Impression

When I woke up
in pain again
I drove to work
with my
windows open
and listened to
the morning cold.

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Mud Season

We saw a hawk
ripping into his
animal lunch
when we arrived–
high and close
in the tree like
a performance.

Nubs of ice
still clung to the
top of the swamp
water, nested up
against a litany
of greens–
moss, leaf,
algae burning
bright against
the muck.
And the trees, too,
threw down
their soft, mossy
hair, blowing in
the cold wind.
Stumps grew
gnarled partway
out of the
water, like
unfinished thoughts.

Our cheeks burning
with cold, Taryn
pointed out the
bones spit
up by an owl.
We looked up
at the clean
blue sky with all its
tweeting and
trilling. But they were
far away from
us then and the
sky too bright
and we
couldn’t see
a thing.

Return

He saw my grandmother, he said,
smiling by the bedroom bureau
never mind that she’s two months dead.

She was taller, though, by maybe a head
or two. He guessed that must be due to the
floating, knowing what we know about the dead.

“But I knows it was her from the smile,” that spread
of broken teeth she rarely showed in life.
But he saw my grandmother, he said.

Two months later. Her crosswords gone. The books she read
are stacked in the back room, I assume,
afraid as I am to visit the haunts of the dead.

He spends all day with her pictures, goes to sleep in their bed,
reads the Bible and prays for us all.
How lucky that he saw my grandmother, as he said.

What a gift that must be, to see her ironic gaze instead
of simply surrendering, as I have, it seems.
He saw my grandmother again, he said,
never mind that she’s two months dead.

When they discussed adulthood

nobody mentioned
not winning the
gift card at
the staff
meeting, then
crying over your
desk at the
injustice; pulling
the coagulated cheese
off the free
pizza with one
slimy hand
because it gives
you indigestion; all the
bright lights and
halfhearted
hallway hellos. Certainly
no one discussed
shoving a bunch
of toilet paper
in your underwear
midway through
the morning–the cheap
kind, that
shreds like confetti–
because your body
spontaneously
bleeds.

Confession

After listening to the
women sing in
a language
unknown — yipping
and trilling in
the hushed quiet
of the room —
we discuss how
little we know
about Macedonia.

In this age
of instant
information, it feels
almost a crime,
then, not to look,
after letting our
ignorance on display:
instead to let its
name just run
with pleasure
through our teeth.

But isn’t there
something to be
said for their elaborate
floral crowns —
their vague
suggestion of overgrown fields?
And the songs — who
wouldn’t prefer their
dark whiff of
empire to the cool
banality of geographic
fact?

Instructional Manual

Unbutton, freely.
When it feels you may be too
tightly pressed, squeezed,
contained, call it the oppression
it feels like to your organs –
imagining all types of vicious,
primitive corsetry in the
long hours
of the afternoon – and just buy
bigger pants.
Cheap ones, preferably – but without
the hemming and
hawing that you’ve learning from
every woman
you’ve ever known.

Stop peeping at what people
write but especially
look away – and
fast – when you
see a girl on the trolley
diligently meal-planning on her
phone, chastising herself, as if her
body must be punished for
transgressions yet undone: “Remember
salad keeps down weight. Eat it
every day.” and “Drink
herbal tea every night.”
Don’t stare at her typing
portion sizes and wonder
what you ate today,
don’t keep watching, transfixed,
certainly don’t do that.
Instead, find the last light catching
the trees on Baltimore Avenue – honey-rich
in the cold night.

Night Birds

When the night birds come out,
the long day is
finally done —
that sunny stuff of miracles
except when pain renders
all that light insufferable.

When the night birds come out,
I can cease my wincing,
I can relent at last
and wander freely.

When the night birds come out,
rattling the hedges,
singing night songs and tweeting,
the neighbors can be seen
through their windows, reading.

When the night birds come out,
the world is a delicious,
deepening blue. They hoot
and holler with self-satisfaction
at the view.