I rented her the room
on the basis of her earrings.
Freckled nose, newly thin,
collar bones cut
sharp like her wit.
We gave thanks
cranberries and turkey,
Her vintage eye,
a thrift store hound,
she let me wear
her green dress once.
I did again, without asking.
She knew but didn’t say.
Vodka smoothies, red-eyed research.
David Bowie, drunken curries.
The cheap skillet warped.
I laughed and ate her meal.
The decade took its toll.
A light dimmed by hidden liquor,
welfare calls, the ride to find the totaled car.
Missing persons report, the lonely cat,
a pile of sick upon the floor.
Awkward box step, care and boundary.
The line drawn.
A new sun rose, a corner turned.
A job, a love, a life abroad.
Santorini, Rome, and Paris,
Istanbul, a mother’s email.
No alcohol, they said.
No details yet.
Just a heart sans
I unpack the bag and pluck out my fears—
used tissues pinched by fingertips—
the truth of me smeared and hidden
lest anyone see I’m leaking.
Cringe and flinch at the caricature
my husband’s ex must make of me,
the time she caught me coveting her
well-lit composition and poise.
My finger tap, a signal
she was neither
out of sight nor out of mind.
My envy was lint in the side pocket
that, unballed, began as threads
from past betrayals and itchy scabs
I picked until they oozed.
In youth I feared deep loneliness,
the loss of power in a room of men,
a roving eye that paused for me but never
Now the vows babies mortgages
bind me tight just as I wished.
In exchange, my solitude, a price I paid
with loose pennies from my purse.
I was as round as a meal,
as pregnant as a pause,
a hen in the chicken coop
tending to my eggs.
Our friends outside
circled around the picnic
and my blood drained out in clumps.
The fibrous exodus
of a hoped-for future
on the surface of the water.
I sealed my heart to slow the flood
And returned to the party, a tomb.
The circle looped in on itself
no start and end but the
numbers on the houses,
crabgrass plots back to back
like brothers in a hotel bed.
We ran barefoot on the new tar road
run wince hobble walk
with gravel between our toes.
We roamed free, no collars no fences
like the transient dogs that wandered in.
Salt-brined babies in the Texas bake,
we hid and sought until the sun went down.
Mailboxes welcomed us, red flags aloft
in soldierly rows saluted,
guards to hopeful letters.
We played postman to hand-scrawl
on white pages, blue lines.
Check yes or no and flattened cootie catchers
passed from hand to hand.
A dry breeze whipped the stripes and stars
atop the neighbor’s pole.
No purple mountains, no amber waves
Just us at the end of the road
before our parents called us home.
The thing about dreams is
we build them from the inside.
Our eyes close, our minds construct
treehouse cities, disco skylines.
Oh, what a world we’d architect
if our steel was empathy.
A home for every wearied body,
joy in blackness, queerness thriving,
diversity resplendent as stained glass.
Our beauty illumined.
Go to sleep.
In your rest
I find my own.
I catch your grasping fingers
in the soft cage of my hand,
my touch, a contract.
I am here.
Naked as a babe I stand,
and survey the damaged hills
and valleys of my skin—
familiar landscape made foreign.
If my body was the temple,
you were the holy spirit
that craved a fragrant sacrifice
of blood and milk to bless
the world with hope.
I wonder now at what I am:
the other side of a miracle.
The altar stained, the crowd dispersed,
Remember when the angels sang,
the earth split, the sea rose?
What wonders to behold!
Now my belly is a billowed shroud,
the body gone, the body risen.
I am the imprint, faint and faded,
touched by God.
I know the undulations
of your nascent, breathy song,
the tender language you carry
in this unknown world.
Your cry, the lighthouse beacon
and I, the ship approaching shore.
As a Mother
When you cried out in the night,
weak and low,
in the voice that only I can hear,
you tensed the string
and flew me like a kite
upon the urgent wind.
I am yours.