So who mothers the mothers
who tend the hallways of mothers,
the spill of mothers, the smell of mothers,
What's funny about this place
is us regulars coming in with our different
accoutrements, mine usually the little void
of space I call honey, days
My father scolded us all for refusing his liquor.
He kept buying tequila, and steak for the grill,
until finally we joined him, making margaritas,
cutting the fat off the bone.
When he saw how we drank, my sister
shredding the black labels into her glass
while his remaining grandchildren
dragged their thin bunk bed mattresses
first out to the lawn to play
then farther up the field to sleep next to her,
I think it was then he changed,
something in him died. He's gentler now,
quiet, losing weight though every night
he eats the same ice cream he always ate
only now he's not drinking,
he doesn't fall asleep with the spoon in his hand,
he waits for my mother to come lie down with him.
Mostly I'd like to feel a little less, know a little more.
Knots are on the top of my list of what I want to know.
Who was it who taught me to burn the end of the cord
to keep it from fraying?
Not the man who called my life a debacle,
a word whose sound I love.
In a debacle things are unleashed.
Roots of words are like knots I think when I read the dictionary.
I read other books, sure. Recently I learned how trees communicate,
the way they send sugar through their roots to the trees that are ailing.
They don't use words, but they can be said to love.
They might lean in one direction to leave a little extra light for another tree.
And I admire the way they grow right through fences, nothing
stops them, it's called inosculation: to unite by openings, to connect
or join so as to become or make continuous, from osculare,
to provide with a mouth, from osculum, little mouth.
Sometimes when I'm alone I go outside with my big little mouth
and speak to the trees as if I were a birch among birches.
So this morning I made a list
of obsessions and you were on it.
And waiting, and forgiveness, and five-dollar bills,
and despots, telescopes, anonymity, beauty,
silent comedy, and waiting.
I could forswear all these things
and just crawl back into the bed
you and I once slept in.
What would happen then?
Play any film backwards and it's elegy.
Play it fast-forward it's a gas.
I try not to get attached.
I see stars when I look at him.
My son took a picture of me
jumping the cemetery wall. Do it again,
he said, as if I'd got out too fast.
Pretend you're really climbing.
In the retake my lazy eye is half shut,
and the other is smiling or crying.
This evening I shared a cab with a priest
who said it was a fine day to ride cross town
with a writer. But I can't
finish the play I said,
it's full of snow.
walked slowly, a cigarette warmed
Some of the best sermons
don't have endings, he said
while the tires rotated unceasingly
All over town people were waiting
and doubleparked and
making love and waiting.
The temperature dropped
until the shiverers zipped their jackets
and all manner of things started up again.
At school he studies the human body:
aorta, valve, muscle, vein.
At home he redesigns it
out of cardboard and twine
until it looks like a coat he might hang
on a hook with other missing coats.
I know agape means both dumbly
open and love not the kind of love
that climbed the stairs to you.
Except for the shirt pulled from the ocean,
except for her hands, which keep folding the shirt,
except for her body, which once held their bodies,
my sister wants everything back now-
If there were a god who could out of empty shells
carried by waves to shore
If the ocean saved in a jar
could keep from turning to salt-
She's hearing things:
bird calling to bird,
cat outside the door,
thorn of the blackberry against the trellis.