--IT’S TOUGH TO HOLD YOUR BREATH THIS LONG
…Wednesday night I read poetry at an open mic night in Snohomish. It was fun and I got to meet some great people.
I think I did okay.
Here are a few of the things I read there (Caution: not a lot of happy stuff coming your way):
Our bathtub is filled with buttons--
mother of pearl and metal,
plastic pea coat shapes with
wooden toggles from Holland,
horn and hemp.
Your hair is a gray dandelion gone to seed.
Your eyes flit like a startled squirrel
and saliva webs your mouth when
you open the door.
“What on earth?”
In bed that night
I listen to your coarse breath, your frail bones moaning when you toss and turn.
But we were young once,
and you stitched beautiful things then.
You dressed queens and saints,
men with money.
I slink off the mattress now,
and click on the bathroom light.
As I slide inside the tub
the buttons chatter and gossip,
their color shimmering.
Perhaps you clipped them
because they reminded you of better days,
or maybe you overhead me on the phone.
Either way, I grab handfuls and watch them clatter
across the great heap.
When I look up,
naked but smiling.
You ask, “Is the water warm?” Then,
“Got room for two?”
The Captain looks like you, a spiral notebook man, loose blonde curls and self-tanner. He asks if anyone has questions and I ask back, “How much does a Vodka Collins cost?”
There’s turbulence rumbling thunder in my stomach, working its way to my throat. The clouds spell a name in Spanish. Through a crease of light I see Brazil and what our unborn child would have looked like.
I am the black
You left behind
On the love seat
Love no longer an option
My yarn is tight
Fine Egyptian cotton
Top stitched and fully-fashioned.
It used to sit or swish
Inside of me
Against my limbs and lengths
My sleeves and being
You took me places
Kept me clean
Now I am a heap of yarn
Smelling of your perfume
Reeking rust and
I Call Your Name
I search for you
in garden soil
the color of coffee beans,
where it’s sandy in places,
clay-like in others.
I use my bare hands,
careful not to cut you with a spade or hoe.
I free worms from their squiggly fetal positions.
There are rocks and bigger rocks,
a swath of petrified electrical tape,
the arm of a G.I. Joe,
something that might once have been a wrist watch.
I dig for hours
until my scalp is scalded and my shirt is a damp sheet that reeks.
I hum your favorite Dylan tune as I scrape and carve away clumps of dirt,
my fingernails cracked and bleeding.
I call your name.
I sing it.
I use your name and tell you how wonderful you are and always will be.
I use your name and say it’s not your fault about what happened.
I use your name the way some people use pillows, baths or comfort food,
and I use it selfishly, just as the broken must when medicating in mourning.
I’m sore and too exhausted to move anymore.
A headache burrows through my right ear
while my bones scream at me for my foolishness,
because I knew I wouldn’t find you here,
or even in a casket somewhere.
When they brought you back from the war
you were only medals and army gear,
a bundle of the photographs you’d taken along
and a few well-read letters.
They said the explosion was massive,
that the fire engulfing you had been a monster to put out.
They said how sorry they were for my loss.
Now I weep for you under a milk-blue moon.
I call your name,
then I don’t.
Instead I shout a father’s cry, “Son! Son, I miss you so much!”
I yell it over and over,
praying you can hear me and
that heaven is real after all.