she itches her nose with her palm
and it sounds like Nickelodeon Gak
squished and oozing through fingers
it should drive a man insane.
it drives me wild.
I guess we’re gross enough
for each other.
Sweet Julia, your grand gestures, generous
frame, and ready wit supplied all the diversion
necessary to cover your sleight of hand:
how you poured your secret
heartache into every dish you prepared, each recipe
you tested and perfected, feeding by proxy
whole generations of families you could never
otherwise call your own.
It was on the news today
A monkey robbed
You would think I’d pulled a nuclear bomb,
or evidence of the 2nd coming,
out of my bag.
Because I dare to go bare,
or dare just to be too damn lazy,
a tube of lipstick is a major event.
I don’t judge if you paint–
Sister, flaunt your shit if you got it–
but I like going to bed
with the same face I woke up with.
sometimes your lips are chapped,
or you’re bored,
or you don’t feel pretty enough (for who for whom?).
It’s nice to hear, “Oh! You’re hot!”
But wasn’t I before?
It’s a different anniversary from those to which she’d grown accustomed. The maturation of his absence is now complete, and every day past this will belong only to her. Not him. Certainly not some once but no longer future them. Not even to the red marks on the calendar that ticked off the first month without him. After that, despite the grieving, it got easier. Fourth of July fireworks? So last year. Christmas with his parents? Won’t miss a single, painful moment. New Year’s Eve? All her choice. Almost forgot Thanksgiving. Who’d have thought she could be so grateful in such a tiny portion of her life’s greater arc?
Geese and Angels
For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water.
At first, it was only the sudden spectacle:
Hundreds of geese, their raucous honk! honk! honk!
Slicing straight through the quiet of St. Mary’s Lake;
Their strong wings flashing against a clear October sky,
Their small feet skimming, churning–
That had been so placid
Only a moment ago.
In single, unbroken motion, they descended—skimmed—rose again
Out of sight,
And as St. Mary’s waters settled once more into silent clarity,
You were there,
Walking beside me,
Your words and mine forming, rising into tangible awareness,
Saying, through this quivering, this newly split veil,
The words we could not say
When both of us had voices.
I did not use to hum with anger
or burn with fright
There was a time where
I would offer every part of myself
Hands for holding onto
Writing messages addressed to your name
Mouth for affectionate affirmation
Conceding to your side – I was wrong.
Heart for meeting expectations
Beating and failing to beat
Stress can be so funny
Love can be so frightening
I am full of diluted vibrations
Echoing while I unlearn us
You said there is blood on my hands
That my lips are unlcean
My heart is not your fault
And you are right
Because of my father’s insanity
he clings to what feels familiar.
We burned wood
instead of using the electric furnace.
Mornings were the coldest
when the fire had gone out some time in the night
and I dreaded undressing to shower
or even pulling my pants down to use the bathroom.
We hauled our trash to town
instead of paying for garbage collection.
Sometimes we’d forget it, in the back of the SUV
and it sat all day in the heat
the smell of rotten food and dirty toilet paper
settling into the upholstery.
But we threw little away.
Old butter containers
and Ziploc baggies
we washed and reused.
Junk mail, flyers
and old newspapers we burned.
We kept anything that was still good
as if it were the Great Depression
and there was no telling
when we’d see a new zipper again.
Broken tools were still good.
Expired food, expired medications, still good.
Other people’s garbage
was still good.
My father brought it home by the truckload
stacking it, stuffing it, scattering it everywhere.
I do not miss this.
There is no nostalgia
about the hardships
There is only this wall of fire
in the back of my mind
to keep a perimeter
around myself, my family
to keep the wrecking wildfire of him out.
Hands scarred by poverty
You stand in defense
Your poised jab protects
pointless, hollow treasures
Clinched fists silence
passions that could change the world
with white knuckles,
you hold on
Letting go requires more
strength than hanging on
But, loosen your grip on emptiness
Sprinkle your gifts like magic dust
Change the world, I say
Cling to authentic riches
with a damaged squeeze,
you hold on