Mother Dear’s voice sounded like the cigarette.
She was sitting in her room on her bed
when mom and I walked in.
I didn’t know where I was–
in the car I had stared out the window
looking at the sky.
The streets of New Orleans East were always so foreign to me
with their subdivided blocks and single storied houses
and people had lawns but no trees–
it was weird out here.
The neighborhoods in Uptown are made mostly of wood
these ones were made of brick.
I stood in the doorway
the hallway behind me was dark.
Mother Dear beamed that smile of hers
and told me Chile’ come here
give me a hug.
It was only when seeing younger pictures of mom
that I could see my grandmother in her face.
Spending most summers in Virginia
the blackness of her arms were strangers to me.
She held me in them.
All I could smell was the smoke of them cigarettes.
I couldn’t tell you what her first name was.
Laying on our side
her hips like a spoon
she told me:
When you kiss me my legs tickle.
The astronomy of this thing
you were the sound of crickets keeping me up in the night
the songs the world sang through
the green legs of its little children
I wonder how you did it
what you weighed yourself down with
when you went into the water
did you tie anything around your ankle?
wear a coat of stones?
or maybe just clutched them in your fists
were you conscious in the last moments
or did you drug yourself
just before going in?
these things I will never know
the weight of your child in my arms
the names you would have given
to him and to the ones who followed
the leading of them into the corner of your house
giggling to tell them
the secrets of their crazy father
and the stories of what he was like
when he was young
how could you not hear the size of the planet I whispered into your heart
I was so much louder back then
Almond milk & tilapia
What they don’t tell you about getting married is the mess.
That the gifts come early.
And you end up too busy
to stack the shambles
the house is becoming.
All week the floor has been a poor man’s library.
Today I put most of the books away.
The first editions on the top shelf.
The paperbacks just below. Steinbeck’s Penguins
spines of orange.
After that I organized the desk and moved her piano.
Moved the gold couch that traveled with me from Oregon.
Vacuumed the living room.
Sat down. Watched a moment.
It moved like a small fish.
Or a slow satellite.
I took the folded clothes from the hamper
and put them in the dresser. Finally.
Hung up her dress with the whales on it.
Made sure the hangers all turned the same direction
and left for the grocery store.
Went by way of the tall grass.
All this cement. It wishes
for something else in itself.
The super market is a temple of air conditioning.
Picked up almond milk and fish. The doors sing when they move.
Got dizzy on the walk back and drank water when I got home.
I need to visit the eye doctor.
I made a quiet sandwich for lunch.
Ate in the living room of our tiny house
before opening the world again.
It is hard work being a poet.
All this daylight one must contend with.
Right now I am sitting at the coffeeshop down the street.
Tried writing four poems. They have not been easy.
They are a rusting bicycle. I am a sleepy boxer.
In the afternoon my left is unfocused. My tea sits
untouched its ice all melted. I stare at the computer
a contest of two concrete ships racing.
I ended up in court with a Chinese drunkard.
Fell into the water from his boat
and laughed into the hole of the snowy moon.
An iceberg drifts across the sky
returning the present to me.
The air in here is heavy and hot
could grow vines inside itself.
My tongue is dry.
So is my pen. There is a well
somewhere over the hill. All the dance
is a different country from where I sit.
I want my pockets to burn
but they only buzz.
tells me she is on her way home
and will meet me here shortly.
In May I will have tiny flowers pinned to my breast
and she a peacock feather in her hair.
What glorious sounds the sun shall make.
Here my wife-to-be has just walked through the door
dancing her way into my periphery.
I think of the tilapia in the refrigerator.
When we go home we will cook it
and have bread.