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 inscribed farewells on the surface of the water. I sealed my heart to slow the flood And returned to the party, a tomb.
I 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.
II 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.
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.
It starts with comparison.
I pull the measuring tape taut,
square it off, count the hashes.
Pencil the number on a crumpled receipt
and chant the incantation:
Money back within thirty days.
Discrepancy makes me a sorcerer’s apprentice
multiplying not brooms, but yardsticks.
All things transmogrify
in service of appraisal:
The floor length mirror.
The business card.
The photographs of Rome.
The published byline.
The summer cabin.
Trust fund disbursement.
A baby’s push up.
The marathon stamina.
The youthful skin.
The influential family name.
The bullish trade.
The glowing skyline.
The time, the time, the time.
It is tiresome to carry the scales of justice
door to door.
To feel a thing blindly, to evaluate its heft
by the space it occupies
and the space it does not.
My arm shakes, the muscles fail,
and in reluctant setting down,
the graceless letting go,
amid the shards of expectation
I inherit the wealth I am due:
I am enough.