Days of the week

Every Monday I miss you.

The longest day of my week and also always seemingly the coldest

and grayest. We talk about you in workshop every week, but without

them ever knowing who. Every week they talk about “I,” the “big loser,”

as my poetry teacher calls I, and I is me, and I always loses to “he”

or to “you,” which is you, of course, unnamed. I know who’s who.

 

Tuesdays are softer, the memories of yesterday

and you begin to blur around the edges

but the center is still clear, defined,

me without you, me without you.

 

By Wednesday I have written a new poem.

I try to keep you out but you manage to worm

you way in every time. It makes me sick

to see the pen ink you out again and again,

shaky, in different shapes.

 

Thursday. The first acceptable day

to get drunk. I while away the daylight

until starlight whistles and knocks, falls

in through the window. One drink. Four drinks.

How many more? Stagger them with water,

my aunt advised. I always forget this

somewhere around drink number two.

 

Friday repeats Thursday and Saturday repeats Friday

but more, and more and more.

I forget things. I forget to think about you,

too busy balancing on curbs, or holding my friend’s hair back

in the grimy fraternity house bathrooms, or sitting on couches

with the weight of a boy’s arm resting on my shoulders.

The heat of a hand on my knee also serves well to distract.

 

By Sunday morning I remember.

The lack of you punches holes in me–

the stomach, the lungs, the chest, cut clear through.

How long will you make me live without you?

I reread the poems. I itch for the phone.

I think your voice could cure the hangover, could heal

the wounds you left all over me when you took yourself away.

I prepare my papers for tomorrow.

 

Every week I think the days will change.

The pattern will change. It will change.

I will change. I keep writing.

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August Baby

We went walking through the arboretum

at the end of our last summer together,

admiring the plants as they inhaled

and exhaled in the August heat, caught

up in the squint of eyes in deep slant sunlight

and the simple solace of being palm to palm.

Through slats of honeyed light and shade

I saw motion in the flattened grass up ahead,

beneath the scabbed branches of a dogwood tree.

The gentle fidget took the form of a baby bird,  

damp with bluish feathers, fallen

or pushed from its nest somewhere above.

It looked skyward through the slit

of its narrowed eye that bulged, half shut

and dark, like a bruise from its head.

The repeated shrug of a broken wing

almost raised it from the dirt, but could not

shake the ants, which crawled on over its body,

feelers prodding at the soft, bald places, unbothered

by the shudder of a fast infant heart beat below.

What do we do? I asked. I let go of his hand.

I dropped to my knees and watched

the ants stutter over the bird’s skin.

The chest rose and fell, as if moved by a tiny

accordion breathing silent music inside.

I felt his hand on my back and heard

his mouth saying I don’t know and more

people came to watch the slow show

and none of them knew what to do, either.

I ached, I ached at nature’s strange patterns,

the helpless gape of the bird’s open mouth,

the simple origami of his fingers

when they folded into mine, the lines

of light and shadow drawn in the blades

of grass. The flesh beneath the feathers

was as pink as sherbet. It looked like it had been born

that day, a summer baby that would not see the brisk

umber evenings of fall.

I had never seen a thing so young.

And still we left it as we found it, alone

with the sunlight, and the birdsong, and the breeze.   

 

For Silent Ear

I wonder what you do now at night,

at the height of the very hour

when heavy violet used to hit

us in the eyes

and drove us into the arms

of one another. We were so

generous with mouths

and music, food

and words.

To you I gave

myself away

with every kiss

and conversation.

I imagined you

were collecting the sweetest

pieces of me, storing them

in some deep vault

to be savored later,

when it came time

for remembering.

But in the blue arch of my dream

I saw you burying them

in the backyard,

like a dead pet.

I felt the dirt slap

again and again

on the parts of me

that I thought you swore

you would hold dear.

The space between us

grew darker, denser.

The dirt rained down.

I heard it like a thousand

hands applauding,

deafening, deafening.