Reverse Ode: November
Blue sunlight, fields dilated a little ghost
creation sent ahead to wreck
the field daisies from their stems: to teach them
what it feels to desire and not possess. Groundwater
is the only oracle I can trust
when there is nothing to the surface but mud
and my footsteps and the mortar holding
them together. Energy in all my centers:
an untuned orchestra before the curtain peels
its tangerine skin away. Meadow mouth, why don’t you feel
the urge to bloom this morning? Don’t let November leave
frosted bruises in its wake. The delight
of rain distancing further from itself,
running across the cheeks of passing cars.
It is close enough to return
full-stop, to invite a circular, perennial
nature to govern my body: not November. All night,
my dreams are tangled in the picket fence, and ladybugs
pack themselves into pockets of simple wind, slough
off layers of cold wings. In the morning, they will settle,
habitual, like spotted tomato skins on the frost.
The world unrestrained might grieve. When the wind
passes over them, the empty tree stumps desire voices again.
Their teeth have been knocked out. A memory.
for Talin Tahajian
Mother, I would not skin
the bag of innocent capefish
to earn your kiss
again, the lockturn key
to a house we remember
only in postcards. I am not
simply the brittleness I learned
by steeping in the evergreen lake
summers ago. My body, the color
of a whisper to all those
knocking fish. There was
no lock to turn, but inside
that house—heaving toward
a sort of cure—the windows
broke, and then the shelves.
Elegy with Hundreds of Legs
A prophet crept up the stairs,
a flame. Mother, a circus hoop
rolling out the front door. Another
trick was my father, running
down our living room wall, a man
of feathers and wax. Upstairs,
the jars of leeches he lifted
in his youth from the lake broken
into color and species. Rows of weight
blackening to the same, preserved until
they weren’t. I took what mattered
into my sleeping mouth.
Mother left her last name in the garden.
Father, a lone ripple from the birdbath.
Two men shattered her bathroom window.
Mother heard the noise, then canned herself.
Mother planted the men who shattered
Father. With him, the window.
Mother carried the essence of the fireplace,
her smoke heavier than the ash widow breath
leaves in its wake. Mother shaved the mint
in the garden. She could never tolerate the smell.
Helen Keller Discovers Reflections
A frozen brook behind her retinas. Sign if she pleases above
the dotted line. A stampede of berries gone insane down
her left arm. Habit of recitation, flooding.
See: down by the river, where she used to pray. See: down
by the river, skirt tugging at the sides of the world
like freshwater in a tight corset of rocks. See: skirt on a hanger
in a polaroid.
It doesn’t take a prophet to see.
Tapestry of knives. Earth of paranoia. August the sweet.
Earth of misunderstanding. August an epidemic.
Wading, down by the river, why she used to pray. See: day
like a flashbulb, the spine of the brook liberated, brook
slunk down with wisdom, flowing see: the thing she used to want,
smearing like a clean face thrown into ripples. Downstream,
the girl cradles mirrors, plants them, hopes for change.