between Earth and a star,
a slow creeping heralds a body in motion.
Possibly a body in no solid-state, or acridly molten,
or maybe the stillness of a body under extreme pressure
with surface sculpted by wind,
topiary of inviolate water, suspended in orbit.
Could be some far-off moon.
Could be terrestrial.
Passing between Earth and a star,
the transit is precisely numerically captured.
As though no sisal twined to nets can catch fish.
As though no palm can cross your arched back,
no murmurs or rustling in the darkness.
No crisped edges of butter lace cookies,
no wine stain on the edge of the tablecloth.
As though there did not exist the nape of your neck.
I measure you by your shape outlined in moonlight
passing between the bed and the doorway.
Your transit is etched with photometric precision.
The lens of the Kepler, the mirror of my eye.
When we were married, I wanted to
learn to make clothing. I needed that
connection to my body, a sweater of my
making. I never learned to knit. I always
wanted to, wanted two hands working
to make things that are soft and wrap
neatly around my neck, my shoulders.
I wanted the magic to turn simple yarn
into wearable art, into an expression of
domestic affection, but where was home?
I sit on a wooden chair, on a simple white
cushion and I polish stones. My hands
are always busy, always moving, but they
make no knitted art. I can even crochet,
with loops and hooks and turn a skein
into any number of square things, or a hat
that’s far too big to fit on a human head.
(I wear it anyway.) I felt that if I could knit
I could pick up the disparate threads and
blend them into the square of my hearth.
I would learn how to cast on and cast nets
around everyone who had no hope for more.
I could find stragglers and ken them into
my life, my home, I could embrace you
and sing gladly. But I never learned how
to knit. Maybe it’s because you told me
that needles are too sharp anyhow. Maybe
I could prick my finger. Maybe not Hestia
but a modern Sleeping Beauty, I would impale
myself on a knitting needle and sleep until
you woke me, when you wanted me to wake.
Instead of knitting I learned to weave, to leave
and wake myself. No offering bowls, no blessed
hearth. I wove a coat and wore it out in autumn.
Miss Maude Hires an Assistant
She lines them up in front of her, six
women, each wearing their best clothes.
One woman is wearing pearls and a
pink sweater set. Maude admires
her dark hair, parted to the side,
cut jagged and uneven, but oh
how it shines like brown butter.
Another is wearing heels so high
Maude is afraid she may trip and fall
flattening the pansies in the pots
set on the tables inside. Maude asks
questions – why do you want to work
here at Hallelujah! Hotdish! and where
have you worked before? What do you
want of this job? What do you dream
when you close your eyes – do you see
signs in the clouds? Have you ever caught
yourself staring into the oven and you
imagine yourself there, home there, hot
but not burning? Do you know when you
really, truly learned your name? The women
laugh, nervous laughter, save for the one
with the jagged hair and the quick-bit nails.
She tells Maude she learned her name when
she came home and found all the chickens
and the ducks and the dog dead, and they
were laid out like they were constellations
and she knew then that her ex-husband was
who did it because she’d left him for another man.
Then she knew, she knew her name wasn’t Cathy
anymore, it was Cassiopeia, Cassie, and she cut
her own hair and she never saw him again.
Maude accepts this as gospel and dismisses
the other women. She offers Cassie the job
and a mint julep. They drink sisterhood
through green straws. They drown in it.
Miss Maude Uses the North Star
Maude has always wanted to be a fortune-teller
with a penny inscribed upon her ear. She envisions
a woman with full skirts, layers of cotton duck and silk,
tassels and coin, a blouse off the shoulders, scalloped
collarbones cut in marble. She sees herself reflected
by moon, flute, candlelight. She has tried to read
cartography of her palms, but she can’t decipher
the stones of her hands. She traced her lines
reading maps she found in an old Glamour magazine
using witchery her grandmother would’ve said.
Her life line is long, wavy, it shows she is untamed.
Her heart line makes whorls, it wends. Is she insatiable?
Is she a minx, a ravisher? Her hands are warm,
strong enough to knead dough, they splay sticks
to winds, capture roly polys beneath milk vetch pods.
Where is her fate line? Maude cannot unjoin the twinning
can’t peel life from viscera and what is that? A smudge
of dirt or chocolate mousse, dried blood maybe, there
beneath the fat pink pads of fingertip, the permanent
indentation on her ring finger arcing lines from knuckle
to bone, wrist to wonder, an oubliette of twelve years pressed,
counted as rosary beads fallen on the floor. She closes her magazine.
She closes her eyes and sees the North Star, etched behind
her eyelids. It leads her to the kitchen, her hand to spatula,
whisk and forgiveness. Grateful, she blossoms into plum cake.
Tell Me About the Rain
when I can’t feel
when I can’t walk
the aching smell
hot made new
mist gathering at my ankles
next to the bed
blanket slung over a desk
lamp chair book
when I am becoming
a passive verb
to be I watch the window
tell me about spring
and the heat nestled
in your collarbone
when you come in
let me run my fingers
from neck to cheek
the beaded moisture
you gathered as you moved
from work to home
will settle in
the whorls and eddies
of my stilled fingerpads.
there’s a soft cadence
bound in the leaves
a homily of gnashing
so small, a sibilant whisper
a call of distant rain
without water, a living hum
as larval caterpillars
denude the branches
of their ephemera.
Potawatomi State Park, 1987
We scaled the bluffs believing ourselves gazelles.
It never occurred to us to bring a rope. At ten,
my fingers were small and my limbs compact.
I found handholds and scooped out the
worms, I made room for grasping and hoisting
my weight upward, propelling myself as hydrogen
split from the air. You climbed ahead of me,
feet scrambling on lichen and dead leaves.
I reached a hand to find a stone or a root to anchor
and found your hand. Breath stopped. I turned wood.
Your dead green eyes stared at me and you considered.
Every muscle tensed. When I lost my footing I became
a marionette on your string, 80 feet above the rocks.
I hung slack-tight in that moment as your fingers
bound my wrist like twine. You said, “Do you love me?”
What squirrel doesn’t look up at the rattle of a cottonmouth
clacking his approach and feel fear nee love? I loved
you I said and I meant it. Love to buy my fluted body
life. I said I loved you and I meant it and as puppet-maker
your eyes brightened, you hoisted me easily before
I was made to kneel to prove my profound gratitude.
The closet is a walk-in.
It is strewn with sweaters
and starched linens, shoes
on stand-up wire racks. Your
jackets. I am derelict
in my duties because wrinkles
have crossed the creases
of your trousers.
I know I live: where else
would you find a mirror
in which to see yourself?