It’s been two years, one month, three weeks,
Since I sat on the edge of her bed
reading “Dover Beach” aloud
for ears pressed firmly
to the final page of life.
Patches of strength
curling their corners
like bandaids over wetted skin.
And I thought I could.
Make crepes that smiled from the pan
and press her Irish linen
without the steam of tears
and tuck it out of sight.
We matched like new pairs of socks
in my underwear drawer
or widows holding hands at Sunday Mass.
I’m sure she knew I smoked
and never said a word.
But turned faux pas like broken lips
of china cups around to face the wall.
I understood your allergies to ivory,
anything close to white. Perhaps it was
a form to sign inside the morgue.
Vivid frost of lonely winters
after cancer shook the house,
left you only furniture
and pitch black night
without much velvet in its grain.
The livid shade of feckless hope,
of failure knocking at the door.
The color was that pat, that clean.
Death is the ultimate bleach.
The parking lot had memories
of times your shoes kicked a tire,
then returned to dust a shelf of china cups
that rattled in an avalanche.
“I’ll call you on the phone,” you said,
“but I can’t walk the ghostly halls.”
I am the yolki flower, the shade of an egg.
I arrive in a burst, albumen and sack,
after first treasure of rain.
I promise you things.
Your soil is deaf to my voice,
a signal of centering force.
I am Israel’s daffodil, a trumpet the poets
have bellowed through dust.
You are the frost with your habits and hands
holding a gun to temples of peace.
I shimmy with sunlight and birth.
Yet, darkness is all I’m coming to know.
Why are you plodding on trails
of a tomb in the guise and the guess
of slicing an earth meant to be shared.
Insisting on fences and walls kilometers long.
The clothesline, Grammy quipped,
is a tree house string with a can
where women gather to swirl
a rumor in lukewarm tea.
Watch your back! she warned.
The birds have ears.
They’ll carry a secret around the block.
They learn to sing from listening.
Grampa grinned from old cocoons
of hammocks on the shaded porch.
Aware she was his brick and tree,
his every grain of reasoning.
Amazed at how tortilla flesh
stood up to welcome mats of graves.
Amazed at how she passed the sun
from fingertip to fingertip
as if it were a flaming torch.
Those full-lipped white magnolia smiles
wove lasting garlands in my hands.
The basement was always locked,
locked tight as a nut in a bolt.
From here the magic grew,
a guess gone wild,
a brothel of abandoned hours.
Having nothing to say,
we pressed our ears to the walls
until a story, a ghost
dropped seeds for inquisitive eyes.
Sweating like glasses dripping in heat,
we parted the cobwebs,
their living room drapes —
knew by instinct tied to time,
this place was a sunken ship
where chandeliers once burned
their tenuous suns.
A million crevices and caves,
eros of a question’s lid,
underwear drawer of a house,
forbidden but calling our hands.
“I want to go!” was all you said,
as if you were slamming a book.
So I laid out your hat,
a tube of pink lipstick and blush
replacing the color
drained from my cheeks.
Death struck me then
as pottery with handles loose.
To you it snapped like fingernails —
a casualty of brushing up
against the hardness of a life.
“You don’t need eyes to see a forest.
The picture stays in your lungs.”
I packed a red checked tablecloth
pretending the dice weren’t close.
At the edge of a grave,
even the desert looks green.
Country roads spit gravel back
like bacon cooking in a pan.