I want to know I can keep something alive
my husband said, having brought home
a cactus. Small, thumb-shaped, it lived
by his computer. If he ever watered it,
I couldnt say. He was out most nights by then.
And me, I was up so often nursing.
One day, his plant sprouted a flower,
a bright red dot like a blood spot
on that digit. Happy, he danced
through our kitchen in a way
I once found charming. Meanwhile,
the baby had grown a milk-tooth,
learned to raise his arms for me
to lift him, responded
with wet smiles when I sang his name.
I sit in the stilled car,
feet in tan sandals on the dash,
gauzy dress gathered to my knees.
It is two oclock, the hour
we are supposed to be married.
But the justice is late and the young man
beside me taps a beat on the steering wheel,
studies an airplanes vapor trail
like a chalk line drawn across the sky.
Lifting a can of juice to my lips,
I think about the flowers wilting in the back seat
and how fully I want to love.
Of course, anything one does fully
is a journey alone. But I dont yet know this.
Not once do I glance at the dangling keys.
On the Anniversary of
my Mothers Death
Ive stripped the beds, gathered
up novels that lay piled on the floor,
dusted as far as I could reach,
rubbed Pledge into wood,
and as our towels and sheets
made their way through the spin cycle,
ran the vacuum over all thats dropped
from our kitchen table. When I think
Ive done enough, I think maybe
Ive done enough to please her,
though behind its doors my closet
is still a wreck. For months,
I left that box beneath the jumbled
shoes and fallen sweaters, while I kept
trying on the truthher body burned
to bits shed have quickly swept way.
Someone you know is there and then shes
Shes become a hush among the grownups
when shes not a warning to never cross between cars.
Shes become an open eye overhead
while you play with her friends. Gods neighbor.
A ghost girl who knows youve thought about
her beautiful doll with bendable legs going to waste.
She hovers in the blind spots of your
when you wake thinking, Im still here.
And when you smell the skin of your upper arms,
warm and bland as oatmeal, for proof.
Note to Self
Remember the peasant dress
with the pattern of small blue flowers
you loved when you were nine,
its ankle length skirt, puffed bodice,
elastic in the capped sleeves
that hugged your upper arms.
Sometimes Dan wraps his long
fingers at that same place
just below your shoulder.
Sometimes he whispers
into your middle-aged ear
words meant directly for that girl.
What can you know of the future?
Therell be shifts and losses
youll contend with when you have to.
Put on something that makes you feel pretty.
Hold that man while hes yours.