The romance novel in the thrift store that falls open naturally, like a ripe piece of fruit, to the juiciest sex scene. The secondhand wicker, the rattan, the hibiscus, the pelicans, the pink, the glass lamps filled with whelks. The cheeky gulls, those beggars. The insistent breeze from downshore that smooths my white sand footprint to a rippled crater within two minutes. The startling moment when the wind briefly dies. The ice slumping, shrinking in the styrofoam. The cumulonimbus that mound thickly in the southeast sky at the same hour everyday. The waves, mulling it greenly over and over and over, endlessly. The light of six o’clock that turns my forearms to galaxies, of the kind only seen far outside of town in the deep wintertime.
A chance meeting in the hall. You were a five-by-eight:
dense, climate-controlled. I was a bloated ten-by-fifteen,
and fine in a cell outside, with its temperature extremes.
My hoard had more volume. Yours, more weight.
You showed me your trove of googly eyes, lapel pins,
photos you’d taken of dirty tarps on construction sites.
Delighted, proud, I lifted from my own first boxes lights
of all kinds: lamps and strands and sconces, bins
of silk and paper shades. Then, reaching down, I found
a fifth of vodka my last love hid, not unearthed till now.
Next, the star-spangled sequined blouse I’d never allowed
myself to toss, although he hit me in it once: crumpled mound
of sparkle, sweat, and blood. Your smile was faint and kind. Sadly,
you slid out a large box marked in all caps, FUCKING NEGATIVES.
We kept some boxes sealed – others, we were brave enough to give
away. Repacked the rest in more condensed, neat stacks. Gladly
rolled shut the metal doors, clicked the locks in place. Another day
we’ll cull some more: risk what we can let go, and what must stay.
It has become clear that I learned only from all the best
mistakes I made, more than I did from what went right.
The time I failed to defend my friend, that crucial night
I slammed down a wineglass full of red in my clenched fist,
shattering it to bits. These wrongs put me on “the right
road to wholeness,” as Jung would say, which means a route
paved “with fateful detours and wrong turnings,” and too the mute
chagrin of afterwards, when reflection comes, the dark night
of the soul. I have expanded through what in me was mean
and small, from a base spite at times when my ire burned,
sputtering and greasy – when, rather than be generous, I spurned
the chance to rise above, broaden, keep my conscience clean.
That damned spot is all that keeps me moored to earth. I lean close:
my breath fans the sooty smudge of that which shames me most.
The sea swallows whole
all that boasts of heft and mass,
slows the arc of a brute fist
till it becomes the leisurely
sweep of a ballerina’s arm –
or adds force to the weak,
flinging a stray oak sprig
hard enough to redden a cheek.
To stay requires that one conform
to the fluid cage of the whale,
submit to ebb and flow, gale and lee
that buffet and shelter the brig
by turns. Some do. Most demur,
preferring the sound and solid shore.
when I hit
on my boots
at the friend
care of me
At the top corner of the bedroom window
in the hollow between regular and storm panes
wasps have built a nest. I noticed last week.
Their place measures, already, dozens of papery cells
across. Once in a while I walk by and flick the glass.
Their legs and wings quiver. Then they scatter angrily.
I read of Vespula vulgaris that they’re less aggressive
than their red cousins – yet now I have these paper-makers
trained: when they see my poised finger approach,
they fly and fly at the invisible border that divides us.
I stand and watch them spread, stab past the glass towards
my face behind it: livid, futile. From outside I torment them
for I have no way to kill them without myself being stung –
that is, until the winter does it for me. December alone
will find these flimsy chambers bereft of all their toilers.
Beware of people who prefer you when you’re low.
Everyone is more complex than they appear.
Wrest your worth from others’ courtrooms. Be excused from such suits.
The Irish know best how to say goodbye.
Glow your own way.
This morning, as steam escaped then plumed
from the kettle’s mouth, the day’s first airlift flew
overhead with its woeful thwap and thrum.
Inside it is some frail lady who, overcome
by potato salad, people, and heat, succumbed
to stroke, or a man who, tinkering with the pontoon
of his boat back by the engine, lulled by fumes,
slipped quietly beneath the green surface
for five full minutes before his absence was
noted, or else a kid whose fingers turned
to streamers and confetti after he lit and burned
a quick, wonky fuse. We hear the wail, see the flickering
red flare of the van now parked two streets away, musing
on the sacrifice of these who give their lives on this day.
At noon the shadows turn, go the other way.
this button wants
free of its placket,
will slip the leash
at the first inkling it can
these cobwebs whisper
the sooner to slide off again
lines imprinted in skin
traced with a finger
this clasp wants
unmoored from its hook
one strap slinks lower
silk pooling darkly
in the crook
only when you slept
was I free to eat my fill
that’s why I left you
one day you got a
flashlight: “open wide and show
me all.” so I did.
you would stand afar
watch my group gab at the bar
chew your straw, alone
you could do a wolf whistle
on your blue les paul
you liked me until
I passed that test you didn’t
then your eyes went cold