I Had a Dream About You

We were standing in the church parking lot

Figs were falling from the sky,
splatting on the asphalt, and you were heaving
with laughter, I had never seen you
so swollen with joy,
your head thrown back, baring your throat
to the weak winter sun as the sound
burst from you like a geyser

We both were wearing mittens

You were gazing at me in a way
that I wanted to bottle up and keep
forever in a mason jar
and for a second I thought, this is it

So I took out all my ribs and tried
to hand them over
but you wouldn't take them, you couldn't
make up your mind about me
and it was too late by then
to put them back

I laid them on the ground--
a streak of white bone
floating in an ocean of figs

I looked up and you were gone
I looked down and I was knee deep
in a clear blue pond
There were oranges and water lilies
and human ribs drifting on the water

I woke up from the dream 
and you were still 
making up your mind
about me

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And Then?

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,
its finality.
        	             Lights out.   
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
at listening

even as the Buddhist Zen says gently
          until death there is nothing
                                                      enough.

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Falling Out of the Sky

 
You didn’t understand:
I wanted freedom; well didn’t I have it?
You demanded to know: Why all this beating of wings?

Not in words, but the way 
you stared at the floor
and nestled the cat to show

that you were capable of affection
but withheld it from me.
To you this was a question of loyalty.

Meanwhile, I was trapped in the slow-clicking memory
of my childhood, like an old video tape:
the tick of a clock, the sound of late afternoon.

At this time of year, there is no sunset,
just the deep carve of light that slowly melts away.
I told you I was leaving, which was easier

than allowing you to love me.
At first, it felt as if the sky
had been ripped off the earth, but then

I finally sensed my own existence and I was ravenous
for the world, driven outward like a bursting sap.
For weeks, I opened all the windows before I went to bed.

How glorious: the fragments of moon,
blue air and honey sun.
All that light on my face in the morning.

When the summer edged out, I shut the windows
and left.  The drive was long and the sky
was filled with rain like thick strokes of ink

I hurried down the freeway,
as if someone would be there
waiting for me. And the next thing I knew:

Wisconsin.  I dashed from the car,
pretending to run for cover, but secretly
praying for more and more rain.

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After You

The summer slipped away again,
washed away in heavy rain,
turning itself over to a burnt October

The pear trees slowly slumped beneath
the balmy weight of southern sky
and finally they bore their swollen fruit

Now the mild autumn days roll by calmly,
slow as summer thunder.
This house is very quiet.

Outside the world keeps blooming into auburn color,
flooding through the kitchen windows
where I am baking bread or reading novels

Even the bees drift lazily among the fallen pears
fermenting in the sun.  I watch them start to fly
then float back down to the sugar-bruised fruit

Surely nothing is more silent
than steam escaping hot bread broken
alone, than black tea going cold. 

Thrifting

Cloth hangs thick as curtains: floral dresses
and saris with their oriental prints.
Patterns from the tropics.
Fabric from the moon.
My own clothes now
are navy and dull from so many cleanings.
These are the pants I wear to work.
The sweater I wear to meetings,
to my lectures, with no comment
or complaints to my supervisor
or his supervisor.
I know myself well,
it is a lifeless body draped
without vegetable dyes or the soak
of the earth, raw hands to knead
the knots and stitches.  I am clearly not
of this same earth
as I see my face distorted
in the curve of the shining rods
on the racks.
                             These clothes are almost free,
relinquished by those who once owned them, by those
who first imagined them, holding the design
in their mind and finally
made them, stitch by stitch.
There is sadness in such a tender craft.
For now they belong to themselves, aging
in the light as it streams through windowpanes;
they are safely apart from the world,
yet part of the world, made of the world
as it flashes by the bars of my body
and does not peek inside.
Look at me, I’m begging
these bones to open, to open! and yet
I am trapped
in this box of glass:
every speck of dust is illuminated.

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Cataclysm

I’m told this is a paradise
of snow and sea and starlight.
The mountains burst out from the loam
then tumble to the charcoal water
like a silent white explosion,
splitting through the citrus sky.
But its sound is swallowed in the vastness
like a whisper or a violent kiss.

I’ve heard there’s beauty in the bareness,
in the sparkling glacial graves.

The sun melts across the hills like nectar,
as dusk starts seeping through the trees.
But something holds me by the water,
underneath the lights in the sky that are stars,
stuck between fearing cataclysm
and wishing for it. Working towards it.

My Father is a Wolf

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.

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