Leaves in the eaves
of the photograph’s blue sky,
a sky not flat but arching
and pretend-deep—I look up, it’s
September and the tree
in the backyard’s
fading, soon enough
it’ll be winter,
leaves all matrixed
on the sidewalk,
drawing. I can’t tell
the difference anymore. What
have I done with this year of living?
I fretted & fanged,
was a kind of
slang of myself.
Time slips on.
Used to know how to live,
now need a mnemonic,
boat tour, including
snorkels & a printed
angelfish, shark, sweetheart,
home, house, abode.
for funneling the moon’s
on skin. Everyone
walking around holding
something in. I see you’re really me,
lifelike but not alive,
an animal in a diorama.
Wake up, you! That marvelous
thing you never
imagined has arrived,
I see it there,
on the horizon’s vanishing
from the hawthorn,
It took years to arrange
these days — so careful, so clean —
with professional opinion and advice.
This Tuesday matches
that Wednesday, matches
that pillow, that duvet cover.
You came to visit, and I warned you
not to touch anything, not to brush
too close your warmth, too bright
for the fragile grey shell of these days,
but you were careless,
and you broke the days open.
Sunlight burst the cracks and flooded
the basement where I kept
the cardboard boxes never unpacked,
mildew colored and smelling of concrete.
We waded into the light
up to our knees, sometimes our hips,
salvaging floating rules and schedules
and you promised you’d fix it — so sorry,
so sorry — while I prayed you’d
take a wrench to the whole damn thing,
crash it to pieces, make it never run again.
Breakfast, the most important poem
So far, pockets are good
for carrying bits of money
and dead spiders in tissue
to look up who they are. I wish
I could take puddles with me
to the diner and have my eggs
sunny side up with old rain. The best
I can do is anoint my forehead
with yesterday’s blessing and try
to hear wind sleeping in the cedars
before I go. Instead I hear the river
sleep-walking to the sea. What else
can’t I carry? Lightning, in or out
of a bottle is two different beasts,
and both horses and hours
sleep in the nude and are too wild
to be possessed. I’ll do the crossword
and if I’m lucky, seven down
will be an infinitely lettered word
for “the green that is the color
of desire.” I would never come
to anyone’s dream
or wake empty handed, even if all
my hands carried were my hands.
THINGS THAT HAPPEN DURING PET-SITTING I REMIND MYSELF ARE NOT METAPHORS FOR MY HEART
The dog refuses to eat. I keep filling her bowl
anyway: new kibble on top of old, hoping
that it will suddenly becoming tempting.
When I write, the cat watches me from a chair.
When I look at him, he purrs loudly, leans forward
so that I might touch him. I don’t.
Now the dog refuses to come out of her cage,
no matter what I say, no matter how wide I open
the door. She knows that I am not her master.
On the couch, the cat crawls on top of me
and loves me so hard, his claws draw blood.
I was so lonely, I did nothing to stop it.
There are lights in this house I want to turn on,
but I can’t find their switches. Outside, an engine
turns and turns in the night, but never catches.
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
MISSING YOU WHILE YOU READ ABOUT AFRICA
You mull under giant leaves, deep
in the Belgian Congo.
I’d like to wind one into a sarong,
something you’d want to peel back slowly.
Instead, I thumb the books you’ve finished,
wonder which words got stuck in your head.
You didn’t notice my short dress, or the hint
of violets I dabbed over my blue-veined heart.
Even as I swayed, so my hem lifted like mist
over a harvest moon, you read on.
I want to rise over your dark continent,
drag my hands through thick foliage
cling like thick-sweet mango
to the roof of your mouth.
C. E. Laine
Evangelize Your Love
At home, a sixteen-year-old son
and window treatments and walls
to paint and “How was your day?”
On the web there are no days
and no seasons and no oil changes
for the Subaru. “No one important.”
At the motel, flat pillows, a lamp
tall as his son in the corner and
a print of a sailboat. “In year three,
the sex fizzled and we broke up.
Then we got married.” Have you gotten
yourself into something? “Tonight
I am making your favorite dish.”
News comes on, news goes off, taxes.
“At some point, he stopped kissing me
on the neck.” She needs to write
her Goals Statement. “He promised.”
