Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What We Know

If I knew this would be my last summer, would I call? Send my apologies down the cracking line? Or would I let things rest, because my time left is short.

If I knew this would be my last summer, would I stay in quiet solitude, reflecting on my years? Or would I join the throngs in the streets or on the beach, and revel in what time remained.

If I knew this would be my last summer, would I find each moment as clear as cut glass, the details standing out in relief or would everything fade to a softened distillation, edges blurred and grayed.

Would I pose questions I had never asked before because I feared the answers? Or would I choose to go into the burgeoning darkness with some things left unknown.

I think if I knew my time was short, I would make the most of what I had, say I love you more and fight less. I would learn Chinese and read War and Peace and walk from here to Bakersfield, using only back roads, spending the nights in smoky taverns listening to musicians make love to their guitars under the flashing red of neon “open” signs. I would stand in fields of grain, loose soil beneath my feet, sun hot on my arms while all around me, migrant workers bent over to till and rake and harvest.

Or maybe, maybe I would do what I do now. 

Mornings I would sleep in, listening to the rain on the roof. Feel the weight of the cat heavy on my hip. Saunter down to the kitchen for coffee, which I sip, looking out across the backyard at the rabbits nibbling grass and the wrens tucked into feeders, spilling seed, feeding the tree squirrels waiting patiently on the ground.

If I knew this would be my last summer, would it change anything? Or would time still slip through my fingers, drain from me like the weight of years, over in an instant, like the sun beyond the horizon, in a flash and gone.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The View from the Yard

“Happiness makes poetry obsolete,” she said from her spot in the hammock. She rocked back and forth, sunlight dappled through trees scattered across her body like leaves floating on a pond.

He couldn’t hear her over the sound of the lawn mower, which he pushed back and forth across the yard. He moved with vigor and precision, making straight lines of neatly cut grass. But he could see her lips move, so when he got closer he shut the engine off.

“What was that?” he asked. “I missed what you said.”

“I’m happy,” she replied. “That’s all.”

She could picture him, in twenty years. He would move a little slower at eighty, but the lines in the grass would still be as straight. He would be thinner in his arms and shoulders, but he would still be stronger than her. He would still love her.

He leaned over and kissed her before he went back to his yard work.

“You should write that down,” he said.

So she did.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I didn’t know the curve of my belly would fit the small of his back.

I didn’t know he would reach for me again and again in the dark of the night.

I didn’t know he wanted someone else, making due with what he had in front of him.

“You want to be loved,” he said, holding my hand across the table.

No response. I’m not good at lying.

“Will you see her again?” I ask.

“Maybe,” he answers. “Maybe.”

How can maybe, cut?

How can maybe, stop breath.

“You want to be loved,” he says.

I want to say "maybe," but words fail. I let silence answer.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Looking South and West

The beach becomes unknowable when the tide comes in,
like a lover no longer mine.

An expanse of rocks once walked upon, lies below the surface,
obscured, unattainable.

A stretch of land once traversed with caution on the uneven surface,
now seen from a distance.

A body once explored, memories mined, love made with abandon.
The space between us no longer consumes.

You would arrive at my apartment and lay your head in my lap.

Then the tide came in and buried what once belonged to me under cold clear surge.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Topography of a Life

Be my cartographer.
Travel hills and valleys with work-roughened fingertips.
Trace outlines with your tongue, breath whispered along the rivers and streams.

Chart my life.
Record the tracks that line my face with your eyes.
Put into your memory the elevations that show the years on my body.

Let me be the places you visit, passport in hand.
New destinations and favorite locations you return to.
Caverns and deltas, all the plains covered in fine, soft, grasses bending to your touch.

Say yes.
Take my hand in yours.
Voice in my ear that no other country intrigues you.
Come home to me.

Friday, April 10, 2009

In The Downstairs Room

The light is on in the downstairs room,
The one furthest from the street.
With the window that looks out on the ancient elm tree,
Taller now than the house itself.
And in that room sits an old woman,
Dozing in her chair.

She sits and waits for the sound of his key in the door,
The measured tread of his feet down the hall.
He’s gone to play bridge, as he has every Thursday for forty years.
By the time she hears him,
The fire has died down to embers.

Feigning sleep she lets him wake her,
With the same kiss on the cheek he bestows
Each time he comes home.
And taking his hand, she lets him lead her up the stairs,
To the double bed that dips in the middle,
Rolling their bodies together.

How was the game? She asks quietly in the dark,
His arm holding her tightly against his chest,
His knees tucked close behind hers.
Tonight, he said, tonight we won.
And patting his hand in equal triumph,
She feels his breathing change and deepen into sleep.

The Final Card

So soon the ending.
Cards in my hand.
Yet somehow the game is over.
The last trick gone before I close my eyes.

Sharpness of the blade.
Unexpected cut on my fingertip.
Pain I could not anticipate.
Winner takes all.

If a wound does not bleed, is it true?
A final counting, no chips left.

Shuffle the deck.
King beats Queen.
Jacks are wild.