The Waiting Room

Once he heard it, he felt relieved.
Not sad, not mad, not even afraid, but relieved.
Relieved that he was finally falling
into this black hole he had been
tiptoeing around for months, not knowing whether
this dull yet ever present pain inside
his body that he dared not touch
or speak of was the beginning
of an end. How many nights has he lain
awake on the cold bathroom tiles, slowly
trailing his fingers to its core, feverish
with doubt, unable to say one true thing about it.
Once or twice, he sensed something, a pulse, a rhythm,
a dark quickening that was unlike life. It was
unlike anything he had ever known. Afterwards
the nurse came out to talk to him, with carefully chosen
words that meant to give him just enough
to go on hoping that he might be the exception,
one in a hard million, a lucky star. It was cruel.
Nevertheless, he listened, and smiled,
almost too cheerfully, at the nurse, while
silently congratulating himself for no longer
having to be burdened with this fear
of falling into the black hole. Now that
the fall has begun, he can just keep on falling
until he meets it at the end. And when there was
nothing more to say, he left the waiting room,
and strode into the crisp autumn afternoon.
The fearless angel and the wicked dragon
alone in the dark wood.

Vanish

Tonight I baked a raspberry pie
under the poetic moonlight,
washed and dried dirty dishes pretending
they are my blooming peonies,
and I put out a fresh roll of toilet paper
in the kids’ bathroom before lying down to dream
all that could have been
in this pantomime of life
if only I could live my own self
in my own pretty lilac words; never vanish
into a life without making a mess; never yield
to the waning season like the soured crops.
They may have been right all along: sooner or later
the great wind rushes under us all, and winter comes
to take the red fever out of every autumn leaf, but remember my heart
O my heart that has gone soft and blue, like the cratered moon,
once thumped, ached, and burned for a fevered future.

 

Originally published on March 24, 2017 on my old blog. 

Love Song

For Hudson

When you rest your face
in my arm’s hollow,

all the echoes have stopped.
The world has become quiet since

the eagles returned to the valley.
I try to recall the last time I was so powerless

in the face of something so small
fastened to me like a frightened milk mouse, forever

vulnerable and impossible to hurt,
and I guess I never knew it

until your first feeble cry
raises an answer in me,

so much like love
it must be love.

What Remains

I thought of you this morning, dear Josephine. In early spring, the dandelions became alive again in the garden you left behind. White parachutes of fickle seedlings, gone onto the same curving road you took to get away from here. I often wonder where you are, my sweet dandelion. The light’s filling up the sky as I am writing this letter to you, thinking of all the bright summers we’ve spent in this town; thinking of your liveliness, your sadness, the knot in your heart and all that gave you scars. Remember we used to run wild in the thick of the field, somehow seeing through the boarded sky that there would be a different life, two pebbles pattering in the palm of an invisible hand, your long hair windswept and struck by moonlight. The monotonous tide didn’t matter. The hunched backs of the fishermen didn’t matter. The cold rain, the wet grass, the wind maliciously tugging at our dresses didn’t matter. We were not afraid, Josephine, of what was beyond, or what came after. When we stood on the black rock cliff to watch the sunrise, a pair of white birds circled over us like impossible love, before diving into nothingness, never to be seen. You said that is how you like to go one day. You dreamt of a world that wanted you in it, that needed your wide teary eyes and tight fists. Years later, some say that this dream was not the right kind of dream, but rather an impish shove against the breakwater that no waves could ever defy. But I want to believe you haven’t given up living a good life wherever you are. Today as I sit under this old willow tree where we used to share tiny secrets, watching leaves fall as they fall without haste, my memory of you, laughing, and holding a conch to hear the sea, is what always remains.

 

Originally published on August 25, 2016 on my old blog.

Button

This morning he knows it is coming to an end,
this life of his hanging by a frayed thread.
He is closer to it each time
as he glides into his narrow slit, meekly
like the weary-kneed cattle plodding
into their stall at the end of day.

It’s everybody’s story,
the way his kind can go on for years
without a yearning, biding their time
in a dim closet, sleeping
among the printed lilacs on an old blouse
like the one he rests on right now,
waiting for what he already knows –
that one blissful morning, the hand
would come down, brush along
his still perfectly round edge
for a contemplative second,
and yank him free.

 

Originally published on July 21st, 2016 on my old blog. 

Her Garden

She remembers how light the kisses once were
– all the ones she’s ever been given –
no more than butterflies at her mouth,
her wrists, her eyelids, her forehead,
and the back of her exposed knees.
Now there are moths at the window-screen
at dusk when she is weary of leaving her bed
to watch the last autumn leaf deserting
the wind-shaken poplar in her garden. Long ago
there was something in her, but now that thing is gone.
Gone are the boys of summer, buried
already in her plentiful lavender. Long ago
before all the kisses she was once just a moth girl
in her white slip on a cold summer night,
testing the fresh dews with one bare foot.
And she goes into her garden, where nothing is blooming;
she finds everything blooming.

 

Originally published on May 7th, 2016 on my old blog.