More or less. “How can I live like this?”
the three of them in unison
He found ways to get me to come over:
a non-religious statue that cried real blood,
a time machine in his basement, crazy with ticking and cuckoos.
Once, he had my childhood cat—
a little dusty, but her old self: she remembered me.
These miracles always occur
at such queer hours—
a trick to keep me awake, so I call out sick tomorrow
and spend the day with him?
It always works.
I can’t resist the perpetual sideshow in his living room.
Tonight his ceiling poured a gorgeous leak: a cerulean waterfall,
halted to an icy stalactite above his dinner table.
The electric-blue icicle sparkles, with help
from his neighbor—outside snapping
photos of this week’s miracle.
At first I think counterfeit, synthetic.
I remember only white icicles dangle
from my overhang during winter.
I look for wires when he leaves the room.
He comes back with arms crowded with hats,
mittens, a sweater—all periwinkle—my favorite color.
I look at the sapphire cascade again and remember science,
the solar system is full of blue ice.
Arctic clouds float from my mouth and nose,
but he looks flushed—sweat dots
his forehead as if he carved the ice himself.
THE PHYSICS OF TEA
Sitting in the living room
drinking tea with her and
talking about special relativity
and the fact that the most distant
galaxies are racing away from us
at 80% of the speed of light and
as she considers this
pulling a wayward strand of hair
from her face, she begins to twirl it,
worrying it between her fingers, and
I am touched by the girlishness
of this gesture, as she says very seriously:
"Gravity is a fear of being alone."
setting my tea down on the table
hearing the percussion click
of a china cup meeting the saucer and
as she smiles the freckles on her cheeks
gravitate together in Newtonian fashion
and I know what holds everything together.
I DID NOT THINK I’D HEAR FROM YOU
Since you ask, I sold the spaghetti maker
last fall, at a friend’s garage sale.
A college student bought it, my friend’s orange couch,
and a block of wood we had been using
as a makeshift table. The spaghetti maker
was going to be dismantled for a robotics class—
something about the motor—
I tried to explain that paper schematics
rarely convert to working prototypes.
The student… well, you know students.
The spaghetti maker’s gone.
Your watch is at the pawn shop. It paid for my DVD player,
partly. The rest of the money
came from the golf clubs in the attic.
At the time, I thought they were my grandfather’s.
I felt a little guilty. But now that you ask for them,
I find myself enjoying movies even more.
The pawn ticket may be around somewhere,
probably in the garden acting as a label
for the beans or carrots. I was running out of cardboard
toward the end. I never understood gardening
until I locked the door behind you: how rich
the sound of spading dirt could be, or how unexpected
the smell of fresh-dug earth in the morning—
better than coffee. I planted everything.
You understand? Every last scrap of clothing
you left in this house is buried
under my vegetables.
The garden is chaotic, I admit.
There was an addiction in mixing dirt and water,
in watching all your belongings disappear
under black, sodden earth. There are earthworms,
too; very healthy for the roots, I’m told.
Perhaps not for your cotton shirts.
I will leave th gate unlocked. Consider
the pawn ticket my last words to you. Walk carefully
when you come; stay out of the dirt.
It’s not that I care if your shoes get muddy—
this is not a lesson in civility—
but I am growing something out of what
you left behind, and there is nothing here,
not even the dirt, that is yours to harvest.
You called it screwing, what we did nights
on the rug in front of the mirror, draped
over the edge of a hotel bed, on balconies
overlooking the dark hearts of fir trees
or a city of flickering lights. You’d
whisper that word into my ear
as if it were a thing you could taste—-
a sliver of fish, a swirl of chocolate
on the tongue. I knew only
the rough exuberant consonant
of fucking, and this soft s and hard c
was a new sound—-querulous, slow,
like the long moments of leaving
between thrusts. I don’t know what
to make of it, now that you’re gone. I think
of metal eating wood. Delicate filaments
quivering inside a bulb of thin glass.
Harsh light. Corks easing up through
the wet necks of wine bottles. A silver lid
sealed tight on a jar of skinned plums.
