A tree isn’t “tall” except in relation to us,
who are “short.” The heart of a hummingbird
fills the world. Try
to apply this principle to loved ones
who shrink with age,
slow down and speed up according to
the weather, forget where things
are but remember how things were,
what it was like in Columbus Grove, Ohio,
how to tie a clove hitch, or a sheet bend, but who’s that asking am I all right and can I tell her who she is? I’m anonymous as winter and twice as old and she could be too—what’s the point of telling her anything? It’s a red and black flannel shirt I remember, with little rips in the shoulders and soft threads that hang from the cuffs, brushing against me like second thoughts.
forgets that parts of her
that other parts once
angled for attention
she took time
as if it couldn’t be bent, flattened, eliminated, reordered
as if it was matter
as if it mattered
as if it could be compressed or exploded, colored in, Photoshopped out
with her everywhere,
twin burdens slung from a yoke
she ignored the warnings all around
the flags, sirens, scars, flashing
beacons, allergic reactions, slaps on the
cheek, fullness, emptiness, the color red,
the lack of color
she had let it go let it all go let it go let the cells
puff up or fall where they would into the cracks in her arms and legs
over the dents in her lips through the tunnels in her scalp
into the empty spaces she’d forgotten
a landfill of woman
a historical dustbin
an entire lost tribe
too remote and ugly to signify
I’m sorry so many of the poems come out of the dark side. I’m trying to keep myself in the light, but that’s not when writing occurs.
The Word “Are,” for Example
Raised to be frugal with self pity,
I hesitate to complain.
Alibis run from my mouth
like ants from a flooded hill.
I went there directly from the funeral,
weary of the mourners, severe,
time-spotted, hunched like flowers graveside.
I went there wanting to speak in tongues.
I went there, where attraction divides itself
into hungry collisions and sweaty testimonials.
I met a charismatic,
pierced his ear with a sewing needle,
scrubbed his stubble with my gums,
licked his sagging pockets every one.
He said what we need is sleeping pills,
stopwatches of desire,
I killed him for his assumptions
scratched on tabs of paper in his insoles:
“all” and “never” were some of his claims.