See you Later, Grapefruit
Lately, exes have been sneaking into my dreams,
and other places of suspended thought. Like
when I’m swimming laps, my body blue
and liquid as the water holding me.
They wave. They smile. They flicker
along the blue-floor depths of the deep end.
One shows up to ask if I think he’ll look good
with dread locks. Another shows up with his dog
to ask if I still love her. And another,
reminds me of the summer he left. He was making
a movie in which I played a girl learning French,
my only lines words I already knew. And because
he was poor, or young, or in a hurry
there was only one take. And because
I was nervous, or lonely, or young
I remembered only two phrases,
which I purred, again and again,
in my lowest, breathiest voice,
the way I’d seen Jean Seburg whisper
to Jean-Paul Belmando in Breathless,
that same summer
I was learning to say things
like cinema and terroir.
And even in the final scene, in which
I was supposed to have been hit by a car and killed,
I wouldn’t die,
but looked straight into the camera
propelled by my too-sudden death—
and kept humming:
à bientôt, pamplemousse, à bientôt.
Today the leaves are turning and I am shaking out
old sweaters, turning their button eyes to the sun.
How can we not look back, especially when told not to?
The backyard, the leaves, the sinking light setting its heavy weight
behind me. The black spots—
floating and falling when I shut my eyes. From here
I can see the town where I grew up.
The leaves, turning red there too—
pinecones dropping like firecrackers
from bare limbs. Perhaps I am still there to collect them,
in buckets for a penny a pop,
or perhaps there is no one,
and the pinecones turn slowly to grass. Then
there is nothing but the ruin of yard, a house
no longer marked by ownership—or life,
or the smell of dinner. Then,
I turn away from memory.
Will it all cease to exist? Vanish from sight
and feeling if I turn my gaze away?
After another flight of stairs I will reach the roof
I will reach the roof after another flight of stairs
I will never reach the roof because I am looking back
to see my city,
disaster behind me.
Train to Kenosha: A Romance Novel Plot
I watch as floodlights switch on with a sudden force
above the baseball field. One row, then the next
as if to meet my train in the approaching dark.
I can’t hear the children’s shouts
as they round the bases, safe
under those six small moons, parents
not yet arrived to cart them home for dinner.
I wonder where the time went?
Can it already be this dark? In the town where I grew up
there were no floodlights. But back then
we could see forever in the dark. Even near dead
with sleep, we believed our limbs
could keep the night from falling. Rounding the bases,
even in our dreams, as if touching them—
would hold time where it was.
Tonight I simply want to get where I’m going.
A lake town with an unfamiliar name.
Its strange syllables catching the curve of my tongue
like rocks rattling
against themselves in my pocket. A man
will have driven through the rain,
flash flood warnings in all three counties,
to meet me there. He’ll smile
when he sees me. We’ll wait out the storm,
pass a bottle between us,
let the glow of the car light draw us in,
like two small children,
rounding the bases towards home.
The Poem you asked For
From inside I trace the fat slopes
of the white hills with my finger
along the glass. Wonder how
it is we got here, through all this snow,
as though we were marooned sailors
on a strange landlocked ship, oars
flailing in counterclockwise winds.
It is enough that we are here. It is enough
that I am rowing
across the sparkling snow to be tied-up
like an old dog, at your shore.
Both of us called in
by the bar’s neon light. Its unceasing blink.
Its want and want.
More ships! you call
from the dockside bar. Horses too—
and battle bloodied men, at least ten!
to give them all to you, like a chest of gold,
or my long-buried desire
but then I remember—this is my daydream
and you’ll get what I give you.
What I knew about Kissing Then
Even though all summer no one drowned, we practiced CPR
on the undrowned camp counselors just to be sure.
We remembered to shout, “ARE YOU OK?”
into the deaf ears of the acting drowned
and when we played the drowned,
we remembered not to answer.
We were nervous at first.
Tentative and mechanical
in the way we pressed our lips to their lips
like we were kissing the smooth skin
of our best friend’s wrist, or the flat gloss
of our favorite poster, inventing
the feeling of tenderness. And then,
we grew used to it. We took turns.
People had favorites,
though mostly we were generous
with our drowned and undrowned lips.
I preferred to be the savior.
Taking a delicate, soggy chin
in my own lake-wrinkled hands,
tipping it back like a cup,
the whole world resting on its lip,
drawing my ear close to the edge
to listen for breath. And though
we were not supposed to hear a sound,
I always waited
longer than most,
straining to hear the rustle of life rise
up from damp chests
like the far-off hiss of the ocean in a shell.
I’d let their sound fill me with new feeling. Then,
bending closer, would press my lips to theirs
forming a full circle of flesh,
a complete seal of two bodies, and let out
my whole life.