You and I are lonely birds. The last two laborers.
Maybe we don’t always know who we are.
Even our shadows melted together;
we made up every polished stone
in this mosaic.
At first I didn't know how to live
outside of the world we carved out:
that astonishing garden of nowhere,
those deep lakes inside a mother,
the train track down your spine, the wet canvas landscapes
we used to wander together.
How do I keep from returning
to the ghostly oleanders in our arboretum?
They are bending back and forth, promising to open
What would it take
to grow a garden in me?
There are days I feel that empty canyon
inside me, pulsing
like a lighthouse
and I miss the years
before my childhood.
When I was still a pinhead egg,
buried in your side
and we never were apart.
Then after that. Every morning
was chamomile and maple syrup,
the color of your hair
in the winter sunlight. Your careful voice
like notes from an old record
that float across a dusty room.
You never did wash out of my clothes.
Those things that happened,
I had meant to move through them by now.
But such a cold river of grief ran over me
that I couldn't remember who I was.
It was your voice
that told me: this is who you are
and pointed at my grief.
A Buddhist monk once said
that life is like stepping
into a boat
that is already sinking.
Death: it’s the apples rotting in the yard.
My mother says she is not afraid of death, but of dying.
Not me. I am terrified of death,
Or else, eternity.
But first, the dusty volume propped open on the welcome desk,
thick as a phonebook
The careful catalogue of my choices
to be considered:
The lies I told without blinking
All the homeless I have walked past
The mornings I left without saying I love you.
Humble, courageous, and kind:
my mother will go to heaven.
Her heart is just enormous,
like Audrey Tautou in Amélie,
dipping her hands into sacks of grain
at the market.
I might go to hell:
I don't save birthday cards
or love letters.
I hoard unread novels
and believe I am what I wear.
I am bad
even as the Buddhist Zen says gently
until death there is nothing
When wolves first meet up
they have a ritual
of smelling one other’s breath
One wolf will put his nose
to the mouth of another, asking
What have you been hunting?
The second wolf exhales
thick breath, hot with blood and sulfur
to explain, You can still smell the kill
But nothing tells this story quite as well
as a human. My father took me
hunting every autumn
Crouched down in the forest
beside him, I felt the gravity of this genre,
the deepness of its roots
extending so far beyond men.
It was the sensation of soil
working its way
into the grooves of my skin,
the crunch of detritus underfoot.
It becomes a type of language, like a prayer
In college, I would later learn some theories
which suggest that the human kiss began
as a mouth-to-mouth greeting
like that of the wolf.
I knew this immediately to be true;
my father is a wolf.
Always quick and deliberate; gutting his animal
in perfect technique. He taught me how
to split open the ribcage and reach inside—
you have to grab the heart and sever the moorings.
But still, there is a right way
and a wrong way
to kill an animal.