Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
Before a downpour you can predict
how close you are to the storm.
The lightning will warn you
and the thunderclap tells you the distance.
I knew that I was
beautiful inside and out
rough when everything else seems so sweet
better at dishing it out than taking it.
I knew that I was
good at filling my schedule
instead of emptying my to-do list
ignoring the most important things.
Pouring the holes of sad with drink.
I knew that I was
thinking short term without a long-term plan
no good at saying no or yes
better at sighing “I don’t know”.
I knew all of that
before you told me.
The dishwasher sounded like you
if you were a dog
locked in a room
in the basement
of a house
that I stood outside of
across the street.
That’s how far away
I felt from you.
Close enough to make
a conscious choice
to or not to
was worse than
nothing at all.
Nothing at all
than hearing you
And then the dishwasher stopped
and I was relieved .
At first the silence
and then it seems
with what’s in its place.
If you’re paying attention,
you can predict the storm
but you still have the choice
to weather it
Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved;
Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof
Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest
Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.
Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest,
Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I.
All of the night was quite barred out except
An owl’s cry, a most melancholy cry
Shaken out long and clear upon the hill,
No merry note, nor cause of merriment,
But one telling me plain what I escaped
And others could not, that night, as in I went.
And salted was my food, and my repose,
Salted and sobered, too, by the bird’s voice
Speaking for all who lay under the stars,
Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.
It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
Half of the night with our old friend
Who’d showed us in the end
To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.
I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
Suddenly, from behind,
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
Your instep to my heel,
My shoulder-blades against your chest.
It was not sex, but I could feel
The whole strength of your body set,
Or braced, to mine,
And locking me to you
As if we were still twenty-two
When our grand passion had not yet
My quick sleep had deleted all
Of intervening time and place.
I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.
The whiskey stink of rot has settled
in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises
when I touch the dying tomato plants.
Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
flail in the air as I pull the vines up by the roots
and toss them in the compost.
It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.
My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
as they pulled the flax. Songs so old
and so tied to the season that the very sound
seemed to turn the weather.
(Thick air buzzing in perpetuity
in the thin woods of our younger years.)
Can you hear the cicadas?
I can also feel the cold spots
in Murray Lake that we hated
somehow more than the warm spots
that we knew were pee
and the way the weeds lived to caress our never-shaven legs.
Remembering the importance
of having 35 cents for Lemonheads
leads me down the hot pavement
and around the white cement building
and into the lightless bathroom
(bright now with the day’s sun)
where I’ve stored the memory
of the half-situated tampon
that no one can really teach you how to put in
but that no one needs to tell you
when it’s not in all the way.
It was in those days,
(of wood-paneled station wagons)
with the calm persistence of corn
marking the passage of
Junes and Julys and Augusts,
that we learned without knowing how:
what felt good went without saying,
and what didn’t
seemed wildly out of our control.
(Not the smell of smoke in my hair
Not the swimming movements of my mother
Not the breath-holding contests
Not even the blind slap
of flat water on my back
that I should have arched more)
What feels good goes without saying
and what doesn’t
seems wildly out of our control.
They arrived in a truck at 8 A.M.
Introduced themselves as Dave and Mike,
said no, they brought their own supplies
and equipment, said yes, pay in advance.
They circled the house, removing storms,
tugging at last year’s ivy that cast its spell
of thatch across the east windows.
I opened the door to Mike, watched
as he positioned water bucket and rags.
Through grimed glass latticed with cobwebs,
Dave appeared on the outdoors side.
As if starting a fight, both lifted
their Windex bottles at the same time,
seemed to squirt each other in the face.
The men silent as mimes in a mirror
with big hands tracing one another
rubbed the surfaces of all the panes
until the glass squeaked and disappeared.
The sun, free to fly in, flung
a carpet of light on the floor.