Sorry I Had To
locate her name in the global directory
not sure of how
many matches might come
and perhaps you didn’t think
of this tool, this landscape.
I had to know
the shape of her name
each stroke and incline.
You thought of my geography
not so good.
I could not resist retracing
the broken lines on the map you left.
The cold push of day into evening, as the sun resists
the heavy clouds.
We stop and watch – our free hands locked together.
Will you know me after the last light of day?
Winter fades into a moon sliver and satellite star.
There are two wishes. We already made ours.
Our free hands locked together.
Will you know me after the last light of day?
We will always know more of each other.
This body is yours, but it was mine first.
We skirt around our histories
like the tide coming in to collect stones, picking up the lightest
ones to carry.
The rest left on the beach to be, or tell new stories.
It depends on whose hand touches them – decides
how they were formed,
where they have been.
For a moment, we polish stones
say, this is my stone. This is how I was formed.
This is the shore I chose to wash onto
so you could find me.
New. Worn. Knowing.
We hold our stones, caress them, and throw them back into the waves.
Our free hands locked together.
While the rest of the world sleeps
we watch movies.
We eat ten o’clock dinners and pretend we’re in
lie down for sleep at three a.m. – these nights that predict no work
in the morning.
We watch our kittens play, and forget about
the oppression of bosses and lunch breaks, and still
I play a tape in my head over and over, holding in
the success and failures of jobs.
Our kittens finally stop – and curl into balls
too tired to run and scratch. The plastic jingling ball, an elusive thing
they can’t quite dig their nails into.
No matter how much I abuse my fingernail,
it will always come back.
This protective shield – why don’t we have more of it?
I never respected it before, instead tore off its head like unsweetened rhubarb,
then complained of the raw bruising.
Hard as nails, we say.
Why only a shield for digging, a tool for ripping and scraping?
Such a vicious part, like teeth.
How else would we get inside everything?
I rarely buff them to razor sharp, but admire a tall stalk of nail
until it snags and breaks – then curse it.
Break it off; reprimand it
by pulling out splinters of keratin and skin that make the nail rim
gouge and bleed, harshly groom my cuticles to reveal clean, white moons.
I don’t often paint my fingernails; there is a practicality at work,
why advertise it? Let the colour chip, fade, and decay.
Little daggers, groomed and polished;
a means of injury.
In the trim grass, a rough-cut stone
small enough for a first initial, a last name.
There is no date, no epigraph.
The marker is not pink granite, nor marble,
nor slate – just rock.
The nearby sapling is now a fir tree, and lends
some needed shelter
from the soil and rain corroding
his stone, the name.
She bends to touch it, traces
the cold, unfinished edge,
turns her head and notices
the tall and decorative grave markers, the stones.
There are people around her.
The are old – they talk of other things.
Because You Love Me
I will spill drinks.
I will break things unceremoniously,
stick my foot in my mouth,
but never chomp on my tongue.
Because you love me I will forget some,
but never the scars you hold;
everything you say in quiet darkness.
I will say the wrong thing,
still sound awkward on the phone,
bang my funny bone.
Because you love me I will sing in the car,
challenge yellow lights.
I will tell you off in jest or no –
I may have one drink too many,
burp like a man,
eat with my hands, order squid,
wrap up restaurant dinners.
Because you love me I will stay where you are,
be the last voice you hear before sleep.
Song for the Song of the Abandoned Piano
A graveyard of keys, and the dormant sound of Mozart,
Pachelbel, chopsticks, maybe Swanee River.
With a three-foot tall critic in the house
the songs are short, too, and rudimentary.
Your un-tuned ivories, now used as miniature speed bumps
while my nervous fingers twitch
a forgotten melody.
You are a shelf for all the things that keep us apart; another counter space.
At night, I clean off the debris; tune your hidden strings,
teach you to sing again
in a sound-barriered world; a place with no disturbances
where the notes fly up
like birds, their hard-shelled mouths open in time.
My mother stood on her front porch
after she helped carry the heavy hope chest
and watched me carry it out again.
She’d raced me home to avoid this:
The man crying at the foot of her driveway;
his temporary tears.
She raps the rhythm of a secret knock
in her sleep –
the one she learned in a dream. The hallway is so long.
When he lets himself in, she will know him.
She lives alone, surrounded by her antiques,
refuses to fade into the decor and become another
fixed item in the room.
She refuses to surrender this place.
All this place knows is time.
She waits for him
while the milk sours in the fridge
and everything else is past its due.
She waits for the guest
who never arrives too soon.
Between her afternoon naps, she reads the newspaper
to learn what she will be missing.
memorizes lines from Austen.
She keeps everyone’s past alive;
the last one to tell the stories.
She envisions her visitor as a dark stranger
from the Bronte books – perhaps Heathcliff –
or her husband
come to gather her fragile bones in his arms
and carry her
down the long hallway
as he did on their wedding night.
She is a widow now, a grounded sparrow,
still lingers beside her tree
she tumbled out of three blocks
from her birthplace.
falls asleep in her chair.
With one ear buzzing,
she listens for her secret knock.
Unwritten Letters of Eloisa and Abelard
These morning confessions make me want to sin.
A game of which nun has the best story – shock our Father,
in his stale box. He wants to hear it all.
Well, you know, I have a story to tell.
At curfew, when the other nuns retired to their holes in the wall,
I found a secret passage to somewhere new – to you.
Brother, did our Father want to hear
about the rough knot holding your once-holy tunic?
How smooth and how easily it came loose?
How we tunneled through to be human? I dared not speak
the language of your flesh, until forced to, a prophecy
or your tongue, a thin wafer on my tongue – the body and blood –
and why did my habit not burst into flames?
Know this, I am kept in a tight wrap of mourning –
when all day I pray for you and night’s black robe to fall.
Still, I pray for you. After all
our confessions told, and you – paying the highest price
of men, before death. You are a man, still.
That part of you, now gone, was not the only part I desired.
I want you still, after the bruises and gouges of my own flesh
in my confined stone space.
And why are mine the only letters written down?
The stones stacked in my walls wait to be thrown, but who can judge us?
Whose skin is unmarked by beating out the demons denied?
Your silence is my punishment – know this, they have not conquered us
so long as I can remember.
Oh God, her letters sting me; small hooks in my body.
So long as we can remember –
Castrate my heart, my brain. All sensation linked to her.
I want to write –
Sister, sweet sister, half-sister –
no, you are other – something whole.
I betrayed the Mother and called you lover.
For I no longer worship sunrise.
I, too, wait for moonlight,
try to find comfort in safer passages
to lead me out from underground
to assure me this lure is also sacred.
I find none in such archaic pages, and question if
my religion is to gaze upon your bare head,
as I tarry in my hair shirt, porcupine vest, an unnatural animal
whipping myself into submission, a bleeding heart.
The tree in the backyard, separated
from my yard
with her rapunzel hair
no one climbs.
She sits on her haunches,
studies the dying grass, her arms reaching down
to touch a distant relative, offering her dandelions and cat willows –
The autumn flowers that survive.
Does she know how lovely
she is in her dejection? A long breeze.
She is Daphne, hiding from her lover:
a bird she evades, finding it difficult to rest
on her branches.
A Garry Oak towers nearby, his arms
reach up toward something
that looks like hope;
although, his leaves are dry and ready to fall.
A stag waits in the grass, muses
on the light interval of rain.
The way it falls, and doesn’t.