Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Putting You Away

I put you to sleep
in blue ice,
fragrant with vodka,
an odor our daughter used to call sour grape juice.

Now you are a sober stare, a startled Barbie doll.
There are no words,
no going back
to beaches
and midnight love-making under eucalyptus.
It must be cold,
yet you don’t shiver.
It must be something to witness what I’m doing,
but remain helpless.
You do not breathe or blink or call me criminal.
You stay beautiful as that day I took this photo,
when you drew back the shower curtain and I snapped you
from the neck up.

Now your neck is frosted,
your face too.
Fog is taking over.
It leaves a smudge of blue,
smothering your face,
and the memory of you,
sealing both in ice,
thereby pardoning me from the pain
of having to provide
a proper goodbye.

How The Light Gets In

My mother believed in shutters
and all our young days were spent in solitary confinement
us tethered by our ankles like toddler cellmates
too weak and neutered to fight for freedom.

In summer we got dizzy staring at crevices in split wood,
the tiny burps of glowing sunlight peeking through
and so I made up a story for my siblings that such radiance
was nothing more than a distress signal from the outside world,
where everything beyond our walls and boarded windows
was a vast infirmary
for those scalded by the sun.

At night while our mother snored
we passed each other imaginary Christmas gifts--
a bb gun, a basketball, a polka dot dress.
We prayed the kind of prayers that are only understood
by those whose single defense  is hope,
and because not believing meant the end of everything.

The day God finally showed up--
wearing a holster and badge--
we were too stunned to speak,
not because we’d expected The Messiah to look different
but because we had never seen anyone defeat Mother.

Now, all these years later,
my wife tells me to draw the blinds,
to close the drapes.
She says the glare can be bad for the eyes and
asks me why I’m smiling like that.

Hand Me Down Messiahs

I watched you walk on water,
saw you defeat giants and ogres,
monsters who would have otherwise shredded me.
There was oil in your blood, you said,
your heart a hacky sack filled with hourglass sand.
You stood as tall as a redwood,
the scar under your chin pulpy and shaped like a blade.
I believed you were a new Messiah and trailed behind when you weren’t looking.
The day you took your life I saw black and white and black.
I wanted you to take me with. 
I felt light enough, unnecessary.
I had just turned ten. 
No one had stepped foot on the moon yet. 
There was nothing on earth to see.
When I discovered your diary there were no omissions.
The boxy notebook, about the size of Mother’s clutch bag,
held every secret and scar
and I learned that your blood wasn’t oil after all,
your heart not sand-filled.
Though I wept rivers for weeks and weeks, I made you bigger than life once again.
I let you conquer the grave like all reliable gods.
I gave you a pair of wings. 
I painted you in flight and smiling.

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