8.31.2015

To Kai, From Gerda

Just now, I bent to pick a flower;
your absence had hollowed me so thoroughly
my fingers snapped like straws.

I don’t know why you left,
why you slowly, suddenly, like a freezing
river cleaved our home in two,

I don’t—I don’t know why
or when you became who you became.
Your eyes like frosted glass

winking at the world,
your jokes like icicles thrust in my back, as if
I didn’t hear every word.

Do you remember? I think
you cannot:

In the last summer of our childhood
we pressed a rose. Its petals folded
into arches and windows
more intricate than a cathedral, tucked
safe in the heart of our favorite book

and when winter came and we
had opened it before the fire, those dry
petals looked out at us, the face
of something older than innocence

but you wrinkled your nose
and laughed. What a laugh!
It cut me open, harsh
like the northeastern wind
that grinds at the corners of our house,

all bitterness, no mirth.
Like a dead rat, you said.
You didn’t notice me bleeding.

A crow with your mother’s frown
showed me a vision of you: the cold ground
had shattered on your shoulders

and you heaved the pieces
across a colorless floor while she watched
smirking from her throne.

My clever boy, she said,
my clever darling, stay with me
forever.

You sighed tearlessly
and kept working, as if you could craft
eternity from broken earth.

Avalon

A forest of umbrellas, cheerfully garish,
springs up with the receding tide like mushrooms
after a thunderstorm;
meanwhile the flock
of browning bodies sprawls sun-seared,
sleepy, over the giant mirror of the sand;
a kite wearing a sharkskin swims fluttering
through the clouds and scowls
with all his teeth.
One family with three little girls keeps
disappearing under the waves—
the lifeguard shrills angry warnings,
windmills his arm into a one-way sign
back to shore, back to shore.
The wind comes tumbling off the ocean
and snags itself in my hair and
this is almost perfect:
your laughter muffled with a cracked
conch shell, our hands wrist deep
in sea-wells and sandcastles, the burn
of happiness and salt water
singing in my throat.

8.21.2015

If Anyone Thirsts

I.
In the stillness between us, your eyes
had turned to dust bowls, fixed on me
with pleading heavier than a scream,

and my cottonball tongue,
four weeks dry and sitting on my teeth like
leaded sand, had no answer.

My hand pressing at the darkened window
like burnt wrinkled sackcloth, fingers
shriveled and ashen,
my eyelids leaking black mud
and silt.

My exhale—I have nothing, I have
nothing—leaving only dust,
ghost tracings falling silent from
the cold glass.

II.
For years I lived from one jar.
It wore lightning-bolt fractures all
over, uneven edges that caught
at my fingernails as I stretched out,

waited for mercy to pour its
measure down every seven days,
and drank sparingly.
I was a mess of cracks and caverns,

but it sewed me up so slowly
I didn’t notice, a stone ridge
laid down by patient rivers,
unaware of my own growing.

The years went by. It was
enough, I thought.

III.
Someone had torn down the wall
that kept me from knowing you:
suddenly I saw you, withering
silently there, and the gaps in my jar
had multiplied so it lay in pieces like
dead autumn leaves around us and

your little mouth was empty,
your tiny throat bone-dry.

Climbing over the rubble to you
I would have torn myself open,
crushed my own heart and wrung out
my lungs for a trace of water

if it meant that you could
drink—but I was parched as
dusty brick, sun-baked
to the core.

We sat in stillness, waiting.
Something pounded at the door.

IV.
That insistent drumming, getting
louder all the time, and the low growls
rattling the windowpane left me
shaking, both arms shivering

as I pushed the door wide and
fell headfirst into a thunderstorm.
The shock surged through me as surely
as if I'd been struck, rain and relief
streaming into my hair and down my neck

and I gasped and gasped until
water pulsed out with every breath
and life had filled me up and
overflowed,

dripping into my ears and out my mouth,
pulling me trembling to my feet,
yearning to give, to give,
to give—

and it turned my face, and I
caught the heavens in my hands,
and I came running
back to you.