my sloops and barks
knock about in your cove
rock and bump
hulls and gunwales
your star wanders home,
the earth turning downward
till your gleam descends
behind the roof of this little
house on the quay
we return again and again
to the home we’ve made,
an open bottleneck
all that stands between us
and the wide sea
I’ve a yard full of moonlight
full of violets
full of roots
just beneath the surface
towards what’s rich
I’ve shed my tights
for a cocktail on the stoop
I’ve a creek full of frogs
and a hedge full of cardinals
that trill pretty pretty pretty pretty
and never get hoarse
I’ve a stove that simmers stock
till it turns to gold,
a closet full of spangles
a head from which
flames grow like a cash crop
I’ve arms to dream of
and arms to hold
a neighbor cat whose ears
stick up just above
the picture window
when I come home
I’ve vermilion cotton sheets
and a quilt my great-
I’ve an old tub that’s deep
and lavender salts to sprinkle in
a window to open
a quiet street that backs up to mine
a cul-de-sac where traffic stops
an evening to think, to breathe,
to soak, to stew
I set up my desk – bright pen, sticky notes,
a handful of shiny queries like doorknobs that turn
into new rooms – a furrow folding my brow
at the thought of all the tender shoots furring
the redbuds outside and one last hard frost
forecast for later in the week. They come to me
with their drafts, their backpacks overflowing
with notes, they come to me with their cheeks
red and creased from the blanket they just left,
sleep still congealed in the corners of their eyes,
they come to me unfurling books they’ve discovered
accidentally while looking for something else entirely,
they come to me worried about why the Epi-Pen
is so expensive these days, and whether we will ever
get back to the moon, and whether wealth really does
cascade like champagne poured into the top glass
of a stacked pyramid. I spread my upturned hands
and widen my eyes like theirs because I can’t help it,
because I can’t answer. I urge them past bud-break
towards blooming, my own fruitfulness sinking
into sweet rotting. I watch them from my perch
in the crotch of a nearby tree, tweet my entreaties
as they build their nests with found things: twigs
and twine and rags, sequins and barbed wire and string.
I delay my run till dusk so I can feign a breather, but really dawdle
before the yellow house with its red sign and deep porch, steal
what glimpse the windows afford me into the white front rooms.
Behind the trees, they’re lit so brightly. We would not buy such
high-wattage bulbs. We’d sit nightly by the glow of a 40-watt lamp,
you’d get up to make tea, stop to brush aside my hair and kiss my nape
as I read. I see our curated things in place of the Victoriana. Perhaps
one night your phone would ring, or mine, and one of us would start,
go white, and turn over the screen. The questions. The news. The curses
of an old house whose ghosts are yet unknown to us. The creaks.
The leaks. The place in the basement that’s been oft-patched
but only barely, only till the next deluge. The arbor in the back
whose vines bear fruit that would never quite get sweet.
The winter’s chill. The pollen’s acrid chalk. The summer’s heat.
The dump of dead leaves every fall. And us, house-poor.
This godforsaken place has moods
Just like the people who people it do.
In summer the lush verge of the yard reknits
and we rejoice: the neighbors disappear for three whole months.
Our bower tucks in close, sews us warm and safe
inside the pocket of love’s apron, the hedgerow rife
with fruit and bloom and buzz – only, the right kind,
the kind that speaks the language of our own mind.
Or so we imagine: hear in the bird’s calls our own
tongue, cadence, parlance, cry and coo, in the overgrown
serpentining rose. At noon our shadows puddle in a pool
around our feet: we’re columns of light, but the cool
of the edge always waits, its deep dusk of shade,
for later, for those dark hours after the sun recedes
I once used to know what all schoolchildren learn,
but I’ve distrusted her for years. Her simple yarn.
In dreams alike I was polite, afraid to ask to be
excused. Those stories piling in a corner unused.
The kind of thing that happens in the hills outside of town.
The kind of thing that doesn’t even make the local news.
My mother on a ridge out West: her arm swept the horizon,
offering her daughter everything the eye could see.
Yes, it will happen to you, the army of bargain and dole
that is one’s youth. I once used to be fabulous, a fable
we tell ourselves, tell the inmates of our psyche. Truth:
today I am the angel on my shoulder and the devil both.
Tonight I am a haunted wood. Tomorrow I’ll be better,
perhaps – or not. But without doubt I shall be other.
behind its wall
a lake awaits