I see two blue dragonflies hovering, end
to end, above a pond, as if twisting
the iridescence deep into each other’s
body, abdomens writing, spiraling
into the wing-beaten air. And your voice
comes back to me through the trees, this word
for what we couldn’t help but do
to each other—-a thin cry, unwinding
POEM FOR APOLOGY
I woke up to write about apology
from the view of a dreamer
with fish tails and black water
and front yard wrecks, tornado debris.
Yet, here, the dreamer is more
like a planner: We will do this, yes,
it will happen.
Dreamers accomplish, finish,
rather than flail along some broken plane
of light, bleeding and lonely.
In my home, apology is shaped
like a fork, most days, its points
nudging skin, twisting.
The dreamer finds the scent
of apology cucumber-melon, leather.
Apology is bathing together,
washing each other’s backs
with a loofa, holding on
with only suds between you.
Even the dreamers can’t plan
for this — for the fingers
lit like sparklers crackling over skin,
the prick and snap of desire.
We wait to find traces
later in the dark
when the memory of apology
lights onto our skin
and dissipates into neon, then black,
blinking into the mattress.
Mary Stone Dockery
And in the kitchen your whatnot drawer,
graveyard for clever contraptions
that never changed your life
quite the way you’d hoped—the potato
crinkle-cutter, the suction-cupped
knife-sharpener that wouldn’t stick
and didn’t sharpen, hard-boiled egg
slicer, unused reusable metal skewers,
corn holders mimicking shrunken-down
ears, a retired oven thermometer too
glazed over to read, the grapefruit
knife, the pickle fork, and always this love
of the gewgaw gadget, the whizbang
invention, the showbiz sales spiel, why,
anything was possible, you wanted to believe,
anything but this final emptying out.
Dian Duchin Reed
After a day of walking through sun-clutched Virginia, you unlatch your wool coat and hang it from the ladder. The sleeves of your
blue Oxford rolled back from your wrists.
You yawn and beneath your arms, round stains—dark and greener,
as if rubbed with grass. Bitter-smelling, orange and lunchmeat,
the locomotive power of deodorant hurrying after!
And in the night when someone is fucking next door, we close our
ears with foam. You fall asleep within minutes. But I carry the
night around in my mouth awhile, like dog who has hunted
down a bird.
I know your body is a basin.
That after midnight your creases dampen and unleash the waters of
the earth. The oceans, the creeks and channels, the vernal pools!
Block Island Sound, Lakes Barkley and Vattern! The
Greenland Sea, the Prut River and the Fish, the Red, the
James, the Drake! The Strait of Otranto, of Malacca, of
I put my hand in the shallow bowl of your back and wash the
wrinkles from my finger.
Some nights I imagine myself a sailor wearing my skin and salt
together. This diving suit. I carry a lantern, its flame not of fire
but burning ice.
Contained in your sweat a band of sea nettles and jellyfish the
color of the moon. An octopus waiting in its den, whole
schools of angelfish finning closer!
Sleet hurries its way across the skylight until the glass ends.
Something is out there swallowing ships and I welcome it.
Take every part of me away! I give you these my lungs. My
longest bones, my teeth which I have worn down only with
I find your shoulder under the blanket. I lift it up and swim inside.
Lines for painting on grains of rice
You are the kind of person who buys exotic fruits
leaves them out on the counter until they rot
You always mean to eat them sometimes you rearrange them
rousing over the bowl a cloud of tiny flies
How do they balance the parrot who chews a walnut
sideways holding it up in his right foot
the owl perched on a just-lit lamppost
scratching behind its ear like a big dog
Your pencil eraser wears down long before the point
for every word you write you rub out two
Where the slice of toast rested the plate is still warm
a film of fog little points of dew
Love is like velocity we feel the speeding up
and the slowing down otherwise not at all
the more steady the more it feels like going nowhere
my love I want to go nowhere with you
I cannot bring myself to toss the cup of cold coffee
you set down by the door on your way to the taxi
all day I have sipped it each time forgetting
your two tablets of fake sugar too sweet
Running down the street
dodging between raindrops plump as cherries
The ground was feathered with wild strawberries
I picked seven as many as I could bear
I ate two I saved the rest for you here
hold out your hand take them taste how sweet
Please hold me the forgotten way the wall pleads
spray-paint face and voice of a damned poet
the darling damned poets save them from themselves